BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots are inching along, little by little, toward playing real football. Not real football on TV, no. But after months of uncertainty and hours upon hours of studying and working out, the Patriots are mere days away from putting on their pads and smashing into each other at full speed on the practice field.

Given that the only work done so far involves meetings, studying, and drills, it’s hard for head coach Bill Belichick to offer any sort of specific praise for players. Still, he made an effort on Friday morning to highlight how hard Cam Newton has been working.

“We’ve done a lot of meetings and a lot of walkthroughs, a lot of information has been transferred to all the players, and he’s worked very hard, I’d say, as all our players have,” Belichick said when asked about Newton. “We have a hard-working group. Those guys are ready to go and we’ve put in some long days and they’ve been very attentive throughout the process.”

Belichick said that all four quarterbacks — Newton, Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer and Brian Lewerke — “have been locked in, been focused, have worked extremely hard,” while noting that teammates have confidence in the quarterbacks when it comes to making calls and leading huddles.

Still, Belichick made sure to note that the speed at which they’re operating is nowhere close to game speed. Nevertheless, the early returns are positive.

“We’ll see how it all comes together at that point. But, Cam is a hard-working kid,” Belichick said. “He really is.”

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