EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 31, 2009

Brady's knee? Fast as lightning

Summing up a strange opener to Patriots training camp 2009

On Pro Football

Hector Longo

Did we learn anything on opening day of Patriots training camp 2009?

From my vantage point, cowering from the weather under the concourse at Gillette Stadium, sure — even with the thunder boomers that halted the morning practice abruptly about an hour in.

First and foremost, Tom Brady's knee has recovered perfectly.

When a menacing lightning rod crackled into the tree line about 400 yards from the team workout, Brady jumped/skipped left like he was ducking Joey Porter. And as soon as Bill Belichick gave the nod to hit the showers, the newly-married QB sprinted 70 yards for cover like a Super Bowl-winning scramble.

I proclaim Tom Brady ready for action.

Belichick doubles up

Speaking of Belichick, the man may not have invented the word "innovate," but I'll bet he's improved on it.

The media is playing checkers down here at Patriot Place, wondering what the coach is up to by breaking trends of the last few seasons and scheduling seven straight double-session days.

"We feel like what's best for the football team is what we need to do," explained Belichick, divulging an incredible state secret.

Seriously, the coach isn't just throwing things out there and hoping they stick.

The increased practice time, all those doubles, are because he's brought in more than a handful of rookies and younger athletes like Darius Butler, Patrick Chung and others who need the work.

Don't expect to see Brady, Randy Moss or any veteran worth his weight twice a day everyday.

Expect to see the outside linebacker battle take center stage as the coach auditions at least four or five different athletes like Pierre Woods, Shawn Crable, Tully Banta-Cain, Eric Alexander, et al, in the Mike Vrabel void. The only sensible way is to give each of these guys a shot running with and against the big boys, not the 14th best offensive tackle in camp.

Same thing in the secondary where no position has been won or lost yet.

Expect the rest of the NFL to pick up on this strategy in about two years. They are still working with Belichick's less hitting/more teaching techniques employed in 2006.

Rain brings out Wilfork's bestÔÇæÔÇæÔÇæ

Got to love Vince Wilfork.

When all the other Patriots went sprinting for the locker room in the deluge, the Pats nose guard steamed up the hill adjacent to the practice field, just to check on his family.

Sign the guy, please. He's a professional on the field and a class act off it.

Faulk: Taylor will fit inÔÇæÔÇæ

Leadership, and the multitude of veterans brought in here, was a clear topic for discussion.

Kevin Faulk, who noted he's loved and respected Fred Taylor since meeting him and hanging out with him on a recruiting visit to the University of Florida, said Taylor will fit right in here.

"It's all about fitting in, not trying to overdo your veteran leadership, just fitting in," said Faulk. "You know when it's the right time. You just know."

Taylor also made the elevator trip up to the press box and noted, "I feel privileged. We're in a recession and I've got a job. It feels great."

Taylor went on to make the brazen statement that Tom Coughlin, whom he played for in Jacksonville, is a lot tougher to play for than Belichick. Obviously, Taylor hasn't seen Belichick after a loss.

No worries concerning PUP listÔÇæÔÇæÔÇæ

Between sessions, the Patriots announced the players on their Physically Unable to Perform list, and there didn't seem to be much need for worry.

Ty Warren topped the list, but he shouldn't be an issue. Shawn Crable's absence can't help his chances where many believe he had the inside track to start at outside linebacker.

Belichick will put serious emphasis on the second-year man's reps and missed time has to be a negative.

Other PUP listers: offensive linemen Mark LeVoir and Rich Ohmberger, along with defensive lineman Darryl Richard.

Veteran corner Shawn Springs and rookie receiver Brandon Tate opened camp with the inactives on the Non-Football-Injury list.


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