FOXBORO - The first day of the rest of the New England Patriots football lives looked pretty much like each of the previous eight training camp openers, here in the shadow of Gillette Stadium.
Just days after Bill Belichick stripped the walls of the first floor where the players work, eat, dress, lounge and mingle of all the reminders of championships past, his Patriots took the practice field for the first in what could be a grueling stretch of two-a-days.
From all observations, Belichick has done a bit more to clamp down on this team, maybe even to the point of taking a more firm grasp.
"Coach Belichick has gotten on the defense as a whole," said linebacker Jerod Mayo.
Clearly, the coach will try to fill the leadership void until his troops catch up.
Finding playmakers and leaders on defense will be the primary drive in this training camp.
"It's a fresh start," said second-year corner Darius Butler. "We don't have the Super Bowl rings or the championships. It's just a lot of young guys learning and trying to make our mark."
Butler, Patrick Chung, Mayo, rookies Devin McCourty, Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes ... All are assets and chips expended by Belichick with the sole purpose of locating impact football players.
Shocker of the day
Did you know that Laurence Maroney is an active member in the St. Louis Chess Club?
I kid you not.
Maroney talked of the similarities between running the football and chess, in which you are trying to think a step or two ahead of the opposition by setting him up for the next move.
Give the fifth-year man credit. He stands there and entertains any questions or criticisms and has done his homework.
When the subject of sharing time and carries with Sammy Morris, Fred Taylor and Kevin Faulk, he gave the answer Belichick would be proud of.