FOXBORO, Mass. — The end of training camp yields a transition for the media, maybe more so than the players. We only watch about 10-20 minutes of practice — as opposed to the whole thing — but we're allowed back in the locker room for about 45 minutes per day.
Each difference provides a different perspective from the goings-on of training camp, so let's get through some of the things I've learned this week, as well as a few thoughts about the Patriots in this edition of the Two-Minute Drill.
1. Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes tweeted Tuesday that he missed the earthquake by 30 minutes, and I really wonder if that means he wasn't with the team in Foxboro at that time since, you know, the epicenter was in Virginia.
2. Spikes' Twitter account has taken some controversial twists and turns over the last couple of weeks. His location reads "Hell on Earth" and he has written some things that have been construed as anti-Patriots. He hasn't outright said anything directly against the organization, but it's easy to read between the lines.
3. It's obviously dangerous to overreact to a Twitter account, but until we hear from Spikes himself, all we can do is wonder. He has missed 13 consecutive practices with an ankle injury, and I think he's only spoken to the media once or twice since the start of training camp. This has definitely grown into a situation worth monitoring.
4. The Patriots' playbooks are absolutely massive. They're put together in binders that are about five inches thick. The offensive playbooks are blue, and the defensive playbooks are red.
5. I think offensive lineman Ryan Wendell is getting closer to returning after suffering an undisclosed injury, which has kept him out of 16 practices through Tuesday. Wendell breezed through the locker room Tuesday without any wraps or apparent injury, and he worked out to the side while the team practiced, which almost always means the player is getting healthier.
6. There are a lot of interesting things in players' lockers, but one thing really stuck out to me this week. Defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick has a Rubik's Cube.
7. Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork has a mostly green University of Miami hat in his locker. I can't remember if he's always had it in there, but it stuck out to me Tuesday for the obvious reasons.
8. Defensive end Mark Anderson has a box in his locker with Alabama's national championship logo on it.
9. Kicker Chris Koepplin has one of the auxiliary lockers in the middle of the room, which are typically for all of the rookies. But Koepplin's locker is only about three-fourths the size of a regular locker. No love for the kickers, I guess.
10. The Giants have been rocked by injuries worse than any team in the NFL this season. Starting defensive tackle Terrell Thomas is done for the year after tearing his ACL, and first-round cornerback Prince Amukamara will miss about two more months with his own injury. With a huge lack of depth, don't be surprised to see the Giants snag one of the Patriots' corners in about a week or two.
11. The Pats and Giants close out their respective preseason schedules next Thursday at Gillette Stadium, and Patriots corners Darius Butler, Jonathan Wilhite and Malcolm Williams are all on the roster bubble. If the Giants like what they see, they could offer a low-round draft pick or hope to claim one of them off the waiver wire during the final round of roster cuts.
12. Speaking of which, the Patriots must get down to 80 players next Tuesday and then to 53 next Saturday, Sept. 3. If the Patriots — or any team for that matter — have 90 players on the roster Monday, they'll be cutting 41 percent of their personnel in a matter of a few days.
13. Undrafted rookie tight end Will Yeatman took a number of snaps with the first-team offense Thursday night in Tampa, and fifth-round pick Lee Smith has missed the last three practices. Also, the Pats re-signed tight end Garrett Mills for a second go-round in New England. All of this has led to some speculation that the Patriots aren't happy with their production at the position after Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, who have each had excellent camps.
14. If the Patriots don't find a true answer as a third tight end out of camp, they definitely won't force it just to carry the ideal amount at that position, especially with some other great positional battles elsewhere on the roster. Remember, tackles Nate Solder and Steve Maneri each have experience as tight ends, and they could be more than serviceable as extra blockers in big sets.
15. Linebacker Jerod Mayo had the quote of the week Tuesday, saying, "Hopefully, I'll make the team." For what it's worth, I've got him firmly entrenched on the roster in my 53-man predictions.
16. Mayo was also asked about watching film in the meeting room when he knows a bad play is coming up.
"You know you had a bad play in the game, and you don't really want to see it the next day when coach [Bill] Belichick puts it on the screen so everybody can see it," Mayo said. "It's not that fun."
17. Interestingly, Belichick, Mayo and cornerback Devin McCourty have all said it's important for second-year players to avoid complacency. Because they're a year in and a year smarter, they can fall into a trap thinking they know everything, and that can be one of the greatest challenges for a second-year player. I really don't think that will be an issue for McCourty, though.
18. Wide receiver Chad Ochocinco is extremely polite when he turns down interviews. He's a nice, approachable guy, and that's not always the case with big-time wide receivers.
19. I really got a kick out of the fact that James Ihedigbo's family still rooted for the Patriots when they played his Jets. Sometimes, state lines can be thicker than blood lines.
20. How much has the Patriots' defensive scheme changed this season? Take this into consideration. I asked defensive end Eric Moore if he has benefited from going through an entire training camp with the Patriots, as opposed to last season when they signed him in December and he hit the ground running. He responded, "It's like learning all over again. We have so many different things that we do, so every day, you've just got to go out there and do what you learned in the classroom."
Is that a be-all, end-all response? No. But it does provide a glimpse of how many new intricacies have been added to the defensive playbook in 2011.
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