FOXBORO, Mass. — The past three days have been a college reunion for half the former Rutgers players in the league.
There are 35 total former Scarlet Knights in the NFL, and 18 of them have participated in the joint practices between the Patriots and Buccaneers. Justin Francis said all of his current and former teammates have been focusing on work first, then they’ll get together to catch up.
“It’s always a good feeling, man,” Francis said. “The first thing first is business. I try not to let that get into the swing of things as far as us handling the things that we have to handle. It’s just always going to be business first. We’ll get together after that and laugh about it afterwards.”
Francis said he has spent some time with his former college teammates after practice.
“Yeah, I got together with a couple of guys and chopped it up for a little bit,” Francis said. “Like I said before, it’s a great feeling, man. It’s fun. We’re all guys that are passionate about football. Speaking about all of us, Rutgers guys, non-Rutgers guys. We’re passionate about football. We’re out here competing every day. That’s the way you want to have it. That’s the kind of environment you want to be in. A competitive environment. So, it’s good.”
Thursday was the last day of training camp for the Patriots, which means the players get to leave their hotel rooms and go home. It also means fans can no longer attend practices. Francis said not much will change on his end, though.
“I don’t feel like it’s going to be over,” Francis said. “I just feel like the training aspect is going to keep on continuing. We’re at a phase where we’re growing and where we’re getting everything down pat right now. So, I’m pretty sure everybody is just coming out here and continue to work on our craft and continue to build on the things that we’ve been building on in the offseason, carrying on over to the summertime on to training camp. So, right now, we’re still going to continue to train and pretty much better our crafts.”
The final practice of training camp was a joint session walkthrough with the Buccaneers. While it was nowhere near as physical as the past two practices with the Bucs, Francis said it’s just as helpful to work on some of the mental aspects of the game.
“Definitely. I mean, as far as the physical aspect, no. But mentally, yes,” Francis said. “You have to work on your steps, your hand placement, your assignments, your alignments — things of that nature. It’s always a good day to pretty much focus on the finer things and be on top of our things mentally — our mental game. Pretty much make sure that everything is precise with, like I said before, our steps, our hands and the basics.”
The Patriots still have three preseason games and three and a half weeks of practice until the season starts. Their first real test comes against the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 8.
Check out NESN.com Patriots writer Doug Kyed‘s full interview with Francis in the video above.