FOXBORO, Mass. — Bill Belichick dished out hearty servings of praise Tuesday to several players his team will line up against this weekend.
On Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu, whose All-Pro 2015 season was cut short by a torn ACL in Week 15, the New England Patriots coach said:
“Very productive player. Very athletic. Loves football. Competes hard. He’s a tough kid. He’ll strike you, for his size. He’s not a big, imposing player, but he plays with good physicality and toughness. Likes football. He’s impressive.”
On Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who reemerged as one of the NFL’s top wideouts last season, Belichick said:
“Hall of Fame career. Great career. (He) just does everything well — great competitor, blocks, makes big catches, very consistent, unbelievable hands, big plays in the red area, scores touchdowns, unselfish player. I think he is a Hall of Fame receiver. One of the best that has played the game over this past period of time that he has been in the league.”
On Cardinals All-Pro special-teamer Justin Bethel, the first player Belichick mentioned by name in his Tuesday morning news conference:
“One of the top special teams players in the league. He’s about as good as anybody that we’ll face. We obviously haven’t seen a lot of him, but he’s an excellent coverage player, kick blocker.”
Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson, running back David Johnson and linebacker Deone Bucannon also received shout-outs from the Patriots coach, who clearly has great respect for the reigning AFC West champions. The Patriots will visit the Cardinals on Sunday night in Week 1 of the regular season.
Some additional notes from Tuesday’s Patriots practice:
— Wide receiver Danny Amendola said he will be ready to play against Arizona after spending the entire summer on the physically unable to perform list. Rookie wideout Malcolm Mitchell said he feels healthy but declined to reveal whether he plans to suit up Sunday.
“I feel good,” said Mitchell, who suffered a dislocated elbow in the Patriots’ preseason opener and hasn’t played since. “I go out there and compete every day. I don’t feel bad at all. (But the coaching staff) will let me know. It’s day by day for me. I go out there and compete every day, and that’s all I can really say.”
— Practice-squad receiver Devin Street will wear No. 17 with the Patriots. That number does not have a particularly positive track record in New England: The last four players to wear it were Aaron Dobson, Greg Salas, Taylor Price and Chad Jackson.
Street played in 31 games for the Dallas Cowboys over the last two seasons, catching nine passes for 132 yards and one touchdown.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images