Patriots Minicamp Notes: Stephon Gilmore Fitting In, Standing Out In New Home

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FOXBORO, Mass. — Some notes and nuggets from Day 2 of New England Patriots mandatory minicamp:

—  Stephon Gilmore has looked as advertised thus far after signing a five-year, $65 million contract with the Patriots in March.

The former Buffalo Bills cornerback broke up two passes during Tuesday’s minicamp practice, deflected another Wednesday and has brought a level of physicality to New England’s secondary — despite the fact players won’t suit up in full pads until next month.

“It’s just going out there and get better whenever they say go out there,” Gilmore said. “Trying to work on my technique and be the best I can for the team. We’re just working with different guys and trying to play together. Get better.”

Gilmore, who has played against the Patriots eight times since entering the NFL in 2012, said he’s beginning to feel at home in New England.

“When I put the helmet on the first time, that’s when I really felt like a Patriot,” Gilmore said. “Just running around with the guys, having fun. I’m happy I’m here. I’m ready to do whatever I can to help this team win.”

— Running back Rex Burkhead was the star of Wednesday’s session.

Another high-profile offseason acquisition, Burkhead caught five passes from Tom Brady and another from Jacoby Brissett in 11-on-11 drills, showcasing the receiving ability that should make him a dangerous weapon in New England’s multi-faceted offense.

“I was just making sure I was on in my assignments,” Burkhead said. “I’ve still got a lot of room to get better, a lot of room to improve upon. I’m just getting comfortable and making sure I know what I’m doing when I’m out there.”

— Pro tip: If you want to get a quality quote out of the typically tight-lipped Bill Belichick, ask him about James Develin.

The fullback is back for a sixth season with the Patriots after signing a two-year contract in March, and Belichick always has had a soft spot for his bruising style of play. On Wednesday, the Patriots head coach compared Develin to a hockey player.

“James works hard,” Belichick said. “He’s improved every year. He’s one of the strongest players on our team, very dependable, smart. He helps us in a lot of different ways. He does a lot of the unsung, dirty jobs. You know, he goes into the corner and gets the puck. He doesn’t stand in front of the net and put it in, but he goes and digs it out.”

— Speaking of hockey, former Boston Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton was in attendance at Wednesday’s practice.

The Patriots often host special guests at offseason and preseason practices. The Boston College women’s lacrosse team stopped by organized team activities last month, and the Florida football coaching staff was on hand Tuesday.

Wednesday’s guest list also included the Vanderbilt’s football coaches and USA rugby sevens coach Mike Friday, who coached Patriots safety Nate Ebner at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.

The home of the Super Bowl Champs and @ebs43 …impressive complex and I am reliably informed by @madisonhughes10 #Elway never played here too as he was only a Raider 🤦🏻‍♂️🤣🤣🤣

A post shared by Mike Friday (@mikefriday09) on

— Another gem from Belichick, on 6-foot-3 Dwayne Allen being the Patriots’ shortest tight end: “It’s not a beauty contest. It’s about playing football.”

— Belichick declined to answer a question about why the team agreed to restructure Rob Gronkowski’s contract.

“I’m not going to discuss player contracts,” he said.

Gronkowski’s new deal is incentive-laden, allowing him to earn up to $10.75 million this season if he hits certain play time and production benchmarks.

Thumbnail photo via Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports Images

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