Tate — an explosive, athletic playmaker who should be able to make a
difference on offense and special teams — simply seemed too concerned
with getting himself back in order, recovering from a pair of knee
injuries that have basically wiped out his last two seasons.
In his senior season at North Carolina in 2008, he tore the ACL and MCL
in his right knee during a punt return against Notre Dame. Then, after
missing the first six games of his rookie season in New England, Tate
made it back for two games in 2009 before having to shut it down with
another knee injury. Although it was never determined, this second injury was likely related.
Tate merely referred to his second injury as a "setback" that was on the
latter end of two consecutive frustrating seasons for the speedster.
"I feel fine," Tate said. "I feel good to finally be able to run around
with the guys, come out here to practice and stuff like that.
"I?m mentally strong. Injury — it happens in football, so I just brushed
it off and I?m here now."
Tate couldn?t participate in any of the Patriots' 2009 offseason
workouts because he was still recovering from his collegiate knee
injury, but he has really stood out at times during the team's 2010
organized team activities (OTAs).
He'll be an asset on offense, with the ability to line up at any wide
receiver position. He's also gifted with the athleticism to explode for a
big gain on a trick play — think of Tate as a Percy Harvin type. His
speed and shiftiness made him a huge fan favorite at North Carolina, and
the ACC's all-time leader in kick return yardage (2,688) was a force on
special teams. If that talent translates to the NFL, he'd fill one of
the Patriots' most significant needs.
Tate has the upside that make coaches salivate, and he may turn out to be a
bargain as a third-rounder in the 2009 draft, as his stock reportedly
dropped due to a failed drug test, on top of the knee injury. Hhe's
been so acclaimed that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady specifically
mentioned Tate as a guy he's excited to work with in the upcoming
Yet, Tate won't let himself get that far. He's realistic enough to know
there's a level group of receivers trying to make the team after Randy
Moss and Wes Welker. Tate's speed has jumped out during the Patriots'
recent OTAs, but any slip-up could cause him to fall out of the roster
Julian Edelman is a lock to make the roster, and a 2009 team captain, Sam Aiken, isn?t
far behind. Veterans Torry Holt and David Patten will be held in high
regard, and 2010 third-round selection Taylor Price should have an
inside track, as well. It would be fairly surprising if the Patriots
kept more than six wide receivers, so at least one player with
established talent — or promising potential — will get cut by early
Tate is working hard to make sure he's not the one who carries a pink
slip out of Gillette Stadium, and if his pedigree is any indication,
he'll be much more valuable than a guy who grabbed a late roster spot.
"I'm focusing on really just trying to compete for a job and get on the
field," Tate said. "Hopefully, I can come out here, compete every day,
get better and better, and the coaches realize it."