FOXBORO, Mass. — Some notes and nuggets from Day 2 of New England Patriots mandatory minicamp:
— Rob Gronkowski sure looks excited to be back on the football field. And his celebration game is in midseason form.
After hauling in a touchdown pass over safety Patrick Chung in 11-on-11 drills, a fired-up Gronkowski turned toward the sideline, cocked the ball back and launched it into a tree overlooking the practice field.
Had Gronkowski, who typically targets the ground with his celebratory heaves, pulled that move inside Gillette Stadium, the ball likely would have landed halfway up the lower bowl.
“I didn’t know he had an arm like that,” fellow Patriots tight end Jacob Hollister said after Wednesday’s practice. “That was crazy. We do this passing drill before every game on Fridays, and I’ve never seen his arm like that. So I was impressed.”
“I thought that was a very impressive throw,” safety Duron Harmon added, via the Providence Journal. “I didn’t understand how he threw it that far, but yeah, he looked very, very strong.”
Gronkowski, who returned to practice Tuesday after skipping organized team activities and voluntary workouts, also gave an exaggerated “first down” motion after beating Chung for his first catch of the day.
“You guys know Gronk,” wide receiver Chris Hogan said. “He’s out here playing and having fun and working really hard, so that’s what we expect from him.”
— Bill Belichick’s pre-practice news conference during OTAs and minicamp are, for the most part, an excercise in futility for media members.
The Patriots coach never is more tight-lipped than he is in May and June. He rarely is willing to comment on individual players’ performance or development, instead preferring to speak in generalities about the team’s desire to improve each day.
After a question about how wide reciever Julian Edelman — who is recovering from a torn ACL that cost him all of last season — has looked in practice, Belichick had had enough.
“Again, I think each player has an opportunity to come out here every day and improve on the things that will help them be ready for training camp,” the coach said. “That’s the same for every single player and every single coach that’s on the field. The answer’s the same for everyone.
“I don’t know how else to state it. Put whatever name you want in there — it’s all the same for all of us. We all have an opportunity, and hopefully we’ll take as much advantage of it as we can. Just get better, have a better day tomorrow and be more prepared for training camp in July.”
— After praising new Patriots wide receiver/return man Cordarrelle Patterson — more on that here — special teams captain Matthew Slater said he hopes the NFL’s new kickoff rules will inject some excitement into a play that has lost relevance in recent years.
“I’m certainly hoping so,” Slater told NESN.com. “I’m certainly hoping that the game opens up a little bit. There’s obviously a lot more space now with the way that we have to align. It’ll be interesting to see how teams attack that and approach that, but I think there’s a potential there to make the play more exciting. We’re hoping that’s the case, and we’re hoping that the play becomes safer.”
Earlier this year, Slater gave an impassioned defense of kickoffs, which some critics want eliminated for safety reasons.
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