Some assorted notes and nuggets from Thursday’s video conferences with New England Patriots players:
— Wide receiver Jakobi Meyers’ introduction to Cam Newton came long before either joined the Patriots.
When he was a high schooler in Lithonia, Ga., Meyers earned a spot on a select 7-on-7 team coached by Newton, a fellow Georgia native.
“When I was younger in high school, I made his 7-on-7 team — his all-star team — and we traveled to Florida to play in a league,” Meyers recalled. “We ended up losing, but it was still a great experience. It was a good experience to meet Cam when I was very young. A lot of guys where I come from look up to him, so that was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me.”
Meyers was a quarterback in those days. The 23-year-old didn’t make the transition to wideout until he was a year into his collegiate career at North Carolina State.
“I switched to receiver two weeks before my redshirt freshman season started, so I had to be able to learn fast if I wanted to be able to play, otherwise I was going to get left behind,” Meyers said. “From that moment on, I just realized how fast the game can come, how fast it can change and just being ready for every moment.”
Meyers was ready when called upon last week, catching four passes on six targets for 60 yards after replacing an injured N’Keal Harry. With Harry still in concussion protocol and Julian Edelman expected to miss time after undergoing a knee procedure, the second-year pass-catcher should be one of Newton’s top targets Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.
“It’s in the past, but it’s still funny to laugh at life and see how people end up going different ways and then coming back,” said Meyers, who hardly played in New England’s first five games this season. “He used to coach me, and now I’m playing with him. He’s throwing me passes. It’s funny how life works.”
— Rookie tight end Dalton Keene made his NFL debut last week, playing 24 snaps and catching one pass for 8 yards in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
“It was awesome,” Keene said. “Honestly, my dream come true being able to play for a team like this. I had a lot of really good guys to learn from in the first couple weeks when I was inactive. … I felt like I did a lot of really good things out there, but we just need to keep getting better and improving as a team.”
Keene missed the Patriots’ first two games with a neck injury, then sat out the next three as a healthy scratch. The third-round draft pick said he understood why the team waited until Week 7 to include him in the gameday lineup.
“I wouldn’t say it was frustrating,” Keene said. “It was a really good learning experience for me. To be honest, I just really needed to get better as a football player. Coming in as a rookie, it was a big learning curve for me. I’ve been really trying hard every single day just to improve fundamentally and improve mentally with the playbook and everything like that so I can go out there and play fast.”
The Patriots’ other rookie tight end, fellow third-rounder Devin Asiasi, appeared in the first five games before sitting out last week’s as a healthy scratch. Veteran Ryan Izzo leads all New England tight ends in playing time and receptions (seven) this season but played one fewer snap than Keene against the 49ers.
Asked earlier this week why Keene got the nod over Asiasi, head coach Bill Belichick said “based on (last week’s) practices,” the versatile Virginia Tech product “deserved a chance to play.”
— Keene also leads all Patriots players in the facial hair department.
— Sunday’s forecast for Orchard Park, N.Y., calls for a gnarly combination of rain and heavy winds that could exceed 40 miles per hour.
Patriots punter Jake Bailey called those conditions “a good challenge.”
“We’ve been preparing for that this whole week,” Bailey said. “We have a little bit of rain on the forecast, too, and it’ll be a little chilly. It’s going to be a fun game. We’re preparing for all the elements.”
Eleven of Bailey’s 15 punts this season have been downed inside the 20-yard line, and none have resulted in touchbacks. New England has allowed the third-fewest punt return yards in the NFL — 17 on three runbacks — a testament to both Bailey’s precision and the coverage unit led by standout gunners Matthew Slater and Justin Bethel.