FOXBORO, Mass. — Day 1 of New England Patriots minicamp featured a brief dustup involving a Pro Bowl defender and the team’s top 2022 draft pick.
After cornerback Terrance Mitchell ripped the ball out of wide receiver Nelson Agholor’s hands on the final rep of 11-on-11 drills, rookie guard Cole Strange dove toward edge rusher Matthew Judon’s legs in an attempt to recover the fumble.
Judon and his defensive teammates didn’t appear to appreciate that type of play in a non-padded practice, and a momentary scuffle ensued. The sides quickly separated, however, and Judon expressed no ill will toward the industrious first-year lineman when asked Wednesday about the incident.
“He’s a young player,” Judon said after the Patriots’ second minicamp practice. “He was trying to make a play. Great hustle from him. If you (saw) him, he sprinted from 30 yards away. Cole is going to be a player for us, and we’ve got to see how he develops. Yesterday, nobody was hurt and we all came back out on the field, so it wasn’t anything.”
Judon was asked whether he and Strange are “good” after their altercation.
“You know I’m always good,” he replied, smiling.
Barring injury, Strange should play a prominent role for the Patriots in his first pro season. The first-round draft pick has been New England’s top option at left guard in spring practices and has impressed coaches with his athleticism.
Strange joined the Patriots following a decorated FCS career at Chattanooga that included 44 starts over five seasons, 42 of them at left guard. He’s the overwhelming favorite to replace Ted Karras at that position and has garnered early comparisions to Joe Thuney, who also was a Day 1 starter for the Patriots in 2016.
“I think Cole’s doing a great job,” starting center David Andrews said Wednesday. “I remember what it was like being a rookie. So, there’s a lot on his plate. I think he’s done a good job, you know, coming in and really working hard. … Trying to learn it. Obviously, the biggest jumps really come in training camp. But he’s done a good job. He works really hard. But like all of us, we’ve got a long way to go.”