Observations from Patriots training camp

Patriots WR Joey Galloway (left) and QB Tom Brady during work outs at Patriots training camp. (Winslow Townson / Associated Press)

Patriots WR Joey Galloway (left) and QB Tom Brady during work outs at Patriots training camp. (Winslow Townson / Associated Press)

As part of my 14-team training camp tour, I was able to take in a day of practices from the New England Patriots camp recently. After talking with a handful of players and coaches, as well as owner Robert Kraft, here are my 10 observations on the Pats.

1.Vince Wilfork vowed he would not let his contract issues with the club interfere with his preparation for the season, and then he went out and proved it with his actions on the practice field. During one inside run drill where the nose tackle and two inside linebackers line up against the center and two guards, with a running back running the ball, Wilfork dominated the line of scrimmage. When the team was finishing up its pre-practice stretch, I observed Wilfork helping rookie Ron Brace learn the nuances of the nose tackle position.

2. There is no standing around at a Bill Belichick practice. Even when the team breaks from the stretch period to work on individual skills with their respective position coaches, the special teams coach plucks six players at a time to work on the special teams unit instead of letting the players linger and wait in lines to do position work. Coach Scott O’Brien keeps the half dozen players for a few minutes of intense work, then sends them back to their position coaches and another six run over for special teams work.

3. If the Patriots had a game today, it appears to me Pierre Woods has the inside track on the right outside linebacker spot. Veteran Tully Banta Cain was working with the second unit and Shawn Crable is still on the physically-unable-to-perform list.

4. The best quote of the two practices I attended came from LB Adalius Thomas, who was confronted by Belichick about players running from one drill to another. Coach asked him if he had any complaints and Thomas responded, “I’m not from camp complain. I’m having a great time.”

5. When I asked Belichick for his reaction to a Tom Brady statement that he was getting a little soft and the players wondered where the his typical hard nosed attitude was, he said, “I can remedy that this afternoon.”

6. Veteran WR Joey Galloway had this to say on his first camp with the Patriots: “I knew I was playing for a winning organization after the first team meeting to kick off camp.” Newcomers CB Leigh Bodden and RB Fred Taylor echoed the same sentiment.

7. Brady may have to be held back in practice for a few days, but not because of his recovering knee injury. Brady is so excited to be at practice that he’s taking a large percentage of the QB snaps and throwing plenty of deep balls. The only way to slow him down right now is to give him a few practices off, and I believe Belichick will start doing that in a few days.

8. Galloway took issue with me when I asked him if he could still run a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash. He said he didn’t know where that 4.3 rumor came from because he believes he still has a 4.1 left in him. “Don’t let the gray beard fool you, the guy can fly,” said Bodden.

9. I had a chance to talk with Kraft about a number of topics. On the CBA he said, “People don’t want to hear about well-to-do owners and rich players fighting over money. In this economy we all have to be sensitive to the problems people face.” … His reaction to the start of training camp? “Tom Brady was on fire day one!” … Commenting on all the changes to the coaching staff, he said, “When I was involved in television I realized you will lose good people and it can affect your product, so coach Belichick has built a system of training and rewarding talented young people to replace people that leave.”

10. Belichick has targeted improving the third down and red zone defense, and from the look of the talent in the secondary the Patriots are well on their way to repairing the two areas they struggled in last year.

That’s it from Patriots camp. I’ll be attending the New York Jets training camp today, followed by the Browns and Steelers this week before heading to Canton, Ohio, for the Hall of Fame festivities. I’ll send in updates from those camps the rest of the week.

– Pat Kirwan

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