Spending some time back home in MA this summer and happy about it. Especially that I was able to attend one of my all time favorite players HOF induction ceremony. I had not been to Gillette since 09 and wanted to say WOW to what Kraft and BB have built in N.E.
It was a great pleasure to watch Bruschi as he was genuinely happy to be there with his family and his old teammates. Law, Light, Andruzzi, Chattam, Tippet, Gino, and Nelson were there to celebrate among others.
Law stole the show as he told a story about how Tedy would change the defense for him when he was too gassed to stay in man to man. He said he would never come back to the huddle unless he needed to tell Tedy he was winded. (I asked coach if we could switch to cover 2 as I couldn't breathe out there and BB would respond with DO YOUR F_ING JOB LAW. Then Tedy would look at me in the huddle, wink and say I got you, then change the play. When we got back to the side line coach would scream, who changed that play? Tedy did. Oh, good job Tedy. It was like he could do no wrong.) Then Law said, you see Tedy was the smartest of us. I was just a "cat guy" as in I don't know the defense but I got this cat or I got that cat. Funny stuff.
Anyway watching Bruschi and hearing what his teammates and BB had to say about him made me think that the key to our championship teams imo was more about the character of the men in the locker room. The desire they had to win, and put the team first. I don't mean to down play Bruschi's talent level because he was absolutely a talent(still holds the all time division 1 college sack record with 52) but he wasn't the strongest or the fastest mlb. His leadership, and work ethic is what separated him from others. He was a true Patriot and it was nice to see everyone appreciate what that meant. Especially Belichick as he came up from practice to give Bru the highest compliments. (there are some great players but Tedy was a GREAT player).
At the end of the ceremony Kraft surprised us by inviting all fans to watch the full padded practice held on the Gillette field(not dana farber as usual). It was originally a season tix holder only practice. This was awesome and I wanted to share my observations from row 7 on the 20 yard line.
1. Brady looks great(big surprise lol) and his arm strength is as good as ever. Zips the ball and is accurate. ( Although Mallet wasn't far behind him and in my opinion Tebow threw some nice balls too)
2. Talib was the best player on the field behind Brady. At least in this practice. He picked Brady off on a 40 yard rope right in the receivers hands(amazing throw that Brady makes look like a game of catch) Talib was pasted to Thompkins(I think) and beat him to the ball for a clean pick. he then broke up the next 4 very similar throws to Dobson, Amendola, and Jenkins. It was really something to see.
3. Ridley and Vareen look great but leon Washington might steal some reps on the offense. He still has elite speed and returned a kick for a td. He was getting reps at least in practice as a RB. Blount btw is a big dude and looked like he still has some burst too.
4. Dobson! I think this kid is a day 1 starter and will have a good 1st year which is tough to do for rookies in our system. He just looked so much better then Jenkins,and everybody really) to the eye test I mean, and I'm sure Jenkins vet experience will be important but this kid looks the part.
5. Tommy Kelly looked lean. I thought he was more of a large gap stuffer but he looked fit and mean.
6. The LB core just looks awesome. Fast, big men who can tackle. Coverage could still be an issue as Mayo was the victim of a Brady td pass to Hoomy (another 35 yard rope) but hopefully Mayo won't be alone on a TE 35 yards down field...I didn't see much of Collins as I just forgot to look. Spikes looked good as well.
7. Dennard was all over guys and Adrian Wilson to me looked like he could still cover. I mean he definitely isn't at the late in the career John Lynch stage where all he can do is play in the box. He looked quick for an intimidating 6'3 hard hitting safety.
8. Barring injury I don't see how Danny Amendola catches less then 90 balls this year. He looked like a taller faster version of WW. Again this is just a fans eye test but he looked great man. So quick in and out of breaks and straight line speed as well.
9. The O-line with Cannon getting 1st team reps looks just plain scary. 6'8 Sea Bass and Solder(bigger) with Cannon and Mankins(bigger in person) look as dominate as an o-line can look in a practice I suppose.
10. standout players were Talib, Boyce(fast and strong) Danny A, Dennard, Wilson, Spikes and the O-line. I also wanted to add that Gronk was standing on the field spinning a football in the air and talking with the TE's throughout practice. No cast, and looked completely fine to me from a 100 feet away. For whatever that's worth.
Anyway it was great day for Patriot fans and was a refresher from a less then stellar off season. Tedy Bruschi and Gil Santos were class acts and great additions to the Pats HOF. I am pumped up for this season! Go Pats....