FOXBOROUGH -- The Patriots practiced for the first time Wednesday in preparation for Sunday's home game against the Cleveland Browns, and a handful of players made themselves available to the media following the workout.
Those who bothered to stop and chat included Steve Gregory, Rob Gronkowski, Aqib Talib, James Develin, and new tight end D.J. Williams, who joined the Patriots last Tuesday.
Williams is coming off what he termed the longest week of his professional life, learning the playbook and getting ready to play in Sunday's game at Houston, not knowing whether he'd be in uniform or not. The 25-year-old was on the field for four snaps. No passes were thrown his way.
"This team has had a lot of success, and it’s really hard to pick up this offense in just one week, but the coaches have done a great job preparing me, and Ryan Mallett, my college quarterback, has been a real good helping hand in helping me get prepared," said Williams, who played with Mallett at Arkansas. "As far as learning, the biggest part in the learning process is when you break the huddle, you know where to go, that’s the starting point, and I had to figure that out last week.
"I’ve somewhat got that down now, so it helps to at least know that, ‘OK, we’re going to break, I’m going to the right, now I can figure out what I need to do.’ That does help."
Talib, almost always entertaining, spoke highly of Browns receiver Josh Gordon, who just became the first player in NFL history to have back-to-back games with at least 200 receiving yards. At 6 feet 3 inches, 225 pounds, Gordon reminds Talib of some other big-name receivers.
"He reminds you of those names, the Calvin Johnsons, the Andre Johnsons, it’s bigger guys with little-guy speed and quickness," Talib said. "He can turn an 8-yard curl into a touchdown in a heartbeat. You get a guy who’s 235 pounds'' -- actually 225, according to the Browns -- "and running like he’s 35 pounds, that’s definitely a challenge."
Gronkowski was asked if he's ever felt this good physically during his pro career. After missing the first six games this season while recovering from offseason surgeries, Gronkowski appears to be at full strength. He has been on the field for more than 93 percent of the Patriots' offensive plays the last three games, including all 87 against Denver.
"Every week I’m just trying to feel as good as possible for the game on Sunday," said Gronkowski. "That’s why the game is only played once a week, because after those games you’re banged up, after big games like that. Just have to prepare yourself so you can feel good on Sundays."