Patriots

What Bill Belichick said about Stephon Gilmore’s holdout and Jonnu Smith’s injury

Gilmore reportedly won't attend minicamp as he angles for a new contract, while Smith may not practice Tuesday due to a hamstring injury.

Stephon Gilmore Patriots
Stephon Gilmore. Elisa Amendola/AP
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The rain that pelted the Patriots during their first day of mandatory minicamp wasn’t coming down when Bill Belichick spoke to the media before Tuesday’s practice session, though storms are in the forecast for later in the day.

The Patriots head coach had to address two less-than-sunny topics from this week’s minicamp: the absence of All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore and an injury to prized free-agent tight end Jonnu Smith during his first practice with the team.

Gilmore reportedly will not attend mandatory minicamp as he seeks a new contract; he’s currently on the books for $7 million this season.

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“I don’t expect him to be here, and we’ll just focus on the guys that are here,” Belichick said.

Smith, meanwhile, might not practice Tuesday after reportedly sustaining a hamstring injury in the wet conditions Monday morning.

But Belichick wouldn’t officially rule him or any other player out before Tuesday’s practice.

“We’ll see how it goes,” he said. “Like a lot of guys, we take a look at them before practice or the early part of practice, see how they’re doing. We probably have 6-10 guys who fall somewhere in that category. We’ll just take it day by day.”

He also didn’t say whether Chase Winovich, Byron Cowart, Terez Hall, or Rashod Berry — the other players who didn’t participate in Monday’s practice — will take the field Tuesday.

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On a more positive note, Belichick had praise in hand for Cam Newton and his stable of quarterbacks for how they’ve handled learning the playbook this spring.

“Cam’s way ahead of where he was last year at this time. There’s no question about that,” he said. “He has a good year of experience under his belt, was able to start at the beginning and not be in a catch-up mode like he was last year.”

The veteran quarterback signed with the Patriots on July 8 and learned on the fly during through a truncated training camp with no preseason games due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“He was really just starting at this point last season. But he’s well ahead of that, just from the year of experience and the succession of building blocks he’s been able to stack up like all the players have that have been here since the start of OTAs … It’s good for all of us, it’s good for Cam, it’s good for all the players that go through that process.”

One of those other players is rookie Mac Jones, who Belichick said was “learning quickly and working hard” at catching up with his veteran counterparts in experience with the Patriots offense.

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That comfort level started to show itself Monday during Jones’s best practice in front of media to date whereas other quarterbacks, including Newton, had more trouble in the rain.

He went on to say that all of the team’s rookies, not just Jones, are benefiting from a more complete set of offseason programs than what they got last season during the height of the pandemic.

Second-year players like Michael Onwenu have previously discussed the difficulty of coming in last year without formal OTAs and having to digest information virtually before taking to the field.

“The opportunity to start from scratch in person, to hear the plays, to go out and practice the techniques, practice the plays as a unit, then correct those mistakes, come back in and take on a new day of installation,” Belichick explained. “This is a much better teaching progression for anyone: for the rookies and for the guys who didn’t get to do it that way last year.”

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