Day 2 of the Patriots mandatory minicamp went off without a hitch, both Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski back for another day after skipping organized team activities (OTAs).
Julian Edelman is back, too, as he continues to recover from a torn ACL that cost him the entire 2017 season. Still over three months from New England’s season opener vs. the Houston Texans on Sept. 9, this has been the first week that Brady, Gronkowski and Edelman have been on the field together since Week 3 of the 2017 preseason – the same game where Edelman ripped his knee on a non-contact play vs. the Detroit Lions.
When healthy, the triumvirate of Brady, Gronkowski and Edelman forms the nucleus of one of the most dynamic offenses in recent memory. Bill Belichick squashed the notion of excitement seeing the three together again, however, noting it’s not where the team is at in terms of the offseason.
“That’s not really where we are right now,” Belichick said. “We have a lot of different players working together, trying to get everybody a lot of information and install our system as a total team. We don’t have starters, stars and first team and all that. That’s not really where we are right now.”
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Gronkowski missed the final five games of the regular season and entire playoffs in 2016, meaning that he, Brady and Edelman haven’t played in a game that’s counted in the standings since a 22-17 win over the New York Jets on Nov. 27, 2016. They haven’t appeared in a postseason game together since the 2015 AFC Championship Game vs. the Denver Broncos.
Brady once again didn’t speak with reporters after practice today. There’s still a chance he may tomorrow – the final day of mandatory minicamp – but it seems more likely at this point Brady won’t address the media until at least the beginning of training camp.
Brady did stay late after practice, working with a number of receivers he’s been unable to develop chemistry with during his absence from OTAs. He could be seen working with Edelman, Jordan Matthews, Philip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson, with backup quarterback Brian Hoyer on hand as well.
During 11-on-11 drills, Brady worked predominantly behind an offensive line featuring Matt Tobin at left tackle, Ted Karras at left guard, David Andrews at center, Shaq Mason at right guard and LaAdrian Waddle at right tackle. Of the group, only Andrews and Mason played significant snaps for the Patriots in 2017.
Waddle, who’s been with New England since late in the 2015 season, re-signed with the Patriots this offseason after testing free agency – including reportedly visiting with the Dallas Cowboys, who wound up signing ex-New England tackle Cameron Fleming.
Waddle said his reason for staying with the Patriots on a one-year, $1.5 million contract ($200,000 guaranteed) was simple: he felt it was the best situation.
“That’s really it,” Waddle said. “It was the best situation for me and my family. I felt it was the best opportunity for me.”
Marcus Cannon missed the final eight games of the regular season plus the playoffs for New England with an ankle injury, while Nate Solder signed a massive free-agent deal with the New York Giants. Waddle has a chance to figure prominently in the Patriots’ plans at tackle, particularly on that left side vacated by Solder; his primary competition includes Tobin, Trent Brown and New England’s first-round pick Isaiah Wynn.
“It’s too early to tell,” Waddle said on working with a group that resembled a first-team offense. “We don’t have a real game until September. It’s definitely nice to work with those guys...it’s nice to work with 12 [Tom Brady]. It’s nice to go out there and try to execute thing at a fast pace.”
Malcolm Mitchell, Joe Thuney, David Jones, Brandon Bolden and Kenny Britt were absent from practice today, while Jacob Hollister returned after missing Tuesday’s session. Britt appeared to injure himself during practice on Tuesday.