With the NFL’s 2008 Summer training sessions underway in Patriots country, the defending AFC Champions are already starting to set some goals for the upcoming season, but for the most part they are doing what every team in the NFL is doing at these camps, getting in game shape for the 17 week grind they are about to take head on.
Looking at some of the new individuals at Pats camp, rookie Terrence Wheatley and veteran Fernando Bryant, both CB’s, are trying to learn the new defensive system that held opponents to only 274 points total during the 2007-2008 regular season (17.25 per game) which was an NFL best.
The two are trying to fill the shoes of form Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel who left for the big bucks to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles.
“We’re definitely in the same boat,” said Wheatley, a second-round draft choice from Colorado.
With Samuel out of town and Ellis Hobbs not fully recovered from off-season surgery, the Patriots are still trying to find out who will get the majority of the playing time there this season during these camps. Both Bryant and Wheatley are doing their best so that they win some time in that spot.
Another rookie that has been working hard at camp was fourth round draft pick Jonathan Wilhite, another cornerback out of Auburn. Wilhite and Wheatley have both looked sharp thus far in the workouts and the two are hoping they can both find their way onto the opening game day roster. In fact, the two often share notes are the end of practice because they are roommates.
“We definitely compare notes after the end of practice,” Wheatley said Tuesday. ‘You see what Randy [Moss] did that play and how close I was,’ but yet I really wasn’t that close. … When you get up in the morning you’re like, ‘man, do your legs hurt as much as mine?’At this point the veteran Bryant, who is entering his 10th season in the league, has the upper hand on the rookies but that doesn’t mean he’s not working hard and trying to improve his own game everyday.
“There’s a lot of expectations on the outside and you can’t really listen to that,” Bryant said. “It’s what we do here. From the outside looking in, you’re looking at Sunday’s game and you think everything is great…The coaching staff is pretty upfront about everything and the best player’s going to play,” Bryant said. “That was one of the reasons I came here. It doesn’t matter about age. It doesn’t matter about years or Pro Bowls or anything like that. The bottom line is this organization is about winning.”
The secondary continues to work together and its starting to show on some of the downfield patterns that Tom Brady and company have been running on them throughout the camps.
“The secondary is a close-knit group so we talk about everything,” Bryant said. He and Wheatley “sit by each other in the meetings. If he has some things he has questions about I try to talk to him about them. The biggest thing (is) I just tell him to take it slow. Everything’s going to come at him quick, but anytime you can slow it down on and off the field you’re going to have a better shot.”
That is unless they are trying to keep up with wide receivers like Randy Moss.
“There were a few times where I just told him [Wilhite], ’I saw you when you took off deep. You didn’t even look for the ball. You just put your head down and ran,’ ” Wheatley said. “I had to do that (too). I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t the only one out there doing it.”
Patriots pre-season games are right around the corner so make sure to get your tickets today, many are still available!