The newest draft picks and rookie free agents of the New England Patriots are in Foxborough for Rookie Mini-Camp. Rookie Mini-Camp is designed to coach up the rookies on the basics and much of it has the players spending time with their position coaches working on the fundamentals. Aside from that, Belichick had his newest recruits participate in special teams drills both in the morning and afternoon sessions. Special teams is usually where rookies will see their first action.This camp is closed to the public, but the media is allowed to watch from the sidelines. You can watch video wrap-ups that include some interview segments here and here. There’s also a collection of photos here. Here are what some observers had to say about the rookies that stood out in camp Friday (click the jump to continue reading):
On LB Brandon Spikes:
The consensus seems to be that he has “leader” written all over him.
- Albert Breer from the Boston Globe: The rookie most certainly has a swagger to him, and it’s easy to see how he became the defense’s Tim Tebow, so to speak, at Florida.
- Mike Reiss from ESPNBoston.com: It is easy to see how Spikes potentially could emerge as a leader of this rookie group. On the field, he took charge from the inside linebacker spot.
- Andy Hart from Patriots.com: Spikes was taking charge of the inside linebackers in the group work. He’s a very impressive guy.
More to come on Spikes tomorrow…
On TE Rob Gronkowski:
Gronkowski sounds like an intimidating force at tight end and could provide match-up problems for defensive backs and linebackers.
- Mike Reiss from ESPNBoston.com: When a player is 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, it’s a bit unusual to see him running down the middle of the field as a legitimate threat in the passing game. His home is supposed to be closer to the line of scrimmage. But in both practices Friday, it was hard to miss Gronkowski streaking down the middle of the field with what looked like some pretty good speed. There is a long way to go toward the regular season, and the 20-year-old Gronkowski was one of the youngest prospects in the draft, but this will be an element in the offense that could be fun to watch.
- Andy Hart from Patriots.com: I can’t say enough good things about Gronkowski. Everything we saw on tape – soft hands, smooth routes and casual playmaking style – were evident on the practice field. I’ll say it again, Tom Brady is going to love this guy. And I’m going to fuel the pressure of expectation and say he’ll be a Pro Bowler in the not-too-distant future.
- Ian Rapoport from the Boston Herald: (Gronkowski) is monstrous. But he really does receive the balls pretty softly.
Pretty lofty praise, but Breer notes that he has a ways to go after missing a full year of football:
You can most certainly see Rob Gronkowski’s effort out there, but it seems like all that time off from football might’ve caught up to him a little bit. He had some trouble tracking balls lumbering down the middle, and had a few drops. He said this morning that getting his conditioning right was the key for him, and this is probably a sign of that.
On Jermaine Cunningham:
Cunningham has begun his expected transition to OLB and worked that position all day, and it doesn’t seem foreign to him. He also has chosen #96, last worn by recently-released Adalius Thomas.
- Reiss: While no definitive judgment can be made at this point, Cunningham looked comfortable playing in a two-point stance. He said this was the first practice he’s spent that much time in a two-point stance.
Other Notes: Both TE Aaron Hernandez and WR Taylor Price ran good routes and displayed soft hands. Hernandez lined up everywhere from the TE line spot to H-Back to fullback to WR. Punters Zoltan Mesko and David King were inconsistent punting the ball. Both had boomers as well as shanks. QB Zac Robinson was inconsistent with his throws. CB Devin McCourty displayed his versatility and excelled in special teams drills.