Patriots’ Matt Judon showed leadership in response to Cole Strange scuffle
By Jerry Trotta
The New England Patriots have officially entered summer vacation, as their next on-field practice won’t come until training camp in late July.
The reason for that? Bill Belichick canceled the team’s final three mandatory minicamp practices. Just hours later, the veteran head coach scrapped the Pats’ final two voluntary sessions that were scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.
According to The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, New England will still hold voluntary workouts for players next week. That could present a big opportunity for roster bubble players, out-of-favor players (Isaiah Wynn, perhaps) or even rookies to make a strong impression on the coaching staff before summer break.
Per Howe, the cancelations were Belichicks’ “reward for a strong offseason,” which is quite surprising when you consider a fight nearly broke out towards the end of Tuesday’s practice after 2022 first-round pick Cole Strange recklessly dove at star defender Matt Judon’s legs to try and recover a fumble.
Matt Judon and Cole Strange were involved in a scuffle during Patriots’ practice on Tuesday
Judon and the Patriots’ defense didn’t take kindly to the rookie’s aggressiveness in the non-padded practice, where contact is hardly permitted. Diving at a player’s legs is incredibly dangerous if said player isn’t bracing for contact. How many serious injuries have occurred from these scrums in games? The list is endless.
The offense and defense clashed, albeit momentarily, before they were separated. You’d understand if Judon had strong words for Strange after practice, but the Pro Bowl edge rusher isn’t holding any hard feelings.
"“He’s a young player,” Judon told reporters Wednesday. “He was trying to make a play. Great hustle from him. If you (saw) him, he sprinted from 30 yards away. Cole is going to be a player for us, and we’ve got to see how he develops. Yesterday, nobody was hurt and we all came back out on the field, so it wasn’t anything.”"
Judon added that he and Strange are “good,” further indicating there’s no beef between the veteran and first-year offensive lineman. That’s relieving to hear, but credit to Judon for recognizing Strange, a rookie competing for a starting job, was simply trying to impress coaches by giving maximum effort.
We all know how much Belichick detests fumbles, so the head coach had to like seeing Strange sprint nearly half the field to recover the loose pigskin.
With that said, this no doubt served as a learning experience for the Chattanooga product. Giving 110% is always welcome — some would say required — for a Pats rookie, but there’s a time and place for it, and putting the franchise’s star DE at risk of a serious injury in a minicamp practice probably isn’t it.