Gronkowski ready for anything: Tight end Rob Gronkowski is past the need for a big hit to put him into football mode. “Body feeling good. ... I’ve taken a few hits now, a few tackles, a few blocks and everything now,” Gronkowski said. “I’m over that stage, ready to play football, whatever contact comes, comes. I’m ready for anything.”
Revis tips cap to Woodson: Revis admires Raiders safety Charles Woodson, especially the fact that Woodson is in his 17th year in the league and still makes plays. "I’m still in year eight right now -- focusing on that," Revis said. "Big fan of [Woodson], too. Watched him at Michigan and looked up to him. Hopefully he is a future Hall of Famer, because he has played great ball in the league and is still making plays ... he’s still making them in Year 17. So, I tip my hat off to him. I have a bunch of respect for him."
McCourty likes the gelling secondary: Safety Devin McCourty, who is also a captain and leader on the defense, is enjoying the hard work put in at practice by his teammates in the secondary. "I think we all understand it’s a process," McCourty said. "We have to keep getting better each week. It starts at practice, and if we keep having good practices, it will lead to having a good showing on Sunday. I think that has been key for us throughout the preseason and now in the regular season. I like the work ethic of the group -- coming out to practice and whatever the coaches have for us we have just gone out there and done as a group. That’s key to us being a great secondary."
Wilfork on Hightower: Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said he isn’t surprised by the impressive play of linebacker Dont’a Hightower. "I’ve seen it in college, so not impressed. We knew what we had when we drafted him and he is starting to blossom -- and that’s a good thing," Wilfork said. "A guy like that, it means so much to this team, not just the defense; he’s a big player. I’m really happy we have him, and I’m glad he is showing everybody what he is capable of doing. We kind of saw it last year when he took over the defense and improved last year. We knew it all along that he had it, and he knew it. Sometimes you have to be in a situation to make it come out, and he is picking up where he left off from last year."
Gaffney sighting: Sometimes people wonder if injured players are around in the locker room. Rookie running back Tyler Gaffney, who was signed off of waivers from Carolina on July 28, was in the locker room on Thursday. Gaffney is on the team’s injured reserve because of a left knee injury that required surgery. He figures to be in the mix for running back in 2015.
Every week leading into the Patriots' next game, ESPN NFL analyst Tedy Bruschi and ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss preview the matchup. This week, it's the home opener, against the Oakland Raiders (CBS, 1 p.m. ET):
Mike: The Raiders (0-2) are one of the worst teams in the NFL, so let's start with the players' perspective on a week like this. It seems like this is the type of situation that is as much of a mental challenge as anything. When you played, what type of environment did Bill Belichick create in weeks like this?
Tedy: Part of me looks at the Raiders and thinks "The Patriots should handle them." But being a former player, you can't have that mindset, and maybe that's just the Bill Belichick in me, but the first thing you have to prep for before any game is realizing that you can be beat. There is evidence of that in many games I've played. Bill Belichick talked about the Miami game when we lost to them in the 2004 Super Bowl season. The Super Bowl against the Giants when we were 18-0 and everyone thought we were going to win. Even the Super Bowl win over the Rams is one you can reference.
1. Brian Tyms, Brandon Browner and the status of their suspensions.
2. Tom Brady and his play through two games.
3. Danny Amendola and the Patriots not getting value.
4. Closer look at too many penalties ... and why they will be cut down.
5. Concern about linebacker depth.
6. Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley and the running game.
With Mayo’s return and safety Don Jones (hamstring) present at practice, the Patriots’ 53-man roster had perfect attendance. The practice squad also had perfect attendance, as the mystery man from Wednesday, who was wearing a No. 41 jersey, is defensive back Daxton Swanson.
All other players listed as limited participants in Wednesday’s injury report were taking part in the stretching portion of practice. The Patriots were wearing shells and shorts.
In a comedic moment, defensive end Chandler Jones and linebacker Dont'a Hightower swapped jerseys creating some confusion about who was who.
The New England Patriots lead the AFC with 28 total penalties, 24 of which have been accepted. One of those penalties was deliberately taken by the team, a delay-of -game infraction in Minnesota to create more room for a punt. Six of them also came after the team had built a 30-7 lead over the Vikings in the fourth quarter this past Sunday.
Still, Bill Belichick would like to eliminate some of the bad football, such as back-to-back weeks with an offside penalty on a kickoff (Brandon LaFell in the opener, Duron Harmon in Week 2). Offensive tackle Nate Solder also picked up three penalties in a span of two plays this past Sunday.
Here is the weekly breakdown:
Nate Solder -- 4
Dont'a Hightower -- 3
Chandler Jones -- 2
Brandon LaFell -- 2
Logan Ryan -- 2
15 tied with one apiece
Holding (offensive) -- 5
Pass interference (offensive) -- 3
Roughing the passer -- 3
False start -- 2
Illegal block above the waist (special teams) -- 2
Offside (special teams) -- 2
Pass interference -- 2
9 penalties tied with 1
LOOKING AHEAD TO WEEK 3: Veteran referee Pete Morelli has been assigned Sunday's game between the Patriots and Raiders.
We all know Tom Brady as the future Hall of Fame quarterback who has won three Super Bowls, two Super Bowl MVPs, two NFL MVPs, has been to nine Pro Bowls and the list goes on ...
But what if Brady had followed a different career path? What if he hadn't been drafted by the Patriots in the sixth round of the 2000 draft, No. 199 overall?
Brady found his college résumé and posted it on his Facebook page for a fun Throwback Thursday.
“Found my old résumé! Really thought I was going to need this after the fifth round. #tbt,” Brady wrote in the post.
At the top of Brady's list of summer jobs was his position as an intern at Merrill Lynch in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he was an assistant to senior sales broker for two summers in 1998 and 1999. Brady wrote that he was "exposed to upper-level management and company strategy" and "researched stock and mutual fund reports while updating client portfolios." Tom Brady, stockbroker? Doesn't have quite the same ring to it is as NFL quarterback.
Brady also had hands-on experience in construction -- mainly in supervision and management -- and as a security manager at the Top of the Park Ann Arbor Summer Festival.
And just for icing on the cake, Brady listed some of his football accolades at the bottom of his résumé -- 1997 national champion, 1999 team captain, etc.
Could it be that the managerial and leadership experience he attained in the real world prior to being drafted helped him become the field general we see today? If so, we tip our caps to Brady's summer employers, but are thankful he never had to knock on your doors looking for a full-time gig.
His first breakdown of the 2014 season is posted on Patriots.com, and the play that stands out is Chandler Jones' fourth-quarter sack in which defensive tackle Vince Wilfork drops off the line.
"We actually go to a three-man rush here, where Vince pulls out into coverage," Belichick explained. "They are trying to run a clear-out route with the crosser underneath. We have good coverage from [Darrelle] Revis, ready to pick up [Kyle] Rudolph on the crosser. Vince drops out here and you see [Matt] Cassel come off the crosser and come back to the check-down, and probably didn't expect to see Vince to be standing there in front of the check-down. ... Can't find that receiver."
Other plays selected by Belichick:
1. Ryan Allen's 59-yard punt in the first quarter. "Great punt, 59 yards, no return ... thought that was a big field position play for us."
2. Devin McCourty's interception. "He's able to run this one down pretty easily ... I thought we really had good effort and good hustle from the rest of our defensive players to get blocks [on the run-back]."
3. Coverage helps the pass rush on Dont'a Hightower's sack. "As usual, the defensive pass rush always looks better when there is good coverage, and this is a great team defensive play. There is really nobody open to throw the ball to, so we had good overall pass coverage. This is Hightower coming around the corner on [Matt] Kalil. High has done a good job on the pass rush this season, not just on backs and tight ends, but even when he's matched up against offensive linemen."
4. Jones' blocked field goal. "The key to this play is with the ball on the hash mark, the flight of the ball should be over the guard, and that's really where Chandler wants to get to. So as he clears Kalil, then he wants to flatten out to get right into that kicking lane. You can see he really does that perfectly."
1. Divergent paths since the Snow Bowl: On game day, it will have been 4,628 days since the Snow Bowl game between the teams. Consider the path the teams have taken since:
- The Patriots have a 148-46 record, while the Raiders are 64-130.
- The Patriots have had 12 winning seasons and the Raiders one.
- The Patriots have had two starting quarterbacks, the Raiders 18.
- The Patriots have had one head coach, the Raiders seven.
3. Brady not connecting down field: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has a 55.8 completion percentage through two games, which is 33rd among 35 qualifiers. Brady is 6-of-28 on passes 10 or more yards down the field.
- 0-10 yards -- 75.5 percent (5th)
- 11-20 yards -- 29.4 percent (33rd)
- 20 or more yards -- 9.1 percent (32nd)
- 2014 -- 11.8 (tied-28th)
- 2013 -- 6.4 (32nd)
- 2012 -- 9.4 (32nd)
- Patriots -- 30
- Bengals -- 8
- Panthers -- 6
- Saints - 6
- Patriots -- plus-150
- Packers -- plus-60
- Colts -- plus-44
- Seahawks -- plus-44
Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who missed Sunday's game, is now on the report with a shoulder injury; it's his left shoulder and he was limited in Wednesday's practice. Meanwhile, No. 1 receiver Julian Edelman (back), starting center Dan Connolly (knee) and running back Shane Vereen (shoulder) are new additions to the injury report, as all were limited in practice.
Safety Don Jones, who is tied for the team lead with three special teams tackles, missed the entire practice with a hamstring injury.
The players who were on the injury report last week remain limited in practice -- linebacker Jamie Collins (thigh), tight end Rob Gronkowski (knee), backup center Ryan Wendell (knee), backup defensive end Michael Buchanan (ankle) and defensive tackle Sealver Siliga (left hand).
Most of the attention is on quarterback Tom Brady and the desire to spread the ball around to skill players other than wide receiver Julian Edelman and tight end Rob Gronkowski.
“I just know that when we have a more balanced attack that we are a better offense and that’s what we are striving for this season,” Ridley said. “But, it’s still early in the season. We don’t have all the kinks worked out right now.
“We just have guys that are new in positions and guys that haven’t played a lot. We are just trying to figure it out as a team, but I think it is a group effort and we are working together and I think that they have improved week to week. From Miami to Minnesota, I think they have made a drastic improvement.”
Ridley understands the value of the run game, especially in its ability to chip away at a defense.
“It’s not always going to be there early in a game, eventually a defense is going to wear down and the creases will come,” Ridley said. “So, you can’t really try to go for the home runs early, you have to keep grinding it between the tackles and finding the tough yardage -- giving [the offensive line] some time to figure out the defense that they are playing.
“If that’s what you have to do is take the tough yardage, then eventually you will break it and get some big runs. But until then, be consistent. Be a smart player. And keep the ball out there. The offense will keep moving the chains and keep rolling.”
Ridley, who carried the ball 25 times for 101 yards and a touchdown, credited his performance to the offensive line’s ability to keep attacking the defense.
“It was good that they stuck with me late in the game,” Ridley said. “Really that is the coach’s call. However I get [carries], I just go out there are run hard.
“Over the course of a game you get [the defense] to wear down -- that [Minnesota] defense was tired. And that’s why we have all the big boys up front that we have to see if they can sustain our offensive line over four quarters. And so we felt good about how we were attacking them toward the end and that’s how we kept moving the ball.
“Some days it is going to be through the air. Some days it is going to be on the ground, but it is the defense’s job to figure us out. But as an offense we have to do what we do and as a unit we are going to keep marching the ball down the field game in and game out -- that’s the goal.”
Ridley is looking forward to seeing the progress of the offensive line and the Patriots’ balance on offense. He is also ready to play in front of New England fans in the home opener against his father’s favorite team, the Oakland Raiders.
“It’s going to be awesome,” Ridley said. “Personally, my dad’s old favorite team was the Raiders, but I of course became a Patriot. ... Family is going to be here. It’s going to be an exciting atmosphere to come back to Foxborough and get in the home stadium.”
Don’t worry. Ridley said his father will be wearing a No.22 Patriots jersey on Sunday.