A closer look at the roster as training camp arrives. In this part of the series we look at tight…
Patriots Notes: Gronkowski, Dowling...
--Tight end Rob Gronkowski put a scare into the crowd when he retreated to the locker room following a small dust-up with linebacker Jerod Mayo during a one-on-one drill.
The crowd of more than 10,000 fans erupted nearly 15 minutes later when Gronkowski returned to the field with nothing more than a bandage on his chin.
--There's a minor, yet important, battle brewing for the No. 2 quarterback position behind Tom Brady. Granted, Brady has been fairly durable in his career outside of the 2008 season, but there's always a need for a competent play-caller behind him just in case something happens.
Ryan Mallett is battling Brian Hoyer for the position. Hoyer has held it for the last three years, but Mallett has learned a lot by watching and observing.
"You can never settle as a player," Mallett said. "I feel like you have to refine your skills and the whole aspect of your game. You can't just focus on one thing and leave something to the side."
--Offensive lineman Brian Waters, who was excused for "personal reasons" during minicamp in June, still hasn't reported to training camp. The team hasn't indicated whether or not he'll be fined, though director of player personnel Nick Caserio noted it is one of the options for a player under contract who fails to report.
"I think every team has certain rules in place that are in compliance with what's been approved by the league," Caserio said, "so we follow the letter of law with that regard and we'll handle everything internally."
--Even though he's still capable of being a productive player in the latter stages of his career, wide receiver Donte Stallworth has also served as a mentor to some of the younger players in camp this summer.
"I really don't think of myself like that. I just try to go out and help out the young guys as much as I can because I was once that guy," he said.
"Anything I see from the younger guys that they might not notice that they're doing, I try to pull them to the side and tell them some things here and there. Mainly I just try to do the things that I've learned throughout my career."
--The Patriots don't appear to have any desire to change their return game on special teams - not with wide receivers Wes Welker and Julian Edelman returning punts - but that didn't stop tight end Aaron Hernandez from fielding a few punts in practice this week.
"I love being able to have the ball in my hands and make plays. That's another opportunity," said Hernandez, who hasn't done the job consistently since high school.
"Hopefully I get another opportunity to be back there, but Julian Edelman does a great job. We have other people like Wes to step in. I just love football and love making plays. If they put me back there, hopefully I can do something."
--Cornerback Ras-I Dowling was starting to make progress last year until a hip injury derailed his rookie season. Now he's back on the field continuing to make progress with the benefit of having a full offseason of conditioning under his belt.
"Hopefully he'll be able to do a lot more of it this year," head coach Bill Belichick said of Dowling. "He had a good spring. He was able to perform throughout the spring in our practice sessions, so that was good."
--Though there have been some early comparisons between this year's offense and that of the record-setting unit he presided over in 2007, quarterbacks coach/offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels admits there are some major differences in his second stint with the Patriots.
"The tight ends are different, the backs are a lot younger -- things have changed," McDaniels said. "There's a few different coaches on our staff, but I think that happens at every team every year in the NFL, and we just adapt. We are so used to doing it by now; it kind of comes with the territory.
"I'm blessed to work for Mr. Kraft and coach Belichick," McDaniels added. "We've got a great staff of people around us, and a team that's really willing to work hard and listen to you. That's the only thing you can ask as a coach and I'm really happy to have this position."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The 'Summer of Gronk' is over. Time to play football, baby." - TE Rob Gronkowski on the end of his highly-publicized offseason and the start of the upcoming football season.
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