Stallworth, Welker, and Thomas make fine first impressions at camp
By John Ingoldsby
FOXBORO, Mass. - You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and Donte Stallworth, Wes Welker, and Adalius Thomas will not be needing a re-do after today.
The three amigos all made a good initial impression both on and off the field in their first New England Patriots minicamp in Foxboro today. Thomas and Welker had gotten their feet wet last week at passing camp, but for Stallworth, it was his first practice ever at Gillette and as he was dressed for success wearing a #18 Patriots uniform.
Not only did the mass media contingent like what they saw between the stripes from the triumvirate, they undoubtedly liked what they heard outside the lines when all three were suddenly surrounded by members of the fourth estate as they walked off the practice field.
"Everybody's pretty cool, and some are guys I have known before I even got here," said Stallworth, the former Philadelphia Eagle. "It's not like we are coming into a monastery. We're all here trying to do a job," he added good-naturedly.
When asked if he was excited about the new playbook, the 6', 196-pound speedster put first things first. "I have got to learn the playbook before I can get excited about things I want to do later on. Guys are working at it and that is most important thing. We have a couple new guys and we are all pushing each other to try and get better."
Stallworth, who has been the forgotten man of the receiving corps since the mega-signing of Randy Moss, is off to a good start, as he looked crisp and in control running sharp routes while hauling in a number of Tom Brady passes, one of which was particularly impressive.
Stallworth is not the only new wide receiver who is looking forward to catching passes from two-time Super Bowl MVP Brady. Miami sparkplug Wes Welker also now has that dream job.
"Anytime you are with a Super Bowl championship quarterback, you are excited about that opportunity," said Wes Welker of Tom Terrific.
And Brady knows he has a new weapon as well, saying of Welker, "He's got great quickness, and he's very smart. I say he's like a Labrador out there; you throw the ball, and he runs and fetches it, and he runs back and sits in the huddle, and he looks up and he pants and there's sweat coming down his face. But he's been great to have around. He works extremely hard and sets a great example."
But there is a lot more to joining a team like the Patriots than just catching Brady spirals, stated Welker. "We are just out there getting better every day. Being new, it takes some time. You need to make sure you are preparing, and are ready for practice and games during the season. We need to execute and do things to be a great offense, and we got a long way to go. We help each other out, ask each other questions and try to stay on the same page. If one of us screws up, then the whole group screws up."
That type of camaraderie is what also drew Thomas here from the Baltimore Ravens, and count the linebacker as another happy (mini) camper. "I feel good about being here, and I just want to have fun, and get better. You can only have fun if you know what you are doing, and are out there communicating."
That type of assessment is music to Coach Bill Belichick's ears, who described his new defensive star thusly, "Adalius is a very flexible player, and he along with really all of our linebackers, Mike [Vrabel], Tedy [Bruschi], Rosie [Colvin] and Junior [Seau], and all of those guys, are pretty versatile. Certainly Adalius has a lot of experience doing different things, and we're looking at him doing different things and seeing how that goes just so he gets a head start on it now and it's not all new to him in training camp."
When that camp gets going in late July, the season will actually be getting under way. By then, opinions on new players will have been formed based on this three-day minicamp, and these first impressions will be lasting images that form the foundation of those opinions.
John Ingoldsby has covered the New England Patriots for various publications the past 13 years. He began his writing about the NFL for newspapers in the 1970s. John is a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. You can find him on the Patriots Insider boards under the handle Rudiee.
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