FOXBORO, Mass. – Two of the key health concerns on Opening Day of the Patriots season were in fine fettle Friday morning as they addressed the media and pronounced themselves fit and rarin' to go.
Laurence Maroney and Rodney Harrison – both key drivers on the Patriots bus hopefully destined for Super Bowl XXII in Phoenix – knew the questions were waiting as the Patriots opened their 48th Training Camp today, and they were front and center to answer all concerns regarding their shoulder and knee respectively.
Maroney Up To The Challenge
Maroney, displaying a dynamic and playful personality now that the shackles of rookie-dom have been removed, said, "It's just the beginning, and I will know more in a week or so. Trainers know better than I, but I think I am right on schedule, and not missing a beat. I had no doubts I would be out here today. I feel ready."
|Laurence Maroney talks to the media Friday morning at Patriots training camp at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. July 27, 2007. (Photo John Ingoldsby PatriotsInsider.com)|
The talented running back who burst onto the NFL scene last year with his explosive moves and power, was wearing a red jersey signaling no contact, and observed, "The red jersey is cool, and I still get hit with it on. I just go out there and compete, although it is frustrating when you cannot do all of the drills."
However, when the red jersey fades to blue and white, the 220-pound Minnesota product is going to run a little different this year. "If I was to run out of bounds, you all (the media) would ask if I am a physical back. I am going to stay inbounds and show that I can take a hit and keep on going. If I can outrun you, that is what I will do. If I can put a move on, that is what I will do. Dropping the shoulder every time is not my game."
The second-year speedster clearly learned the Patriot's media approach well last year as a rookie, as he answered many questions with "That's a question for Mr. Coach Belichick, or simply "Ask Belichick." As the dreadlocked one acknowledged, "I learned. I know what to say this year, know what to expect, and I am more comfortable."
This was immediately evident when asked about his objectives for this year, as he replied, "I don't make personal goals, that's a jinx. I just want the W (win)."
And what would the East St. Louis native tell this year's crop of rookies? "Man, just be prepared because it is going to be a tough one. Just fight through it."
Harrison Back For More
When it comes to fighting through it, nobody does it better than Rodney Harrison, back for more after ending last year prematurely against Tennessee by sustaining his third significant injury in the past two years.
|The Patriots take to the practice to open training camp Friday July, 27, 2007. Camp opened at Gillette stadium in Foxboro, Mass. (Photo John Ingoldsby PatriotsInsider.com)|
Beginning his 14th training camp, he immediately quelled all questions by starting off saying, "I feel fine. I had a great off-season and I am ready to go."
What does the veteran safety think as he begins yet another training camp in his storied career? "We really needed to knock off the rust. This is for real. This is the first day of our season. I come in and play hard, play consistent, know what I have to do and keep it going. It's hot, it's muggy, and the media gets on your nerves," he added laughing.
With every football expert in America proclaiming New England as the team to beat, Harrison waxed Belichickian when he said, "We haven't done a single thing but practice one day. We have a lot of potential, but a long way to go. Fans are excited of course, with new acquisitions bringing a new ray of hope. We love the fan support. We are just going to play football and have fun."
When asked about his missing mate in the defensive backfield, the Western Illinois product observed, "I don't have any feelings. I wish Asante (Samuel) the best, wish he was here and can't wait to see him."
Neither can the rest of Patriots Nation. But for now, the return of Maroney and Harrison and their upbeat attitudes will do just fine – to start with at least.
NOTES: Veteran cornerback Chad Scott went down with an ominous leg injury
during an 11-on-11 drill in the evening session, laying on the ground for minutes
before being slowly helped to the sidelines and hopping on one leg onto the
dreaded flatbed golf cart, where he was whisked away from the field … Willie Andrews drew cheers when he showed his athleticism while downing two punts at
the one yard line … Maroney flashed some nifty moves on linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who actually fell down trying to tackle him … Tight End Kyle Brady
showed he is more than just a blocker by showing serious extension while snatching
a pass, although he later let one slip through his mitts for an interception
… Boston College product Larry Anam had a nice interception … Matt Cassel had some nice zip on the ball, completing two particularly nice passes
to Ben Watson and Jabar Gaffney … Good thing Cassel looks good because
Matt Gutierrez was firing spirals as well, completing a great pass to C.J. Jones
… Heath Evans displayed some shifty running moves after catching a short
pass just over the line of scrimmage … Randall Gay announced his return
with a terrific knock-down of a pass … The evening session ended with wind
sprints, and leading the pack were Rodney Harrison and Artrell Hawkins …
Nearly 10,000 fans packed the practice fields on the festival-like first day
of training camp, with 6,160 in the morning session and 3,410 in the evening,
many braving an all-day, all-time traffic apocalypse on Route 128 … Brandon Meriweather, who was at neither session today, signed a five-year contract and
will be at practice on Saturday afternoon … It's still all about Brady
as Tom Terrific was cheered loudly at every opportunity, and he returned the
adulation by clapping directly to the crowd on more than one occasion …
Beyond Brady, Moss sporting his new Number 81 jersey drew the most applause
as he drew a reaction every time he touched the ball … Sixth round draft
pick Justise Hairston was reportedly cut from the team after the morning session
… New wide receiver Donte Stallworth and quarterback Vinnie Testaverde
were among the missing from both sessions today … Kudos to the Patriots
media relations staff for dedicating the inside front cover of the 2007 Media
Guide in memory of recently passed Bucko Kilroy and Marquise Hill, whose number
91 was decaled to the back of every Patriot helmet.
John Ingoldsby has covered the New England Patriots for various publications the past 13 years. He began 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.