As the Irish rock band Thin Lizzy once enthusiastically declared in their 1976 hit of the same name, ‘The Boys Are Back in Town.’
With visions of a sixth Super Bowl Championship still vivid in the minds of their fans, the New England Patriots returned to the practice fields of Gillette Stadium on Tuesday for mandatory minicamp. While Rookie Minicamp and OTA were held during the month of May, this was the first mandatory team activity of the 2019 season. Tuesday also marked quarterback Tom Brady’s first appearance on a football field in Foxborough since January 13, when the Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Chargers 41-28 in the Divisional Round of the Playoffs.
Return of the ‘Back (Quarterback, that is)
For the second straight year, Brady was not present for the voluntary portion of the offseason program. Rather, he opted for private workouts, and even hosted some of his teammates (including wide receivers Julian Edelman and rookie N’Keal Harry) to join him. While some seem content to criticize him for doing so, Brady’s choices have hindered neither he nor the Patriots. Brady led his team to a Super Bowl championship in 2018, while following this same regimen. Until proven otherwise, his absence from OTA is not likely to be a factor in the team’s success in 2019.
On the field, Brady looked as impressive as ever. While exuding his patented enthusiasm, the 41-year-old showed no signs of decline. Remarkably participating in his 20th career minicamp, ahead of his 20th NFL season, Brady connected on 12 of 15 passes in 11-on-11 drills. He also participated in red-zone sessions with Harry, tight end Benjamin Watson and running back James White. While the quarterback and rookie wideout (Harry) have some work to do on developing a synergy, there are some visible signs of budding chemistry. All in all, Patriots fans may take solace in the fact that the six-time Super Bowl champion looked every bit himself during Tuesday’s practice session.
Austin, we hardly knew ye
Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins was conspicuous by his absence on the field on Tuesday. Shortly after the conclusion of practice, Field Yates of ESPN reported that Seferian-Jenkins was being released by the team. The Patriots officially announced the veteran tight end’s release later in the day.
While the team did not confirm a reason for the release, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Seferian-Jenkins is taking a temporary leave from football to deal with undisclosed personal reasons. It is his hope to return to football in July. It is unknown as to whether the Patriots would have interest in re-signing him at that time.
With Seferian-Jenkins gone, and Benjamin Watson suspended for the first month of the season, the Patriots face uncertainty at the tight end position. Based on the team’s initial workouts, free agent acquisition Matt LaCosse has emerged as the favorite to land the top spot in the depth chart. LaCosse has shown some prowess as a receiver and has sufficient speed to run the seam and stretch a defense. He has capable hands and has also demonstrated some natural ability as a blocker. Practice squad member Stephen Anderson, rookie Andrew Beck and redshirt rookie Ryan Izzo round out the current Patriots tight end corps.
In addition to Sefarian-Jenkins, there were some notable absences from practice including running back Sony Michel, rookie offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste, safety Patrick Chung, defensive end Deatrich Wise, Jr, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and safety Nate Ebner.
Offensive lineman and 2018 first-round pick Isaiah Wynn was present. However, he did not take part in team drills. Per Evan Lazar of CLNS Media, Wynn did some work during positional drills where he was practicing drive blocks.
Defensive end Derek Rivers, linebacker Elandon Roberts and defensive tackle Danny Shelton were on the backup field during team drills.
Linebacker Jamie Collins took a number of snaps with the starting defense on Tuesday. Collins had primarily worked with the backups during OTA last month.
Camp Champ: Day One
The consensus highlight of the day came courtesy of second-year wide receiver Braxton Berrios. The wideout completed an underneath, two-handed diving catch on a deep pass from quarterback Brian Hoyer.
The Patriots return to the practice fields for Day Two of Mandatory Minicamp at 11:15 am on Wednesday, June 5.
–Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and National Columnist for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the New England Patriots and provides NFL editorial content. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC