Sam Make The Cut?
By Scout.com Staff
The Patriots are finishing up two weeks of passing camps this week in preparation for their June 9-11 mandatory mini-camp. The first week (May 16-19) involved only young or new players while the second week of the passing camps included the full squad.
Quarterback Tom Brady has been working with his receivers for a few weeks now during the team's offseason program, but took his first real reps this week against the defense. With some changes in the receiving corps, it was important for Brady to begin working on timing with new acquisitions like Tom Dwight and David Terrell while also working second-year hopeful P.K. Sam into the mix along with regulars David Givens and Deion Branch.
Dwight and Terrell have at least some NFL track record that provides reasonable expectations, although neither has been a consistently productive starting-caliber receiver in the league. Both have had their moments, but are in New England on one-year deals looking for a fresh start, a scenario that would not exist had they met expectations with their former team.
Fortunately, neither reports to Foxborough with the pressure to be a No. 1 or No. 2 receiver. Terrell, the eighth overall pick in the 2001 draft, is the most intriguing new face because he gives the Patriots a bigger receiver at 6-3 with seemingly untapped potential that may have been stunted by a lack of continuity in Chicago during his Bears tenure. But he still has never caught more than 43 passes in a season, which is nine fewer than Donald Hayes caught for the 1-15 Panthers before becoming a free agent bust for the Pats in 2002. The man Terrell replaces in New England, David Patten, never had fewer than 44 catches in New England when healthy and had a high of 61 in 2002.
Still, as long as Givens and Branch remain a healthy 1-2 punch, average production from Terrell would be acceptable in the team's diverse offense. The wild cards in the group are Sam and third-year man Bethel Johnson. Johnson missed the passing camps while walking around with a protective boot on his left foot while Sam looked to take advantage of his opportunity to get back on the field after spending most of his rookie year on injured reserve.
"I don't sweat the competition because it's on me," Sam said. "All I can control is having my stuff together and if I do that and give it 100 percent and get cut then I have no regrets. I've worked on my footwork, my quickness and have been learning how to run better routes against certain defenses. It's most important for me to be where I'm supposed to be when Tom Brady says to be there. We'll see how it translates."
We'll also see how Brady's work with the newcomers is progressing when the team returns to the field in early June. That will be the first time the media will see Brady working with his new wideouts.
It wasn't long ago when no one wanted to retire a Patriot. But three championships in four seasons have a way of changing that. So despite playing five seasons in Philadelphia, four with the Jets and only three-plus in New England, cornerback Otis Smith decided to retire a Patriot last week after 13 NFL seasons.
Smith played in two Super Bowls for New England, winning one, and is known for the big plays he made in both of those postseasons. His 47-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the 1996 AFC Championship game iced a 20-6 win over the Jaguars and sent the Patriots to Super Bowl XXXI. His 30-yard interception return against the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI set up a critical field goal in the team's 20-17 win. "I wanted to retire as a Patriot because the greatest success of my career came in a Patriots uniform," Smith explained. "The thing I really liked about New England is that the fans always appreciated my talents and what I brought to the table, win or lose. They appreciated the effort more than the actual winning itself.
"We were successful together," he continued, "and when people ask me what happened with me and football, I decided to retire with the team I won with and the team I got a lot of exposure with. We won a lot of games together and lost a lot of games, but we stuck together. There is a team concept in New England, not just from the standpoint of the players but expressed throughout the whole organization. I have developed a feeling in my heart for the way that the Patriots do things and that is something I want my name to be tied to for the rest of my life. When people ask me who I played for, I say the New England Patriots. I guess you could say I'm a Patriot."
In his career, Smith intercepted 29 regular-season passes in 180 games and 108 starts and also picked off two passes in the postseason. He returned seven of those interceptions for touchdowns. He also finished with 525 career tackles, 5.5 sacks, 107 passes defensed, 7 forced fumbles and eight fumble recoveries.
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