FOXBORO - Patriots coach Bill Belichick makes it a point during his press conferences to lavish praise on players.
Other teams' players, that is.
Belichick, when talking about his own players, focuses on what can be done better, not on what was done right.
So it was a little out of character to hear him admit to being pleased with his teams showing at the just-wrapped June mini-camp.
"I liked the way they worked, I liked their attitude," he said. "I think the veteran players did a good job of helping out the younger guys, especially on the offensive side of the ball where we have a lot of young players. I'm not saying that's unusual, but I thought it was good."
He also credited the defense for improved communication.
"Defensively, our communication at this point was ..."
Pausing to self-censor adjectives like awful, he continued.
"I'm glad to see the players working on it,he said. It's important to them and hopefully we can have a better year defensively than we had last year. Which won't take much."
So, he was happy with the team. Whether he was happy with any particular player remains a mystery in his final press conference of the camp, he managed to avoid talking specifically about any player.
"We have a long way to go," he concluded. We have so far to go that I don't think you're going to achieve anything here in the middle of June.
But there were a few notable moments during the camp.
* Rookie Steve Gostkowski seemed to outperform veteran Martin Gramatica, showing better leg and accuracy. He was even put on the spot during Thursday game drills, getting icedby faux timeouts before hitting a field goal as the entire team surrounded him. Theres no depth chart yet, but dont be surprised to see the rookie listed as No. 1 long before September.
*Another rookie, Chad Jackson, was getting a lot of attention from teammates and coaches alike; clearly, Jackson fits heavily in the immediate future with this team.
*The absence of Deion Branch didn't make much of a rumble; during the camp, nothing was said about the contract situation on either side. But it does get the clock started for negotiations to come.
* Ben Watson did nothing to dispel the idea that hell be an impact receiver at the tight end spot. He made several big catches, and always wows you with his unique blend of size and speed. With the Patriots' diminished depth on the outside Watson seems like a lock to improve on his 29-catch, 441-yard performance of a year ago.
* Tully Banta-Cain's name was dropped a few times in discussions about the defensive core; with losses at linebacker, Banta-Cain could get his first real shot to contribute regularly.
* Camp always has a college atmosphere, and lending credence to that comparison was the presence of Virginia's Al Groh on Tuesday and BC's Tom O'Brien on Thursday.
* The status of safety Rodney Harrison is unknown; he wasn't in camp, and his progress won't be known until training camp at the earliest.
Jonathan Comey is a special contributor to Patriots Insider. A long time Patriots beat reporter for local media outlets, Jonathan's articles can be found regularly here on Patriots Insider by searching for "Jonathan Comey" in the archives. You can read his blog on his wesbite www.jonathancomey.com.
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