The sour taste left in the mouths of players, coaches, fans and just about every member of Patriots Nation following February's surprising upset loss in Super Bowl XLII may never completely go away. But all involved moved a bit further from the heartache last week in what marks the first official full-team step toward the building of the 2008 Patriots at a full-squad minicamp.
"New season," safety Rodney Harrison said simply after a June 6 workout. "Just like when we won Super Bowls we had to come back the following year and forget about it and move forward. We have to do the same about last year."
Patriots coach Bill Belichick agreed with Harrison's assessment, pointing to the turning of a page to a new season -- an action that would have been required regardless of the outcome of the big game last February in Arizona.
"You have to start from square one, no matter where you are, offense, defense or special teams. Even the players that have been here, we all have to start at the bottom and build it up brick by brick, one practice at a time, one day at a time," Belichick said. "That's what we are trying to do. We're all in the same boat on that one."
Rainy conditions in Foxborough for the June 6 workout -- the first of three days of the minicamp open to the media -- pushed the shorts-and-helmets morning practice action into the Dana Farber Field House. The June 7-8 weekend workouts took place on the outdoor practice fields, testing the players with an early taste of sunny, warm conditions. Things got so warm for Sunday's workout that the players were put through a helmet-less walkthrough.
Seventy-three of the 82 players on the New England roster (a number that included the draft picks who have not yet officially signed contracts with the team) were in the indoor facility for the June 6 workout. Those not on the field included wide receiver Kelley Washington, cornerback Ellis Hobbs, guard Stephen Neal, newly-signed tackle Oliver Ross, wide receiver Wes Welker, tight end Benjamin Watson, linebacker Bo Ruud, defensive lineman Jarvis Green and defensive lineman Mike Wright. Tight end David Thomas, who's been working back from a foot injury that cut short his 2007 season, was added to the list of absentees for the Saturday practice, while he and Welker joined his teammates for the Sunday walkthrough action.
Most of the players not on the field for the weekend of work are dealing with previously reported injuries from last season or rehabbing from offseason surgical procedures, although Belichick did say that the entire team was in town for the camp.
"Everybody present and accounted for," Belichick quipped with a smirk.
The veteran coach also took his usual critically realistic approach the assessment of the action taking place on the practice fields as all the new veteran and rookie faces work into the mix with the returning players.
"They all have a lot to learn. We have a long way to go," Belichick said of a team that went 18-0 last season before the Super Bowl upset loss to the Giants. "We have a long way to go. We're taking it day by day. Hopefully we can get better each day."
Hot Topic: Thomas Better On The Outside?