It’s been a busy week for the New England Patriots. On Monday night, the team faced off against the Philadelphia Eagles. After suffering a 27-17 loss, a game that saw no Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork and many more due to rest, the team turned around for a trip to Tampa Bay, Fla. for their second joint-practice of the offseason, this time with the Buccaneers.
The two teams faced-off Friday night t at at Raymond James Stadium which ended with the Bucs beating the Pats, 30 to 28
On Tuesday, when asked on the status of safety Patrick Chung, who left the game with a shoulder after a tackle, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was his typically quiet self on the topic. However adding, “We’ve been really scrambling around here today trying to get caught up with the game and going to Tampa and all that.”
This is the second joint-practice for the New England Patriots, after hosting the New Orleans Saints’ two weeks ago.
When asked whose idea it was he or Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano’s, Belichick said it was “mutual”. Much like New Orleans, Tampa Bay is an organization with strong ties to New England and Belichick.
“I’ve known Coach for a long time, and gotten to know him better since he was at Rutgers. Of course, we would go down and scout their players and work them out, that type of thing,” Belichick said of relationship with Schiano.
“We both have a defensive background,” Belichick continued. “So I think we have a lot in common there. He’s coached some of our players, going back to Vince (Wilfork) at Miami, guys like that. So we have a long relationship.”
Pro-Bowler Vince Wilfork spoke further on coach Schiano and what his time with him at Miami (Fla.) was like. Saying, “Very, very intense. Very intense guy and he loves what he’s doing and that’s coaching football. It wasn’t a surprise to see him at this level someday – it was just a matter of time.”
Schiano was instrumental in turning around Rutgers’ football program and turned it into one of the strongest in the Big East. Currently there are three players on the Patriots roster from Rutgers.
“Having some guys from Rutgers on our team, Devin (McCourty) and Justin (Francis) and guys like that, they say the same thing,” Wilfork added. He’s a great, great guy. He’s a hell of a football coach and I think he’s going to be around for a while.”
The former Rutgers coach has given the Patriots one of their camp surprises — Justin Francis.
Francis played both inside and outside along the defensive front and piled up 12 sacks over his final three seasons as a Scarlet Knight. But even more than that is his connection with the Belichicks. Francis and Bill Belichick’s son, Steve Belichick, have been close friends since their sophomore year at Rutgers. And it was Steve, who played lacrosse for Rutgers before becoming the Scarlet Knights’ long-snapper his senior year, that first put the bug in his father’s ear about Francis.
The versatile Francis has impressed his coaches and fellow players alike as he continually works on the little things.
“You can never become complacent. Bill always tells us, ‘the more you can do the more value you have.’ Working inside or working outside or whatever — if he has me long snapping or playing quarterback I’m going to work at it as hard as I can to get it accomplished,” Francis said.
He also acknowledged the friendship between his current and former coach saying that coach Schiano “kind of has the same things that Coach Belichick has.”
Francis wasn’t the only player drawing attention this week however. The newly signed, Olympic silver-medalist, Jeff Demps made his first appearance as a New England Patriot.
Demps, won silver as a part of the men’s 400-meter relay team this summer in the London Olympics, was a Florida Gator running back from ‘08 to ‘11 and compiled 2,470 yards and 23 touchdowns in his time in Gainesville.
After his collegiate career, Demps focused on running in the Olympics and put his football aspirations on the back burner. And it’s been sometime since he’s held a football.
“Since January 1 after our bowl game. I haven’t touched a football since then. Today is my first time, so I have a long way to go, but I just want to come out each and every day and work hard,” Demps said.
Demps, jumped right into one-on-one drills thanks in part to running backs coach Ivan Fears’ trial by fire approach with his new player. However, the decision to return to the gridiron wasn’t as easy as some may think.
“I was uncertain,” Demps said of returning to the game. “I was just focused on running and being in the Olympics and once that was all over, I decided to come back to the game. It’s just such a blessing to come from the Olympics and come to a football field. It’s a blessing. Not many people do that, so it’s just a blessing to do that.”
It’s been a short week for Demps to acclimate to the NFL so it will be interesting to see how much action Demps receives tonight but Demps knows he still has a lot of work to do after missing most of training camp and two preseason games.
“Yeah, that’s probably going to be the toughest part, just getting back into football shape and learning the plays.”
By: Nathan Rickard