By: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
July 27, 2002

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SMITHFIELD, RI -- When you win a Superbowl, fans tend to take more of an interest in the team.

That was certainly apparent on Friday when the Patriots actually had to close access to the remaining fans who flocked to Bryant College to watch the Patriots practice as the team opened Training Camp.

About 5,000 fans watched the team begin their preparations for the 2002 season on Friday, which is a turnout of about twice the size of recent seasons.

Patriots fan Ryan Mathison who was on hand for day one noticed that the bandwagon had certainly gotten larger.

"Last year when the Pats were coming off of a 5-11 record, about 200 people showed up to the 1st afternoon session," said Mathison.

"This year, thousands showed up to the first day...hmm I wonder why?"

A Lombardi Trophy may obvously have that effect.

Meanwhile there were a couple of players who apparently failed head coach Bill Belichick's conditioning drill.  Runningbacks Antowain Smith and Patrick Pass spent the afternoon on stationary bikes while the rest of the team practiced.  Smith failed for the second straight season, although Belichick said the runningback's test is one of the most grueling.

Fans also pointed out that Willie McGinest wasn't on the field.  He reportedly had an excused absense.

Also sidelined were Ben Kelly, Matt Light , Richard Seymour, Joe Andruzzi , Cam Cleeland, and Antwoine Womack. Light and Seymour are reportedly recovering from offseason surgery, while Womack isn't expected to participate as he recovers from a serious knee injury.

Belichick said on Friday that his goal for the beginning of this season is to try and improve on the poor start his team has had over the past two seasons.

"The first month of the season is a target for us," said Belichick.  The last two years, as we all know we have not started well, 0-4 and 1-3 and we have a target this year on the first quarter of the season to try to improve that, starting with Pittsburgh."

"I think we can improve on from what we've done the last two years, and that will be what our goal is.

OTHER FAN OBSERVATIONS
FROM THE PATSFANS.COM FORUM

"I got great looks at Davey, Branch & Graham.

I was VERY IMPRESSED with Branch. He caught everything thrown to him away from his body in full stride. I noticed that his acceleration from a stand still is tremendous. He is like Brown, but just more nimble...quicker.

Graham dropped a couple of easy passes from Davey on one passing session. Also, I noticed that Graham likes to catch the ball with his body a lot...when forced to reach out for the ball, he doesn't always make the catch.

Davey has a CANNON of an arm! He was in a drop back scramble session with BB watching and all the QB's were throwing it to a little highschool looking kid (probably the son of one of the coaches). Anyway this kid was like 15yards out and Rohan almost knocked the kid over with his throw...seriously the kid thought about ducking instead of trying to catch the friggin pass.
Other than that, Davey looked like a rookie. SOme great throws, and some horrid ones..." - RYEMAN

"QBs - Brady was very sharp, moving well and rarely missing a pass - some very nice deep balls. Huard was pretty good, though he underthrew most of his long balls. Davey looked sloppy, both with his footwork and his throwing - very erratic. He definitely looks like a project, not surprisingly. No question who was the best QB (something I haven't always been able to say after going to a camp).

Other rookies - Graham was most impressive as a blocker. I thought, in comparing him to Fauria, that he was better in that department. He moves well - more smooth than quick - and has excellent hands, but did not have much thrown to him in the 7 on 7 or 11 on 11 drills. Branch looked terrific. Watching him on television in college, he seemed really small, but in person, he looks powerfully built, especially in the lower body. He is very quick and displayed good hands the whole session. Green had some nice bull rushes in the one on one drills, but got pancaked a couple times by Kenyatta Jones in the 11 on 11s. Givens did not stand out.

Other vets - Patten, as he was when I went last year, was the standout player. Jones was again the first team LT (as in minicamp), and seemed vastly improved. Last year he was unable to handle outside rushes, both when I saw him in camp and in exhibition games, but he was moving much better this year. And he is scary strong - really obliterating a couple guys (see above note) once he gets locked on. Hayes looked pretty good, although I was more impressed with Patten and Branch. Fauria looked a little slow, but otherwise okay.

By the way, it may just have been what they were working on today, but they spent a lot of time in two tight end sets, with Fauria and Graham working with the first teamers." - TROC


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