(This is a new daily piece in lieu of the Morning Links piece that had previously appeared here. Â In this piece we’ll catch you up on recent happenings, as well as provide you with all the same links to all of your favorite media sources. Â It’s a work-in-progress, so your feedback in the comment section is appreciated)
It’s been a long hard road for Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, and while his recent appearance in practice is definitely a positive in his rehab, it’s pretty obvious the Patriots are being cautious about his return.
Gronkowski practiced in pads for the second straight day Monday, and was reportedly seen during the media portion of practice going through warmups and getting in work as he continues rehabbing from back surgery. Â All indications seem to lean toward a possible week three return against the Buccaneers, but during his press conference Bill Belichick wasn’t willing to put a timetable on it.
Up until recently Gronkowski had been a spectator during training camp.
(USA TODAY Images)
“We take it day to day,” Belichick told the media Monday when asked about Gronkowski. “Evaluate tomorrow based on how today goes, see how it goes. See how tomorrow goes and deal with whatever that day is, Wednesday or Thursday or whatever the day is. Weâ€™ll take it day to day. Itâ€™s the same way we do with everybody.”
Does he think the last two days were a significant step for his star tight end?
“No, just the next step,” said Belichick when asked that very qeustion.
Fair enough. Â But fortunately, barring any setbacks, it’s still a step toward seeing him back on the field in the coming weeks and that should have every Patriots fan feeling rather optimistic about their chances this season.
ANOTHER TIGHT END BROUGHT IN:
Fullback James Develin didn’t have much time to enjoy his spot on the roster, with the Patriots releasing him on Monday in favor of tight end Matthew Mulligan, who according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald is set to be signed by the team. Â Mulligan played in nine games last season with St. Louis but spent this year’s camp in Green Bay before being released. Â The addition of Mulligan obviously points to the fact the Patriots aren’t comfortable with their current tandem of Zach Sudfeld and Michael Hoomanawanui during Gronk’s absence.
MESKO LANDS IN PITTSBURGH:
To no one’s surprise, former Patriots punter Zoltan Mesko didn’t stay unemployed for very long after being released during Saturday’s cuts. Â However, the bigger surprise is where he ended up.
Mesko has reportedly landed with the Steelers after the team announced his addition on Monday. Â Mesko was obviously a charismatic guy here in New England and the decision to keep the younger – and less expensive – Ryan Allen ended up being a business decision as the move saved New England $900,000 in cap space, as well as the fact Mesko would have been a free agent after this season.
Mesko’s big leg was great at giving his team a key advantage in changing the field position part of the game, which emphasized how important having a good punter really is. Â Fans have seen what a difference maker he was here in New England, and hopefully he doesn’t end up coming back to haunt them should the two potentially meet in the playoffs.
BELICHICK SAYS OFFENSE EVOLVES EVERY YEAR:
Obviously this season will feature one of the youngest, and newest groups of receivers in this Patriots system that this team has put forth during the Belichick/Brady era. Â They’ll be relying on rookies and newcomer Danny Amendola to carry this offense, and as deep as this playbook has been in years past it’s tough not to wonder how much tweaking will be done early on before they get up to speed. Â Belichck told the media Monday that change happens every year, and their plans simply focus week-to-week on who they’re facing.
“I think weâ€™ve installed the 2013 offense, which is different from 2012, which is different from â€™11,” said Belichick. “It changes and evolves every year. I think whatever we choose to do on a game-by-game basis will be determined by that game, those matchups, our personnel, their personnel, their schemes and so forth. I canâ€™t really tell you how thatâ€™s going to go.
“I think that we have the ability to draw or work in the same areas generally that weâ€™ve worked in in the past but there are some specific things that weâ€™re probably better at now and not as good at relative to other years. Â Iâ€™m sure thatâ€™s true. Weâ€™ll just take it game by game and see how the game plans unfold.
“I donâ€™t think there are too many things that if we want to do and we havenâ€™t practiced them, we wouldnâ€™t know how to do them. Which ones we select to do will be dependent on that individual game. ”
PRAISE FOR RUTGERS DB HARMON:
Rookie Duron Harmon has flown under the radar for much of the preseason, but according to head coach Bill Belichick, the former standout from Rutgers appears to be in good standing with his coach.
“Good. Heâ€™s had a good preseason,” Belichick said Monday. Â ”All the rookies that made our roster, obviously we feel good enough to have them on there. Duron has done a good job.”
MOVING ON TO THIS MORNING’S LINKS:
NOTEBOOK: Blount may retrurn kickoffsÂ - Jeff Howe – Howe files his notebook this morning which leads off with a good look at the kick return situation between Josh Boyce and LeGarrette Blount. Â Boyce led the preseason with three returns for 73 yards, but Blount added one of his own for 27 – and Howe has comments from both players about their potential role in the return game.
Rookie Harmon ready to get in on the action – Adam Kurkjian – Kurkjian has some great comments from rookie safety Duran Harmon, who has respect for Devin McCourty and his fellow teammates as he gets ready for his first NFL game.
â€˜Chungâ€™ canâ€™t help Pats halt Johnson – Jeff Howe – Howe has some good notes on Buffalo’s Stevie Johnson, who claims he knows former Patriots safety Patrick Chung but apparently didn’t get the memo that he signed with Philadelphia this offseason.
Looks good for starters: Depth will be a factor for Patriots – Jeff Howe – Howe has a good piece this morning looking at the overall depth this team has, and it’s a great look at the entire team.
Different results from same faces? – Field Yates – Yates has a good read this morning on the Patriots defense, who despite the offensive transition returns the core of their defensive group this season.
Getting to know the Bills – Field Yates – Yates has a good look at the Bills this morning and provides some information on three players to know on both offense and defense.
Patriots Youthful turn includes NFL high 14 rookies – Ben Volin -Â Volin writes that the Patriotsâ€™ roster definitely has “a baby-faced feel to it this year”, as the team has gone decidedly younger.
Tracking Opportunities in Patriots Preseason Passing Game - Christopher Price – Price breaks down the number of targets and receptions for all of the receivers.
Blount does not look the part of kick-returner -Â Â Paul Kenyon – Kenyon looks at the possibility of Blount returning kicks and writes that the 6’1″, 250 pound running back definitely doesn’t look the part of a kick returner.
BANGOR DAILY NEWS
Patriots to sign Enfield native Matt Mulligan – The Bangor Daily News has a local take on the signing of tight end Matt Mulligan, who is a former Husson University in Bangor alumni and also played three seasons at the University of Maine.
Bill Belichick’s Monday Press Conference TranscriptÂ -Â If you missed what Belichick had to say on Monday, here’s the entire transcript.
Patriots Profit on Tebow’s Solid Souvenir Stats – Kyle Stock – Stock writes that since joining the Patriots in June, the online retailer Fanatics.com sold more Tebow gear than all but 10 other NFL players.