FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1a. Veteran defensive end Adrian Clayborn introduced himself to Patriots fans with an authoritative pass-rushing performance in Thursday’s preseason win over the Eagles, but there is much more to get to know about the team's top free-agent signing this offseason. The 30-year-old Clayborn has about 10 tattoos, and I asked him to highlight a few of them that begin to paint a picture of who he is.
“All of my tattoos are meaningful, you want to get ones that you won’t regret later,” he explained, before going through the rundown of some of the highlights:
314 -- “St. Louis. I got that when I was 16, my first one. I’m just proud of where I was from. I was going to college [at Iowa] and wanted to represent where I was from.”
Gateway Arch -- Also representing St. Louis, with the traditional “SL” Cardinals logo underneath it.
Richard -- His late father (2012)
Anthony -- His late brother (1999)
Football field -- “Obviously that’s played a large role in my life,” he said of the tattoo which has “field of dreams” in the end zone.
Clayborn (all capital letters) -- Representing his last name.
Clayborn said his last tattoo, a bible verse on his wrist that reads “I can do all things through Christ," is from five years ago.
Why was that his last tattoo?
“It hurt,” he joked, “so I never went back.”
1b. Clayborn on life with the Patriots after four seasons in Tampa Bay and three in Atlanta: “I like the way the program is run. There’s no gray area; it’s put in front of you what you need to do to succeed. I’m enjoying it."
2. Has Bill Belichick run a lighter training camp than the norm? That seems to be the prevailing opinion from many reporters covering the team, but I took note of Belichick pushing back against it when asked on sports radio WEEI last week. “Our workload has been high. We track what we do every year and compare it year to year -- of course each year is different depending on your schedule and so forth -- but our workload is up,” he said on "OMF."
3. As part of his pre-draft scouting work before the 2017 draft, Belichick made a trip to Chattanooga to work out defensive end/outside linebacker Keionta Davis, which was a factor in the team’s decision to sign Davis as an undrafted free agent and ultimately place him on the non-football injury list because of a bulging disk in his neck. Now Davis is making a real charge for a roster spot -- as evidenced by his starting assignment on Thursday night -- and Belichick made a notable comparison when he said his situation was similar to offensive tackle Marcus Cannon in 2011. Cannon had a medical issue (non-Hodgkins lymphoma) that contributed to him slipping to the fifth round; based on pure talent, he would have been selected much higher. As for Davis, he could have played at a higher level than at Tennessee-Chattanooga, where he totaled 31 sacks in 50 games, but stayed loyal to the school when it stayed loyal to him after he tore his ACL as a senior in high school. It's an under-the-radar story to watch for the Patriots the rest of the preseason.
4a. From the “it-comes-full-circle” department: When starting Patriots left tackle Trent Brown attended Westover High School in Albany, Georgia, the football team’s nickname was the Patriots.
4b. From the "what was that celebration" department: Perhaps you saw second-year defensive tackle Adam Butler jump high into the air and bring his knees into his chest after a first-quarter sack on Thursday, which he later explained was an ode to the "Knee of Justice" from the "Super Smash Bros" game.
5. The Patriots’ punter competition between incumbent Ryan Allen and undrafted Corey Bojorquez has shifted the past two weeks, with Allen getting all the work over the first two preseason games. Bill Belichick said those opportunities for Bojorquez would have to be earned, but I wonder if there is also another layer to the decision-making: By keeping Bojorquez on ice, it limits the amount of tape for other punter-needy teams to see and creates less of a chance that Bojorquez might be claimed on waivers. That would also potentially clear a wider path for Bojorquez to possibly return on the practice squad.
6. Question of the week: Why would the Jets be so quick to trade back-on-the-rise quarterback Teddy Bridgewater? Even if rookie Sam Darnold earns the starting job, and veteran Josh McCown is the ideal No. 2, I’d assess the chances of making it through the season without an injury at quarterback against the projected modest return for Bridgewater (who any team could have signed in the offseason) and come to the conclusion that Bridgewater has more value on the roster. And if he signs a big deal elsewhere in 2019, the Jets would still be in position to recoup a solid 2020 compensatory draft pick.
7. What a shame to see Patriots offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn (torn left Achilles) and Redskins running back Derrius Guice (torn left ACL) sustain season-ending injuries over the first two preseason games played at Gillette Stadium this year. The synthetic grass playing surface has passed all safety restrictions put in place by the NFL and NFL Players Association, and serious injuries happen on any surface, but when two major injuries happen in back-to-back weeks it makes me further empathize with players who believe the game is meant to be played on natural grass only.
8. Did You Know: Since the 2002 realignment into eight divisions, 29 of the league’s 32 teams have won at least one division championship, with the Lions, Bills and Browns still looking for their first.
9. At this time last year in Patriots training camp, undrafted receiver Austin Carr (Northwestern) quickly emerged as a fan favorite, and there was disappointment from a segment of the fan base when he was claimed on waivers by the Saints. One year later, Carr is probably a 50/50 shot to stick for a second season on the Saints’ roster, with his hopes possibly tied to receiver Cameron Meredith’s return to health. When New Orleans drafted Tre’Quan Smith in the third round, it added another obstacle for Carr to overcome.
10. Of the many areas the Kraft family has succeeded in its 24 years of ownership, one that I learned more about this week is how the team’s alumni association is as strong as it has ever been. Run by former offensive lineman Pete Brock (1976-1987), it has more than 1,000 former Patriots players in its database, with 120 of them within driving distance of Gillette Stadium. Through fundraising efforts, and the Kraft's providing 30 tickets per game, which come with all-access privileges, the group is thriving. The Patriots Alumni Association has spearheaded fundraising initiatives (like this one) that help them host football clinics across the region in underserved communities.