The Patriots wasted no time filling out their practice squad Sunday, returning many of the players they released during Saturday’s cuts to Gillette Stadium for their latest practice.
Fifteen of the team’s 16 new practice-squad players were present, all of them familiar faces. Kickers Nick Folk and Justin Rohrwasser have re-signed after being the most notable casualties on cutdown day. The Pats do not currently have a kicker on their active roster and could theoretically promote Folk or Rohrwasser to their 55-man game day roster every weekend.
Offensively, the Pats returned running back J.J. Taylor, fullback Paul Quessenberry, wide receivers Devin Ross and Isaiah Zuber and tight end Jake Burt. Taylor and Ross were among the closest cutdown calls for the Patriots, who opted to keep just four running backs and five wideouts. Taylor finished training camp on a high note, while Ross was one of the most productive receivers at its start.
Defensively, linemen Xavier Williams, Nick Thurman, Bill Murray and Rashod Berry were back on the field, with linebackers Cassh Maluia, Tashawn Bower and Terez Hall and cornerbacks D’Angelo Ross and Myles Bryant. Williams, Maluia and Bryant should be considered the top candidates to see Sunday action this season following their impressive training camp performances.
The Patriots have reportedly signed wide receivers Mason Kinsey and Kristian Wilkerson. Both were recently released by the Titans. Kinsey, an undrafted Division III rookie, caught punts in Tennessee and projects as a slot receiver at 5-foot-10, 198 pounds.
Newton’s long days
The first thing N’Keal Harry noticed about Cam Newton wasn’t his towering size, shining smile or charisma. It was the fact his new quarterback beat him into the building.
“Looking from outside and you never really know how a player conducts himself. And once I got around him, I figured out how hard he works and the amount of time and effort he puts into this,” Harry said. “You can tell he really cares about perfecting his craft. And he takes all this very seriously.”
According to multiple players, Newton beats almost everyone into the building every morning. After practice Sunday, Harry added he’s never seen Newton leave Gillette Stadium right after the players’ work day is over. Instead, Newton is consistently logging longer days to maximize the little time left before the Pats’ season opener against Miami.
Most of the stories surrounding Newton to date have highlighted his fun-loving nature, which was evident every day at practice. Behind closed doors, he’s proven to teammates he loves their shared work just as much.
“He just tries to make sure we’re loose out there, make sure all of us are having fun because we all know this is a business. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to be loose,” Harry said. “We got to have fun out there, we got to really enjoy what we’re doing. So I think that’s what he brings to the field, and we’ve been feeling the energy.”
Byrd happy to survive cuts
Veteran wide receiver Damiere Byrd is no stranger to cutdown day, having entered the league as an undrafted free agent, spent time on a practice squad and previously playing for the Panthers and Cardinals.
While he wasn’t squarely on the bubble in New England, Byrd nonetheless worked to get his mind off the 4 p.m. roster deadline Saturday. Meanwhile, fellow wide receivers Zuber, Jeff Thomas and Ross were all released. For Byrd, he’s not only happy to have made the 53-man roster, but stuck around a welcoming locker room he’s come to appreciate.
“There’s a bunch of high-character guys in here,” Byrd said Sunday. “And you hear that coming in, but when you get here, it really shows just the leadership and how close knit everybody is.’’
Harris, Olszewski remain out
Running back Damien Harris and wide receiver Gunner Olszewski were again absent at Patriots practice. Defensive lineman Beau Allen was the only other player missing.
All three players were out for most, if not all, practices this week. Allen is a prime candidate to be placed on injured reserve, which would open a roster spot. Harris’ status for Week 1 is in doubt after it was reported he underwent surgery on his pinkie.
Without him, the Pats are down to Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead and James White at running back. The Patriots have four wide receivers without Olszewski.