I did not notice anything — he was not any slower, or any less explosive, that’s for sure," Kelce said after Tuesday’s practice. "As a matter of fact, the first one-on-one he did, I was expecting [something different], and I set him on the line, and he hit me with a good swim move that I wasn’t expecting. So he still has that explosiveness, still looks like the same great player that he’s always been.
Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, in his first contact since rupturing his Achilles last September, gave a “yes sir” as he exited the field when asked if the Achilles responded well. There seemed to be an easing-in process for Wilfork in run-game drills, as he is adjusting to having some bodies falling in front of him. He was a full participant in the practice, taking another important step in his recovery.
The Patriots were running a no-huddle drill at the end of practice, and Wilfork — in a jersey so soaked in sweat that the navy blue appeared black from the adjacent hill — participated in every snap, hurrying back to the line even as the offense hurried to beat the defense to the punch.
Patriots Training Camp Preview: Defensive Tackle
There were some major headlines this offseason for the Patriots at the defensive tackle position. The first was Vince Wilfork restructuring his contract after a somewhat acrimonious beginning in February.
Tommy Kelly did the same and, along with the first-round selection of the explosive Dominique Easley in the first round of the draft, the Pats have some promise in the front middle of their front seven.
The Pats still have some questions at the position, but if everyone is healthy it might just be one of the deepest and most talented spots on the roster.
Here’s our defensive tackle preview.
There’s nothing like the gut punch of the random guys who end up on the PUP list to start training camp. The Pats have multiple guys coming off ACL injuries this year - Gronk, Easley, Kelly and Will Smith, along with Vince Wilfork’s Achilles. Those are major injuries and it wouldn’t be out of the question for the Pats to hold them out in the early days of camp.
There’s also the notion of winning the war, not the early season battles. As much as you’d love to see all of these guys out there in Week 1, it’s important to make sure they’re fully ready to go in January.
There’s also a certain advantage to having a couple guys on the PUP list to start the season to open up some extra roster spots. Brandon Browner’s suspension provides a little advantage in that regard as well.
I think this year is probably going to be one of the most exciting times in my career to actually put pads on and be able to practice. Every year I’m excited but I think this year is going to be a little more special because of what I’ve been through and how far I came along," he said. "I’m very happy. Excited. It’s been a long time being able to step out here with the guys. Just to take that step is very important to me. We still have a lot to do, but I’m very confident where I’m at. I’ll continue to just get better. It’s going to take time but I’m very positive where I’m at right now.
[Wilfork] has made more progress than I think anybody really expected to at this point. He was out there for the entire practice yesterday, but his reps were extremely limited over the last few sets of 11-on-11 drills. This is progress from the previous two times we’ve seen him. He used to be out there for an hour of practice then go rehab inside the bubble (Dana Farber Fieldhouse). I think the fact they’re keeping him out there means the rehab schedule has changed and they’re more confident in the progress he’s making.
Defensive linemen Will Smith, Tommy Kelly and Vince Wilfork were all full participants for all two hours of practice. That’s a promising sign for a defensive line rotation that was ravaged by injuries last season. Wilfork, in particular, has looked much improved over OTAs, where he appeared to be lumbering around a bit.