Patriots hit training camp, but old days were more fun
Give the New England Patriots credit. They’ve turned training camp into a science, laced with amenities.
Thursday morning here at Patriot Place, the concessions were up, the Pro Shop was bombed, the Patriots Experience was again in effect, and all was with the football world again.
Yes, for the 20-somethingth year, Hector Longo, the fan, hit Pats camp with the minions.
It’s a rite of summer, one that became the job for 18 or so seasons. But it’s back to the masses for this guy, now. And I can honestly say, I miss the old days.
For you Millennial types, your Patriots, before this place emanated from a mass of harness track and waste land, trained at Bryan College (now University, I know) in North Smithfield, R.I.
If you never got there, it was right out of the training camp scenes with Vince Papale and the Eagles in the movie “Invincible,” quaint crowds, held behind ropes and a true opportunity to get up close and personal.
Do you like line play? Feel free to hustle to the far end where the likes of Max Lane and Bruce Armstrong would be getting after it.
Receivers vs. DBs? Center stage, with Drew Bledsoe trying to make something out Hart Lee Dykes and a young Troy Brown, befuddling future Hall-of-Famer Ty Law in one-on-ones.
The crowds were the heartiest of types. I’m pretty sure towards the late days there might have been a fried dough truck, but Bryant was about football and not pomp and circumstance.
My last Bryant memories were nothing short of priceless.
One drill that stuck out? It was 2001 and the quarterbacks were working on fade routes in the corner of the end zone.
The kid, No. 12, was spot on target, over and again. Who cared right? He was never going to play.
And there was Bledsoe, a guy who could throw it a mile on a line, missing his stationary target over and over again.
We were 15 feet away, but the guys watching the big fatties a quarter mile away could here offensive coordinator Charlie Weis bellow relentlessly, “High and outside, high and outside, high and outside.”
Bledsoe couldn’t do it. The watchful eye had already seen that Brady was better in the preseason of 2000. Clearly, Bledsoe was trending downward.
And here’s this drill driving the point home. You could see these kinds of things at Bryant in the old days.
Not anymore. Not with these crowds and security.
That morning in Rhode Island ended with Larry Izzo, one of the grittiest and classiest Patriots ever, taking time to chat with my nephew, Michael. Talk about a thrill. This soon-to-be three-time Super Bowl champ asking the kid about his Little League season.
I’m guessing that doesn’t happen much at Patriot Place.
Bryant was pure. It was no circus. The players exited the field and head back to the dorms alongside the fans.
I realize times have changed. The Pats are the most amazing franchise in sports history.
But thinking about the way it used to be I have to long for the past.