FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) The downpour began as practice was about to end for the Patriots on Sunday.
It was nothing like the conditions in Arizona where four New England defensive backs had prepared for training camp.
”You play football in whatever the weather is,” cornerback Logan Ryan said after he and his teammates scurried for shelter Sunday.
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Even if it’s 110 degrees and dry. That’s the way he remembers it when he and three teammates worked out for about two weeks in Phoenix.
”I think it rained for five minutes one time,” Ryan said. ”They called it a monsoon.”
Ryan went to the Fischer Institute in Phoenix last year to hone his skills for the NFL draft combine. The Patriots drafted him in the third round out of Rutgers and he started seven of the 16 games in which he played.
He was back in Phoenix this summer, along with other NFL players from different teams. Cornerback Darrelle Revis has done that in the past and he was joined this year by Patriots safeties Devin McCourty and Tavon Wilson along with Ryan.
It was a chance for Revis, signed as a free agent in the offseason, to bond with three returning Patriots.
”This is great for us to get guys that are committed and want to come out to Phoenix,” Revis said. ”It was good for us to just be out there and just get more camaraderie with each other and just hang out with each other a lot every day.”
They trained with Will Sullivan, a coach at the facility who works closely with defensive backs. They did drills, watched film, lifted weights and did other conditioning work.
McCourty went after talking about it with Adrian Wilson, a safety who spent the entire season on the Patriots injured reserve list before signing with the Chicago Bears on June 23.
”We all happened to end up on the same team this year so it worked out that way,” said McCourty, whose brother Jason is a cornerback with the Tennessee Titans. ”My brother was there. He was mad that all the Patriots were down there together. So it was just guys working on individual skills.”
The training could have a big impact on Tavon Wilson. He had a solid rookie season in 2012 with four interceptions then regressed last season when he rarely played defense.
”Being around Darrelle and Devin and Logan was a good experience for me,” he said, ”being able to become closer friends with those guys, just spend a lot of time with them. You can’t really do too much scheme stuff. They helped me out a lot as far as how to be a professional. I’m still fairly young in my career, so it was great being around those guys.”
Revis and McCourty are starters in an improved secondary. Cornerback Brandon Browner also figures to start once he serves his four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Duron Harmon, a rookie from Rutgers last season, appears to have the edge on the other starting safety spot.
The training in Arizona involved more than physical work.
”We watched a lot of film,” Ryan said. ”That’s the best part about it. Will Sullivan would watch your film with you from last year and games and kind of tell you straight up, evaluate you.
”Every day would have a different emphasis for each player and everybody would work on their strengths and weaknesses. There’s no hiding anything. Everything was clear cut and out in the open.”
Now the Phoenix Four are continuing their preparation for the season with all their teammates.
”You see guys at the top of their game, All-Pros, come in there and be coachable and repeat a drill they may have gotten wrong,” Ryan said. ”It makes a younger guy like myself want to do it that much better and see why these guys are at the top of their game.”
NOTES: The Patriots have Monday off after four days of practice and return to the field Tuesday. … Rookie QB Jimmy Garoppolo ran laps for the third straight day after messing up a play. … Second-year WR Kenbrell Thompkins was wide open on a slant route but dropped Tom Brady’s well-placed pass. … Director of player personnel Nick Caserio said signing physical cornerbacks Browner and Revis doesn’t signal a change in the team’s philosophy. ”We try to look at our team, try to improve our team and do what we think is in our best interest,” Caserio said.
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