FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady and the Patriots are counting on rookie wide receiver Aaron Dobson to boost the offense immediately. It will be more difficult to do that if the young pass catcher misses time during the most important month of instruction on the NFL calendar.
The second-round pick missed his first practice of training camp Wednesday. Dobson briefly walked onto the field midway through practice in shorts and a T-shirt, and he wasn’t wearing any braces or wraps.
According to a source, the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder took a cleat to the ankle during Monday night’s practice at Gillette Stadium and is expected to return to the field.
Brady has been complimentary of the young receivers’ dedication, but on Monday he stressed the importance of their training camp practice attendance.
“It’s so critical for the younger players to be able to practice every day and come out and make the improvements,” Brady said. “Coach (Bill Belichick) talks about that all the time and the only way to get better is to practice repetition, so if you come out and you miss a week of training camp, that’s a big deal. There’s a lot of installation. There’s a lot of learning that goes on.”
Dobson also missed some work during minicamp, so the Patriots have to hope it doesn’t become a trend. Fourth-rounder Josh Boyce missed the entire offseason program while recovering from a broken toe that he suffered before the combine, so there have been some setbacks among the youngsters.
However, Boyce stepped up in Dobson’s absence Wednesday. He has shown an ability to create separation from coverage with quick, decisive footwork and route-running skills, and Brady has looked at him often in recent days.
The pair’s progression will remain at the forefront of the Pats’ camp storylines, so long as the absences don’t pile up.
Pushing and shoving
Practice came to a close after running back Stevan Ridley and cornerback Kyle Arrington engaged in a brief skirmish. Arrington delivered a hard hit off the edge that ticked off the ball carrier. Ridley responded with a shove, and Arrington sent along one of his own.
The dustup, which came as a surprise from two easygoing players, quickly dissipated when teammates stepped in between them.
“It’s camp, man,” Ridley said. “That’s camp.”
This was the first altercation in the young camp, and that’s a change of pace from last year, when Belichick and Brady delivered a loud message to the rest of the team to stop fighting during practices.
Arrington was of a similar mind to Ridley, noting the tense atmosphere and string of hot days on the field.
“For the most part it’s over with,” Arrington said. “At this point of camp, we’re tired of going up against the same guys every day. Tempers flare, but it stays on the field.”
Long road for Svitek
The Pats are set at offensive tackle, with Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer firmly planted in the starting positions. The primary backup job is up for grabs, and Will Svitek’s practice reps suggest he has a chance to seal the gig. Considering his family’s history, that’s not much of a challenge for Svitek.
His parents fled Communist Czechoslovakia in 1984, hiking through the mountains to get to Austria by way of Yugoslavia. Svitek, who was 2 years old at the time, was strapped to his brother’s back during the journey.
Svitek has returned three times since the Iron Curtain fell, and his parents guided him through their old home. It’s a way for Svitek to appreciate everything his parents sacrificed.
“I’m very grateful,” Svitek said. “Obviously, my parents taught me a lot about work ethic and dedication and not taking things for granted. I always think back to that. I’m thankful for my opportunities that I have here. I always want to make them proud and fulfill my fullest potential because that’s (for) the sacrifices they made.”