Linebacker Matthew Judon was one of the Patriots to return to practice Monday, bringing New England close to full strength. Stew Milne/Associated Press

Knock on wood: The New England Patriots have largely avoided the injury bug so far in training camp.

As the Patriots enter this third week of camp and prepare for their preseason opener against the New York Giants, there are positive signs when looking at the team’s roster. Namely, the players you see on the roster are mostly available on the field.

Bill Belichick said it was a credit to the way the players have worked coming into camp.

“I’d say the big thing this year, working with our strength and conditioning staff, I feel like our team is as healthy as it’s ever been at this time of year,” Belichick said Monday before practice. “Part of that, I think, has a lot to do with the offseason program and the way guys have worked.”

At this time last year, NFL teams were still dealing with the limitations of COVID-19 protocols, which limited how much time players could spend in the building. Now with all NFL COVID guidelines lifted, players have more access to working with the team to get ready for the field.

Belichick was asked if the team had shifted its approach to practices this year with a slower ramp-up into full-contact padded practices. The coach said that they were ramping up “the best way that we can.”


Belichick noted that the team has had more padded practices at this point than they did last year. To be fair, NFL teams at this point last year were having a much harder time taking the field amid the pandemic.

So are the Patriots practicing differently this season? Belichick isn’t sure, but is encouraged by the way the roster looks health-wise.”

“Maybe part of it has to do with the way we’ve practiced,” Belichick said. “But we really have very little in the way of players missing time, players on PUP, NFI, we pretty much cleared that out today. Which last year, we had like six or seven guys in that category, plus some other variety of things.”

The Patriots got some major reinforcements Monday at practice, with pass rusher Matthew Judon among those returning to the field and rookie lineman Chasen Hines coming off the non-football injury list. As of Monday, the only Patriots players not present were running back James White (PUP) and rookie lineman Andrew Stueber (NFI).

NFL PLAYERS, especially those on a new team, often talk about doing whatever they can to help or their willingness to tackle any role assigned by the coaching staff. But for Mack Wilson, those are more than just clichés.

Since joining the New England Patriots in a trade in March, the former Alabama linebacker has shown his new coaches that he could serve as the team’s long snapper in a pinch.


Wilson developed the skill at Carver High School in Montgomery, Alabama, where he was a two-time first-team All-State linebacker.

“It’s something that I’ve done since high school,” Wilson said. “Pretty good at it. I often tell our special-teams coach. I told our special-teams coach here (Cam Achord) that I could do it, and he gave me a chance. He didn’t believe me, but I showed him that I can do it and then that was that. …

“They make that face, like ‘Pretty good, but –’ They be like, ‘What you going to do if you got to do it in a game?’ Obviously with me just doing it out here is totally different than doing it in a game. I’ll stay prepared, though.”

As for his No. 1 job, Wilson is ready to fit whatever role he’s assigned.

“I’m a linebacker,” Wilson said. “I can play any scheme, honestly. I just feel like it’s an opportunity for me to come over, contribute to a great organization in any way possible.”

Cleveland sent Wilson to New England in exchange for defensive end/outside linebacker Chase Winovich. Wilson played three seasons for the Browns after joining the team in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

“Mack’s done a good job for us,” Belichick said. “He came in the spring, he was really an outstanding worker all spring and learned some different things that we do here. But he’s adapted well. He’s been productive on defense and in the kicking game so far. We look forward to seeing him out there.”

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