FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The newest New England Patriots player seems to be fitting right in.
Tight end Tim Wright caught four passes for 43 yards in the Patriots’ exhibition finale on Thursday night, about 48 hours after he was traded to New England from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Patriots gave up offensive captain and six-time Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins for Wright, who is competing for a spot as backup to oft-injured Rob Gronkowski.
“I think the big thing for Tim last night was just the opportunity to be in our system and play in our system,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said in a conference call with reporters today. “He only knew a handful of plays, but overall I thought he handled the situation pretty well.”
Belichick said Wright gained experience with the nitty-gritty of the team’s offense: observing how the team handles substitutions and audibles, hearing the snap counts and watching adjustments made on the sideline.
Belichick said he was glad to have even one preseason game to get Wright onto the field, rather than seeing him for the first time during the regular season.
“I think he learned a lot,” Belichick said. “We can see in working with him that he’s pretty far along on these things and maybe not as far along on maybe something else, so I think that was the benefit last night.”
When healthy, Gronkowski can dominate games, catching 132 passes with 27 touchdowns in his first two seasons. But he broke his left forearm while blocking for an extra point in the 11th game of the 2012 season, a 59-24 win over Indianapolis. He missed the first six games of the 2013 season before returning, then he blew out his knee on Dec. 8 and had surgery in January.
Gronkowski hasn’t played during the preseason, and Michael Hoomanawanui, the No. 2 tight end, has also been out for much of training camp; another tight end, D.J. Williams, is out with a left leg injury. The Patriots shuffled in potential replacements before trading for Wright.
Wright said it was no problem getting used to his new team.
“Football is football so it’s easy to get prepared,” he said after the game. “We’ve got great coaches to get me ready and I was ready to go.”
Jimmy Garoppolo, who is competing for the backup quarterback job, said Wright was an intelligent player who learned his role fast.
“He picks it up very quickly and he’s pretty athletic, too,” the second-round draft choice from Eastern Illinois said. “He had a heck of the game, along with all the other tight ends and receivers and running backs.”
Belichick agreed that Wright absorbed a lot of information in a short amount of time.
“There’s certainly a lot of fine-tuning that needs to be done, but he picked all that up pretty quickly and when he got into the game didn’t forget it,” the coach said.
“Sometimes it’s one thing to sit in the meeting and go over it and feel like yeah, you’ve got it, and OK, you hear this you’re going to do that. It’s another thing to actually go out there and do it at full-speed in a game situation. He handled quite a bit of information in a short amount of time pretty well, so that was good.”