Patriots receiver group thinned out with Amendola, Mitchell unavailable


FOXBORO -- Chris Hogan looked exhausted when he slammed his helmet to the turf after a pass sent his way fell incomplete. Matthew Slater, annually one of the team's most well-connditioned players, seemed gassed. And when Julian Edelman was sent off for fighting with Stephon Gilmore, one of his fellow wideouts hoped an exception could be made to Bill Belichick's fight-and-you're-gone rule. 

Why? Patriots receivers were already spent, and they knew they still had to grind through an 11-on-11 hurry-up period under the August sun to finish off practice. 

The Patriots receiver group was considered to be one of the deepest spots on the roster going into training camp. But with both Danny Amendola and Malcolm Mitchell sitting out for the majority of camp practices thus far, that spot looks thinner than many anticipated.

By the end of Tuesday's session, Hogan and Brandin Cooks -- consistently among the top-three players on the field for team periods -- were flanked at times by Slater and undrafted rookie Austin Carr. There just aren't many healthy and capable bodies at the position.

It's unclear as to what Amendola and Mitchell are dealing with. They have been on the field to start practices consistently, but they typically head to another field when team drills commence. Undrafted rookie wideout, Cody Hollister, has been out injured since Sunday. Tony Washington was signed on July 27. KJ Maye came on board Sunday. The only other receiver who has been a full participant in practices is second-year man Devin Lucien, who spent last season on the practice squad.  

The numbers game Tuesday meant the receiver group was ground down by the time the morning's work was through. Slater simply laughed when asked about all the extra conditioning he and his teammates got once Edelman was sent off. 

"Yeah," he said. "We needed conditioning. And I think that was the theme of today with the temperature and the practice structure. But this is going to make our team better. We need this. Coach Belichick knows what he's doing, he knows how to get his team ready to go, and there are no shortcuts to this thing. There's only one way to do it, and that's put in the work."

Amendola returned to Tuesday's session at the very end to field punts from the JUGS machine, and he appeared to be moving without issue. Perhaps the team is simply trying to manage their 31-year-old slot man at this point in the year so that he can be at his best in December in January. Last year, after catching 23 passes in the regular season, he caught 10 in the postseason, including eight for 78 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl LI.

Mitchell's situation bears watching as he has endured serious knee injuries dating back to his college days. His preseason work was limited last year after he suffered a dislocated elbow. 

Does the receiver situation in Foxboro warrant panic? No. Cooks, Edelman and Hogan provide the Patriots with a top-three that many teams would envy.

But if they can't get more able bodies on the field in short order, how the coaching staff manages the reps at that spot could become pretty tricky.

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