Jeff Demps may be a decorated Olympic sprinter, but that doesn't mean he's ready to take on the daily rigors of an NFL training camp.
Signed last week by the New England Patriots, the undrafted rookie running back took part in Wednesday's joint session with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, between gasps for air, told reporters that he's still trying to work into football shape.
“That's probably going to be the toughest part, just getting back into that football shape and learning the plays,” Demps said.
Demps has some background in the New England system after playing for former offensive coordinator Charlie Weis at Florida, so the playbooks shouldn't be completely foreign to him. That's a good thing, because the Patriots aren't going to take it easy on him.
Reports from Tampa Bay say that the rookie was immediately thrown to the fire and participated in one-on-one blitz pickup, was sent out on passing routes, and took his turn fielding kickoffs, which is where his greatest contributions will likely come this season.
New England averaged 21.4 yards per kick return last season, ranking 29th overall. Demps returned 10 kicks for 250 yards as a senior at Florida, including a 99-yard touchdown.
But he isn't worried about where he'll fit in this season. Right now, Demps is trying to get used to being back on the field after taking a hiatus to focus on his Olympic career.
“(I haven't played) since January 1, after I our bowl game,” Demps said. “I haven't touched a football since then. Today is my first time, so I have a long way to go, but I just want to come out each and every day and work hard.”
Vollmer back: Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer took part in his first practice after beginning training camp on the physically unable to perform list. He did not participate in team drills, but was able to take part in 1-on-1s. It is still not known if he will be ready to for the season opener at Tennessee. Vollmer was limited to six games last year due to foot and back injuries.
No hard feelings: On a team where nothing should come as a surprise, it was a bit stunning when New England decided to release Tiquan Underwood on the eve of the Super Bowl after letting him partake in the festivities throughout the week. But now a member of the Bucs, the wide receiver said he has no hard feelings toward Bill Belichick for making a tough decision. “The thing I love about coach Belichick is that he does what's best for the team every week, for that game,” Underwood said.
Scar supports Solder: Left tackle Nate Solder hasn't exactly blown the world away with his performance this preaseson. He's struggled with technique, failing to use his 6-foot-8 frame to his advantage, and has been generally overmatched by the man lining up across from him. But offensive line coach Donte Scarnecchia isn't worried. He feels that Solder has made visible progress since last season and is confident the second-year player will adequately fill the void created by Matt Light's retirement. “There is no cliff I'm throwing myself off right now, I'm telling you the truth,” Scarnecchia said. “That glass is half full and filling up. That's just how I see it.”