Matt Groh did his best to keep to the script during his Saturday availability with the media out in Las Vegas, and keep his answers focused on the Shrine Bowl given the Patriots staff is coaching the West team.
The Patriots director of player personnel, however, did answer one question about Bill O’Brien and his relationship with the team’s newly appointed offensive coordinator.
“My first year coming in, I was able to spend some time with Billy O, so we go back a little ways,” said Groh, who joined the team in 2011, which was O’Brien’s last season during his first go-round. “With him being in college (as the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator) and me visiting Alabama, we kind of rekindled a little bit of that. But it’s great to have him on board.”
Groh was asked a follow-up on O’Brien, but said the focus was on beating the East team, and get the players prepared to succeed.
Bill Belichick, Troy Brown, who is serving as the head coach of the West squad, and O’Brien all took part in Saturday’s practice.
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson was asked what his on-field interactions have been like with Belichick and O’Brien.
“They’re super intense, but they’re super helpful,” Thompson-Robinson said following practice. “They’re just trying to get us the information we need on each play.”
Groh was also asked what the Patriots were hoping to get out of taking part in the Shrine Bowl.
He said that while the team comes every year to scout the game, this allowed the Patriots to spend more time with the players in meeting rooms and off the field, and get to know them better as people.
Asked what specific traits he looked for out of the prospects, he zeroed in on finding team-first individuals.
“These games are tough. All of these guys are used to being starters. You gotta have a little bit of unselfishness,” said Groh. “A lot of these guys are four-year starters … they’ve started every game of their college career. So how do they adjust to being (second or third string)? Can they still go about things the right way?
“Everything’s not going to be perfect when they get to the NFL. They’re going to have to go through that adjustment as well,” he went on. “Most of these guys aren’t going to be thrust into the starting lineup. So, just really, doing what’s best for the team. Being mature, being dependable, being on time, being where they’re supposed to be. There’s a lot going on here in Las Vegas.”
Wendell an OL candidate
Add Ryan Wendell to the list of possible replacements for Matt Patricia in terms of running the offensive line, and adding to a staff that now has O’Brien as its offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
According to SI’s Albert Breer, the Patriots were expected to fly the former Patriot lineman and current Buffalo Bills assistant to Las Vegas, where the staff is busy coaching the west team in the Shrine Bowl.
Wendell, who played with the Patriots from 2008-15, has been in coaching for four years now, all with the Bills as the assistant offensive line coach.
He had been signed as a UDFA out of Fresno State, and served as the Patriots starting center in 2012 and 2013. He also played guard.
Adrian Klemm, another former Patriot lineman, is also being considered for the offensive line job.