New England Patriots

New England Patriots

New England Patriots

(Photo by Bob Socci)

  • Wednesday afternoon, as one of a half dozen teammates joining a handful of ex-players for the Patriots Foundation youth football clinic at Naval Station Newport, Bailey Zappe was content to let others play quarterback.

    While former running back John Williams, current long snapper Joe Cardona and even offensive tackle Andrew Steuber lobbed throws at their respective stations, Zappe primarily counseled and encouraged kids rotating through his little northwest corner of the field. What passes he did complete were soft underhand tosses to boys and girls running 10-yard button hooks.

    That doesn’t mean Zappe isn’t doing plenty of throwing this off-season. He’s been working out near both Dallas and Boston. Nor will Zappe stand by in the coming weeks when, as Bill Belichick assured us at last month’s NFL owners’ meetings, “everyone will have a chance” to compete for starting jobs.

    “If my opportunity presents itself, like I’ve been saying, I’m going to take full advantage of it,” said Zappe, who won both starts as a rookie backing up Mac Jones in 2022. “I’m going to do everything I can to help the team win. That’s really all I can say from that standpoint. That’s Coach (Bill) Belichick’s decision, whatever he decides. But if the opportunity presents itself, I’m going to be ready and take advantage of it.”

    Safe to presume Jones is thinking the same way as the Pats’ quarterbacks prepare with newcomer Trace McSorley to play under new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. To date, access to O’Brien has been restricted by off-season rules in the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement with its players’ association.

    “I’ve only met (O’Brien) a few times, of course,” Zappe said during a brief break from drills. “I’ve heard a bunch of stories about him, how great a coach he is. I’m really excited just to learn all the knowledge that he has with the quarterback position, of not (just) the position itself but the defensive standpoint as well, how he sees the defense.”

    Zappe will soon start learning from O’Brien. The first phase of the team’s official workout program begins Monday, setting up May OTA’s and June mini-camp. The knowledge he’s yet to glean will go with what Zappe’s already accrued for himself, scrutinizing defensive concepts and coverages.

    “I’ve watched probably the four games that I played probably a lot more than anything,” he said, accentuating the negative. “Just dissecting mostly the bad things that I did. I was just kind of teaching myself, ‘Okay, this is what we’re not supposed to do.’

    “Understanding defenses. Seeing coverages. Just stuff like that. A lot of that comes from watching film, watching other teams, seeing how they play defense, seeing what their tendencies are (and) just gaining the knowledge that you need to play the position. I think this offseason was really big for me from that standpoint.”

    Physically, Zappe says he strived to improve footwork, splitting the off-season between local fields and the QB Country facility in Plano, Texas, where he trained for the 2022 NFL Draft.

  • Home base for Cardona

    Joe Cardona

    Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona, an officer in the Naval Reserve, taught football Wednesday to children of parents he serves with in Newport. (Photo by Bob Socci)

    The Patriots Foundation clinic for military families annually rotates among area installations. Holding it in Newport created a homecoming for Cardona, who attended the Naval Academy Prep School before graduating from Annapolis in 2015. 

    Cardona has since served there as an active-duty ensign and a lieutenant in the Naval Reserve. Early Wednesday afternoon, he brought teammates around the base, giving them a glimpse of the long snapper’s other life as an officer. 

    “What he does on and off the field is nothing short of amazing,” Zappe said. “To be able to be here, be at the base and take a tour of it, to see everything that he does when he’s not with us on the football field is pretty awesome.”

    Especially gratifying for Cardona was the opportunity to teach football to kids whose parents he now serves alongside.

    “It’s something very special to me,” he said, standing before King Hall, a warm breeze blowing off the water and sun shining on Coddington Point. “To get to share with them this field that I spent a lot of time on when I was at the prep school and now get to come out here and run some drills.”

    Coming off a foot injury that cut short his eighth season as Patriot, Cardona signed a four-year contract in mid-March. Valued at $6.3 million, according to, the deal makes him the highest-paid long snapper through 2026.

    “Ultimately, what we’re defined by is the work we’re yet to do,” Cardona said, pairing his Patriots ball cap with a Navy football t-shirt. “For me to continue to play for the Patriots, really it’s all I could have ever wanted.

    “We’ve had some time to get the body right and get back on the field and start really getting back to football. Right now, it’s about getting back in shape, getting strong and getting fast. I’m looking forward to getting back and running around on the field with my teammates again.

  • Brock star


    Offensive lineman Bill Murray was among the six current Patriots at Wednesday’s clinic at Naval Station Newport. (Photo by Bob Socci)

    So much for stepping aside. Despite recently retiring as longtime president of the Patriots Alumni Club, Pete Brock was first on the scene Wednesday, towing an equipment trailer onto the Navy yard and setting up gear for the clinic. Brock then led the kids in warmups and later punctuated the outing by stressing the importance of schoolwork. Per usual, he was joined by the indefatigable Rick Buffington, Rick Cash and John Williams…Asked about Matthew Slater’s decision to continue playing after contemplating retirement, Cardona said: “Matthew Slater coming back for year 16 was nothing short of a miracle and I’m happy to have him back. I couldn’t be more excited to be around really a mentor and a friend for another year.”

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