Rookie guards studying Patriots complex offensive system

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) The New England Patriots' two rookie guards are helping each other study the team's complex offensive schemes.

They've already learned a much simpler strategy.

No matter what the question, answer cautiously or risk the wrath of their secretive coach.

Tre' Jackson and Shaq Mason were drafted in the fourth round and have a chance at considerable playing time at a position where the Patriots need help.

They were among four of this year's draftees who met with reporters Thursday.

One of them, third-round pick Geneo Grissom, said he was nervous to be speaking.

''I don't want to say the wrong things,'' the defensive end from Oklahoma said.

Mason also was careful not to say anything that might upset coach Bill Belichick. On four consecutive questions on different subjects, he used the phrase, ''trying to get better.''

The former Georgia Tech star is rooming with Jackson, who attended Florida State. That gives them more time to study and have someone to clear up something that confuses either of them.

''It's great to have someone who is in the same boat as you,'' Jackson said. ''(I'm) just trying to get better with him. You're making him better. He's making me better.''

Another fourth-round pick, defensive end Trey Flowers from Arkansas, seemed more relaxed than the others.

''Naw, I wouldn't say I'm nervous,'' he said. ''I'm pretty straightforward and I understand the things that need to be said to represent the Patriots.''

Avoid controversy. Discuss present challenges, not past achievements. Emphasize the team over the individual.

Caution is even more important in the wake of the findings of the NFL-commissioned investigation into the Patriots use of deflated footballs in the AFC championship game.

The Patriots were fined $1 million and docked two draft choices, a punishment owner Robert Kraft said he would accept. Quarterback Tom Brady is appealing his four-game suspension.

Mason said he had met Brady, but, when asked what the quarterback said, Mason replied: ''I'm just focusing on now.''

Jackson said he doesn't view Mason as a competitor for playing time at guard.

''Of course not,'' Jackson said. ''He's a teammate right now.''

He and Mason were recruited by Georgia Tech and Jackson committed there before going to Florida State.

Last season, Ryan Wendell started 10 regular-season games at right guard, and Dan Connolly started 10 at left guard. Connolly is an unsigned free agent, which could open a spot for Jackson or Mason. Or the Patriots could re-sign Connolly.

But Mason said he's not thinking about his chances of starting.

''I'm just focused on each and every day, just trying to get better,'' he said. ''I'm not looking long term.''

Having excelled in a run-oriented offense at Georgia Tech, Mason needs more experience blocking on pass plays.

The Patriots are set at tackle with Nate Solder on the left side and Sebastian Vollmer on the right. Bryan Stork had a solid season as the rookie center last year and played alongside Jackson at Florida State.

''Being able to play with him is a great thing,'' Jackson said, ''but all my teammates that are out here now have been a great help.''

Mason has some versatility to play different positions. Before last season and at Senior Bowl practices, he worked out at center.

But he's not about to declare a preference, not on a Belichick-run team.

''I'm trusting the coaches to put me at the best spot that fits me,'' he said.

And what does he think that is?

''Whatever the coaches think the best spot is for me,'' Mason said.

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AP NFL websites: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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