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Brace returns to the field

08.15.10 at 11:59 pm ET
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Ron Brace was in pads for the first time all camp on Sunday afternoon. (AP)

FOXBORO — And then, there were none.

The last Patriots’ player who was there since the start of training camp but had yet to put on the pads finally got a chance on Sunday. Defensive lineman Ron Brace — who was in Foxboro since the start of camp on July 29 but was unable to pass his conditioning test — put on the pads for the first time all summer on Sunday afternoon.

The Boston College product, who missed a total of 18 days and 22 practices, was excited to be back out on the field.

“It feels really good — words can’t describe it,” he said after his first padded practice, roughly a two-hour session on Sunday afternoon. “I’m just happy to be back out here working. Trying to catch up with these guys, working forward, trying to get ready for Atlanta.”
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Training Camp Report from Sunday afternoon practice

08.15.10 at 5:26 pm ET
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Tom Brady. (AP)

FOXBORO — The Patriots just finished their Sunday afternoon practice, a session that ran for roughly two hours on the fields behind Gillette Stadium. It was a fully padded practice that was held under mostly overcast skies. There were some sprinkles, but all in all, it was good football weather. Here are a few quick notes:

•As expected, the Patriots announced the re-signing of wide receiver Buddy Farnham, as well as the acquisition of OL Brian Simmons. (Farnham will wear No. 13, while Simmons will take 65.) To make room on the roster, the Patriots waived defensive back Ross Vetrone and placed wide receiver Torry Holt on injured reserve. Placing Holt on IR solves a bit of a logjam at the receiver spot, and likely allows veteran Sam Aiken to breathe a little easier when it comes to landing a spot on the final 53-man roster.

•The following players were absent from practice: defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, defensive lineman Damione Lewis, offensive lineman Nick Kaczur, offensive lineman Logan Mankins and defensive back Bret Lockett. Wide receiver Matthew Slater, cornerback Leigh Bodden, defensive back Terrence Johnson, linebacker Gary Guyton, linebacker/defensive end Dane Fletcher and offensive lineman George Bussey watched in sweats.

•In their first padded practices of camp, both Ron Brace and Derrick Burgess saw limited action. Brace appeared to spend the majority of his time at left defensive end — the spot that has usually been occupied by Ty Warren — while Burgess rotated in occasionally at the outside linebacker/defensive end spot he occupied for much of last season.

•Unfortunately for Burgess, he was matched up against right tackle Sebastian Vollmer for the bulk of practice, and appeared to struggle at times. But he was all smiles after practice, saying it was good to get back on the field. “It felt good. It felt good,” he said when asked about his performance on his first day back. “A little rusty, but it felt good to run into somebody — that always helps.” Burgess worked with the No. 1 units in nickel and dime sets.

•After having his fingers taped during the morning walkthrough, quarterback Tom Brady ditched the tape for the afternoon session. When it came to the quarterbacks, the highlight of the session was the garbage can drill. The first series, the blue container was placed on the goal line and the quarterbacks tried to loft throws into it from 30 yards away. Backup quarterback Brian Hoyer was the only one to connect from that distance. Later in practice, Hoyer also dropped one in from 10-15 yards out. (All three quarterbacks — Brady, Hoyer and No. 3 signal-caller Zac Robinson — hit the garbage can once from that distance.)

•Brady and Wes Welker made a nice connection, with Brady finding a seam in the zone coverage that allowed the two to hook-up on a sweet throw-and-catch that would have gone for a touchdown.

•As for Hoyer, he had a bit of a mixed afternoon. In 11-on-11 drills, he rolled out and fired an awful pass toward an area where no offensive players were within a good 10 yards. That ball was easily picked off by cornerback Darius Butler. He also had a pass for wide receiver Taylor Price that was neatly broken up by Terrence Wheatley. (However, on the next play, Hoyer and Price rebounded nicely, making a connection in the corner of the end zone that drew cheers from the crowd after Price did a good job coming down inbounds with the ball.)

•Matt Light took a penalty lap for a false start.

•Defensively, it’s clear that there is no more competition at the inside linebacker spot opposite Jerod Mayo, as Florida rookie Brandon Spikes continues to impress — he made some nice plays in 11-on-11 drills. It’ll be interesting to see how playing time is parceled out when Guyton returns to the field, but with each passing day, Spikes is doing more and more to make the job his own.

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Bill Belichick Q&A, 8/15

08.15.10 at 12:03 pm ET
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Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here’s the complete transcript of Bill Belichick’s Q&A with the media today at Gillette Stadium:

BB: It’s another big week for us here. We’ve got two practices the next couple days to try to continue on with our installation and work on situational football, correct mistakes from New Orleans, and have a little bit of preparation for Atlanta. [We’re] looking forward to Tuesday down there with them and playing on the road against a team that’s, again, a little different than ourselves, so it’s good exposure for us to another system and other types of players and schemes. I think there is a lot that we can get done here. We need to get off to a good start the next couple days and as I said, get things accomplished at this end and hopefully have another good day down there with Atlanta like we did last week with New Orleans. I think it will be a good opportunity for us on a lot of levels and we’re looking forward to that trip.

Q: Is there anything you can take from this experience with New Orleans that will help you get the most you can out of this week with Atlanta?
BB: No, not really. I think just the big thing for us is to work on what we’re working on, but now it’s against a team that we’re going to play so the practice is really a preparation for the game. Really, it’s just playing another game or getting more snaps. We can set up some situations on third down, in the red area or things like that [or] in kicking situations that we did with New Orleans that may or may not come up in the game. We had situations that came up in the game but not in practice and vice versa, so it kind of doubles the experience and the education of not only the players, but also of the coaches or, as I said, getting back into the mode of calling plays and thinking about situational football and using timeouts and all of those things. Not all of them were done necessarily in the practice or even in the game, but as we go through the film we talk about those and how we can react quicker, what we would do. Maybe we did one thing, but we also had another option. Maybe the next time we do the other options. So it’s good experience for all of us, not just the players but also the coaches, the signal callers, the play callers, to mentally go through those situations when you don’t know what the other team is going to do. You don’t know their defenses. You don’t know the calls. You don’t know their strategy. When you’ve done that two-minute drill against yourself 10 times, you can get into a little bit of a rhythm with it. This is more realistic, so it’s good.

Q: How do you feel Randy Moss has performed so far in camp? It looks to us like he’s off to a great start.
BB: I would agree with that.
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Training Camp Report from Sunday morning walkthrough

08.15.10 at 11:39 am ET
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FOXBORO — Just got back from the Sunday morning walkthrough here at Gillette Stadium, and there were a couple of interesting notes worth passing along from a session that went roughly 90 minutes:

•After being reinstated over the weekend, outside linebacker/defensive end Derrick Burgess was back at practice for the first time all camp. Other notables who were on the field for the low-intensity walkthrough included cornerback Leigh Bodden, inside linebacker Gary Guyton and defensive lineman Ron Brace. Brace worked out some at left defensive end, the spot traditionally held by Ty Warren, and might be a step closer to returning to the field.

•Quarterback Tom Brady had the ring finger and middle finger of his throwing hand taped together, although it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be a big deal going forward, at least according to Patriots coach Bill Belichick. “I don’t think it’s life-threatening,” Belichick joked at his morning press conference when asked about Brady.

•Not spotted were offensive lineman Nick Kaczur, wide receiver Torry Holt and defensive back Ross Ventrone. Ventrone appeared to suffer an injury in Thursday’s preseason opener against the Saints, while both Kaczur and Holt have missed the last several practices.

•Look for some roster moves to be announced shortly. Wide receiver Buddy Farnham, who was released last week, was back on the field. In addition, there was a new unidentified player who was working with the offensive linemen.

•The Patriots have another practice scheduled for 2:30 this afternoon that is open to the public.

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Belichick: Brady’s finger injury ‘not life threatening’

08.15.10 at 10:05 am ET
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FOXBORO — Patriots coach Bill Belichick doesn’t sound too worried about the state of Tom Brady’s throwing hand.

Speaking at his Sunday morning press conference, Belichick was asked about a report Brady suffered an injury to a finger on his throwing hand in the preseason opener against New Orleans. The coach smiled and replied, “I don’t think it’s life-threatening.”

The Boston Herald reported over the weekend that Brady was spotted Saturday with two fingers taped together in an attempt to immobilize one injured finger on his right hand. The injury apparently occurred in the first half of Thursday’s 27-24 preseason win over the Saints, a game where the quarterback ended up going 5-for-8 for 67 yards.

Brady has suffered injuries to his throwing hand before — last year, he broke the ring finger on his throwing hand late in the season.

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Upon Further Review: Patriots vs. Saints

08.14.10 at 1:18 am ET
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Pat Chung had a sharp hit on New Orleans' running back Reggie Bush in the preseason opener. (AP)

This is a weekly blog entry we’re calling “Upon Further Review,” one last look at the tape from the previous week’s game and meant to include some things we may have missed the first time around. Basically, it’s one last chance to empty out the notebook before the focus shifts to the week ahead.

Brandon Tate. The receiver didn’t get the start, but saw plenty of time running with the first offense throughout the first half, ending up with one catch for 20 yards, a tiptoe job along the sideline where the North Carolina product showed good composure coming down with the ball. The catch came on a third and 14 and allowed New England to keep a scoring drive alive, the Patriots’ most impressive offensive sequence of the evening.

In the end, Tate played 29 snaps. While he wasn’t exceptional, given everything he’s been through over the last year, it was probably exactly the sort of performance the Patriots’ coaching staff was looking for from Tate, who also had one kick return for 12 yards. At this point in the preseason, he’s probably a safe bet to be penciled in as a backup to Torry Holt. He could also figure into the mix as a kick returner, but is probably now second on the depth chart there to Devin McCourty.

“I think I’m still trying to get used to everything. This is my first real actual preseason game, so I’m still trying to get used to everything and just get more comfortable with it,” said Tate. “[But] it was good for us to get out on the field and execute like the coach is telling us. Go out there and execute on every play.”

Pat Chung. This is a guy who had himself a good night against the Saints. The safety had a really good shot at New Orleans’ running back Reggie Bush early, and also stopped Saints wide receiver Lance Moore just short of a first down. Aggression, energy and attitude were all plainly evident in Chung’s game, who is now the leader in the clubhouse to be the guy who is playing next to Brandon Meriweather when the regular season opens on Sept. 12 against the Bengals.

“Communication is key. It’s the first game, so we have a lot of communicating to go. We just have to keep working now. Keep working together being on the same page,” Chung said. “We’re together. We’re family. Once you get with family, you know what you are doing real fast.”
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Bill Belichick Q&A, 8/13

08.13.10 at 11:34 pm ET
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Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here’s the complete transcript of this afternoon’s conference call between head coach Bill Belichick and the media.

BB: We spent this morning as a staff going through the film and we played a lot of players, we have a lot to look at, both our player evaluations also looking at our scheme things and some Xs and Os and how we handled and adjusted to some of the challenges that the Saints gave us, which were numerous. And then went over the corrections with the players this afternoon in the film room. On balance I think that we played aggressively, that we made some plays in each phase of the game. We also..there were things that we need to improve on certainly. We finished out the game, the guys that were out there were able to make a goal line stand defensively, get the ball in to field goal range offensively and make the winning kick on special teams and defensively on their two-minute drive on the first play coming back. I thought that they showed a good level of competitiveness to finish it out. So now we try to take that performance and our level of play from last night and get ready to build on it this week and as a team move to higher ground and the opportunities on Sunday and Monday and then the practices and game with the Falcons later in the week. That’s kind of where we’re headed. We’ll have time here as a staff to regroup and see how things are going. We’ve been running around so much just trying to keep going one day at a time and I think now we can take a day tomorrow and try to regroup and see where we’re at and try to have a good plan for the players when they come as to how to do the best we can to improve the team this week [inaudible] and also in Atlanta. That’s kind of where we’re at there. We placed Ty on injured reserve today, tough break for Ty but we have to move on. He’s missed quite a bit of time the last couple of years so we’ve had to deal with that anyway. Unfortunately that’s part of the game. We’ll just move ahead. Good to have Derrick [Burgess] here and ready to go. We’ll take stock of what our health is and take the players that are healthy down to Atlanta and work with them.
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