FOXBORO — The first of two Patriots’ practices for Sunday is in the books. There was plenty for fans, who once again braved the heat and packed the bleachers and grass areas alike, to be happy about with the return of Wes Welker from the physically unable to perform list and he didn’t seem to disappoint. In addition to Welker’s return, there were plenty of noteworthy facets to the session. Here are a few:
– The Derrick Burgess watch continues as he was absent from practice and reports that the pass-rusher will retire are practically ubiquitous. Other players not in attendance were guard Logan Mankins, whose contract dispute still has yet to reach a resolution, receiver Matthew Slater, offensive lineman Nick Kaczur, and defensive end Ty Warren.
Defensive linemen Ron Brace and Mike Wright, defensive backs Bret Lockett and Terrence Johnson, and running back Thomas Clayton were present but were in sweats.
– Hard not to like the fire that Welker showed as he donned the pads once again. No. 83 didn’t participate in any drills against defenses, but overall looked very clean running and catching the ball. He made a number of nice catches along the sideline on balls thrown by Brady, with the one slipup — a dropped ball over the middle — yielding a frustrated shout accompanied by him kicking the ball toward the sidelines. It doesn’t appear Welker is cutting himself any slack in his return from his knee injury.
– The punt return duties were split up by second year receivers Julian Edelman and Brandon Tate as well as Kevin Faulk. All three looked clean in fielding punts from rookie punter Zoltan Mesko.
– A few notes on passing situations. Fred Taylor, who struggled mightily catching the ball in organized team activities earlier in the summer, made a very nice catch away from his body on a throw from Zac Robinson. It’s far too early to form opinions on anyone, but some of Robinson’s tosses needed more adjustments on the receivers than one would like..
– With the Mankins saga still taking place and Kaczur not on the field, the left guard position was occupied primarily by Ryan Wendell and Rich Ohrnberger. Neither stood out as being particularly good or bad, though Wendell struggled against Vince Wilfork on a play that forced Tom Brady to hurry a throw down the sidelines to Tate, a pass that was dropped despite an acrobatic attempt by the second year receiver.
– Brady sailed one well over the head of Moss in a passing drill. Though the ball was headed for the crowd, a security guard picked it up and rolled it back toward the practice field. Moss, much to the delight of those on hand, recovered the ball and jogged it over past the sidelines and tossed it to a young fan. He then gestured to the fan to toss the ball back, making for an abbreviated game of catch the fan likely did not head to Foxboro expecting.
– Matt Light and rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski fell victim to laps. The two were sent running when they jumped a little early on a goal-line play.
– A second round pick in April’s draft, Gronkowski made up for his earlier mistake by standing up a previous second-rounder. After reeling in a pass from Brady, Gronkowski plowed through safety Patrick Chung on the goal line, knocking the safety to the ground and getting into the endzone.
Sunday’s workouts will conclude with a session that runs from 3:45-5:30. Stay tuned for a complete report from the afternoon session.