FOXBORO — There was no Wes Welker on Monday night on the first Patriots appearance on their brand new Field Turf inside Gillette Stadium. But there was certainly plenty of Tom Brady-to-Randy Moss, much to the delight of the thousands of fans who turned out.
The two have become nearly attached at the hip on the practice field since the two started working together in the 2007 season. Monday night was no different and it was clear that their timing was still there.
Brady connected with Moss on a pair of touchdown passes in 11-on-11 two-minute drills. The first came on a patented curl route in the back of the end zone, with Brady zipping it over the middle. Brady also found Moss on a hitch and go to the right corner for six. That didn’t include a sweet 50-yard TD strike from Brady to Moss in a special five-on-five secondary drill for quarterbacks designed to make the quarterback read the secondary.
Brady also found Rob Gronkowski, who made a nice TD catch while Steve Gostkowski just missed on a 52-yard field goal but connected from inside 45 as the team worked on last-second, no timeout field goal situations.
Welker, who was taken off the PUP list on Sunday and returned to practice this weekend for the Patriots, was held out of full contact drills and scrimmage game situations, presumably as a precaution on the new turf. He was in full pads for the abbreviated practice on Monday morning.
Welker was one of 14 players on the roster not in attendance for the practice event for season ticket holders and Foxboro residents. In addition to Welker, holdout Logan Mankins, LB Derrick Burgess, the injured Gary Guyton, Nick Kaczur, Ty Warren, Ron Brace, Mike Wright, Matthew Slater, Jonathan Wilhite, Bret Lockett, Thomas Clayton, Terrance Johnson and Myron Pryor did not participate.
It was the team’s first formal practice inside the stadium since a brand new Field Turf was installed, designed to be softer and more like natural grass than its predecessor. Fans attending also got a glimpse of the brand new high definition video board in the South end zone, which ran for the entire 90 minutes of the practice.
One of the biggest cheers of the night was reserved for owner Robert Kraft, who hand-delivered a ball to a fan who was forced to give back a ball that was thrown into the stands by rookie Aaron Hernandez after the tight end made a TD catch in a drill.
Clearly punter Zoltan Mesko out of Michigan is developing a cult following among Pats fans. His name was chanted several times and he rewarded the masses with five consecutive booming punts of 50-plus yards. He also handled holding responsibilities flawlessly for Gostkowski.