FOXBORO — The Patriots just wrapped up their Friday afternoon practice session after having a walkthrough in the morning. The ESPN caravan made a stop at Gillette Stadium, meaning Adam Schefter was signing autographs before any of the players. Here are some notes:
– Not in attendance were linebackers Gary Guyton and Derrick Burgess, defensive end Ty Warren, defensive backs Brett Lockett and Leigh Bodden, and offensive linemen Logan Mankins and Nick Kaczur.
Defensive tackles Ron Brace and Mike Wright, as well as defensive back Terrence Johnson and running back Thomas Clayton, were present but exercised in shorts and t-shirts.
– Jonathan Wilhite, defensive lineman Myron Pryor and offensive tackle Mark LeVoir made their returns to the practice field. LeVoir was welcomed back by having to run a lap for jumping early on a play.
– In 1-on-1 passing drills, a few players stood out for various reasons. Sam Aiken was the first, making an impressive catch despite having Terrence Wheatley pretty much choirs to him. The best play of the drill came from Receiver Rod Owens, who downright embarrassed second-year cornerback Darius Butler. Owens took a step toward the middle of the endzone, and Butler totally took the bait, making for an easy catch once Owens changed course for the outside. Butler made up for any shame caused by breaking up a pass from Brian Hoyer that was destined for the hands of Randy Moss.
– The catch of the day happened during 11-on-11 drills, when Brandon Tate made a diving, over-the-shoulder catch to reel in a pass deep along the sidelines from Hoyer. Though Tate landed out of bounds and the play would have been ruled an incompletion in a game, there was quite the celebration from players and fans alike.
– On a drill in which rookie punter Zoltan Mesko practiced punting out of the endzone under pressure, receivers Julian Edelman, Buddy Farnham, and Tate took took turns acting as the punt returner.
– Rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski dropped a ball in traffic in the the endzone during the final two-minute drill but made up for it with a nice catch on the goal line to wrap up the session.
– Not that it’s surprising, but Brandon Spikes looks very good against the run. He may not be the fastest guy and certainly risks being exposed when in coverage, but where the runner goes, Spikes goes. It’s that simple for the hard-hitting rookie.
– Tom Brady wasn’t particularly active in the practice, with Hoyer taking far and away more snaps than either Brady or third-stringer Zac Robinson. Hoyer looks comfortable as he enters his second season, though Robinson remains very erratic with his throws. The seventh-round pick did run a two-minute drill towards the end of practice. The lack of snaps for Brady simply appeared to be a case of him getting a lighter session and nothing more. He did get to act as a pash-rusher, however, in drills to familiarize the quarterbacks with throwing the ball under pressure.