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Patriots fans cheer return of football, and players respond in kind

07.28.11 at 2:01 pm ET
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FOXBORO — If there was a question as to whether or not the NFL would be welcomed back by fans after the longest work stoppage in league history, that was quickly out to bed when the Patriots took the field for their first workout of training camp Thursday morning. The team was cheered by what appeared to be very nearly a full house, who stayed and watched even though it was little more than a glorified walkthrough.

“When we stepped on this field, it was a relief. It was like, ‘It’s finally back.’ It’s only training camp, but it’s back,” said defensive lineman Vince Wilfork when asked about the cheers. “We missed this for over four months. We missed this feeling. To get this feeling back, it’s a good feeling to have.”

After the practice session, which ran for roughly an hour, it appeared that the entire team made its way over to the rope line and signed autographs.

“It was a welcome back,” said Wilfork of the signing session. “We’re all excited. The fans are excited, the players are excited, and the owners are excited. Everyone is excited that football is back. That was us saying, ‘Welcome back, thank you for your support, good or bad, whatever it is.’ That was to say, ‘We’re here.’”

Defensive lineman Ty Warren said that the late Myra Kraft played a sizable role in the team’s decision to sign autographs at the end of a training camp practice.

“That system that’s in place, that structure that I think is really influenced by Myra Kraft,” Warren said. “I don’t think it’s a propaganda thing at all. I think it’s a straight-up genuine thing where Myra would probably be rubbing her knuckles through [Bob] Kraft’s head if what was displayed today didn’t happen today.”

Read More: 2011 training camp, Myra Kraft, Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork
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