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Quick notes on Patriots’ Sunday afternoon practice

07.31.11 at 5:09 pm ET

FOXBORO ‘€” The Patriots wrapped up their second fully padded practice of the year Sunday afternoon, a session that lasted just over two hours in the hot July sun. For the first time, it really felt like training camp, as it was a long, hot practice for both sides with some real hitting.

‘€¢ With the understanding that several of the players had “excused absences” because of contractual situations (players with new deals are allowed to be on the field and watch practice until the start of the new league year, Aug. 4), the following guys were not on the field: Ras-I Dowling, Kyle Arrington, Shane Vereen, Brandon McGowan, Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Eric Kettani, Logan Mankins, Nate Solder and Steve Williams. In addition, the following players were on the field in shorts and/or sweats: James Sanders, Josh Barrett, Matt Katula, Marcus Cannon, Mike Berry, Brandon Deaderick, Kyle Love, Myron Pryor, Tracy White and Ron Brace.

(Dowling, Vereen and Solder are the three remaining picks who are unsigned, while Arrington, McGowan, Faulk, Morris, White and Mankins all have new deals.)

‘€¢ It was a pretty eventful practice, and a few of the highlights were provided by newcomer Albert Haynesworth. The massive defensive lineman, who drew loud and sustained applause when he strolled on the field at the start of his first padded practice (applause he acknowledged with a wave), hammered the offensive linemen who were opposite him ‘€” namely Rich Ohrnberger and Ryan Wendell ‘€” in a series of drills. The season is still in its embryonic stages, but it was undeniable that when he was out there, the big fella certainly made an impact. (When he wasn’t on the field, he was close to d-line coach Pepper Johnson.) In all, he was on the field for no more than 10-15 snaps the afternoon. At the end of practice, he sat and watched, doing some stretching, as the rest of the veterans ran sprints.

‘€¢ Bret Lockett and Jeremy Ross mixed it up on the outside when it came to special teams coverage ‘€” the two spent some time rolling around on the ground after the punt was clear. In other special teams work, with Katula sidelined, veteran linebacker Rob Ninkovich ‘€” who has some experience as a long snapper ‘€” was handling long snapping duties on field goal work. (Rookie free agent kicker Chris Koepplin of UMass had some bad misses on short field goal attempts, but redeemed himself later on.) One other thing that stood out on special teams was the fact that linebacker Jerod Mayo was serving in the role of punt protector, a job that Pat Chung had last season.

‘€¢ It was a great day for linebacker Brandon Spikes. In 11-on-11 drills, Brandon Spikes absolutely BLEW UP former college teammate Aaron Hernandez on an end-around. Later, he absolutely crushed running back Danny Woodhead. Spikes was around the ball all afternoon, and really stood out. Really, it was a great day for the entire defense, who appeared to have the offenses number all day. A Brian Hoyer deep ball for Rob Gronkowski was picked off by Leigh Bodden. (The two wrestled for the ball and Bodden was helped by Chung, who came away with it.) And Chung broke up a pass for Chad Ochocinco, and he and Spikes celebrated with a chest bump.

‘€¢ Things on the offensive side of the ball weren’t so sharp. Ochocinco had a couple of badly dropped balls. Backup quarterback Jonathan Crompton and center Dan Koppen botched a snap and had to run a penalty lap. Woodhead also had to run a penalty lap because of a fumble. Rookie quarterback Ryan Mallett showed a nice touch for the deep ball, connecting with Taylor Price, but also had some trouble with short stuff, zinging a ball too quickly to Hernandez and overthrowing a pass to Price.

‘€¢ The Patriots have three running backs currently in camp, and they are all getting a ton of work. The absence of the veterans like Faulk and Morris (neither of them can practice until Aug. 4) and Vereen (who hasn’t signed yet) presents a good opportunity for rookie Stevan Ridley, who is getting lots of reps with the starting offense. In addition, Woodhead ‘€” who looks like he’s gained about 10 or so pounds this offseason ‘€” is also getting a lot of time, as well as youngster Thomas Clayton.

Read More: 2011 training camp, Albert Haynesworth,



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