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Highlights from Wednesday night’s practice

08.03.11 at 8:48 pm ET
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Devin McCourty knocks away a pass meant for Chad Ochocinco during Wednesday night's practice. (AP)

FOXBORO — The Patriots held their annual closed practice for season-ticket-holders Wednesday night at Gillette Stadium. In addition to an address from Jonathan Kraft, the fans were treated to a look at the 2011 squad (minus a few hobbled players and ones with new contracts). Here are some highlights of the session, which featured players in helmets and shorts and ran from around 6:30-8:30 p.m.

- The group of defensive backs was small Wednesday, as Darius Butler, Ras-I Dowling, Josh Barrett (who has spent recent days on the exercise bike) and Kyle Arrington (who can’t take the field until Thursday given that he has a new contract) not in uniform for the session. Also players not practicing (some, such as long snapper Matt Katula, were in sweats on the sideline), included Myron Pryor, Kyle Hix, Ryan Wendell and Eric Kettani. Other players kept off the field by new contracts included BenJarvus Green Ellis, Matt Light, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk and Logan Mankins. First-round pick Nate Solder has yet to ink his rookie deal.

- A little bit of confusion came on this end when we saw a No. 74 white — the uniform of Solder according to the roster — on the field during practice. While the 17th overall pick still hasn’t signed and the body certainly didn’t look like the 6-foot-8 Solder, it was suspicious nonetheless. After a bit or investigative work by Christopher Price, it turns out Solder is no longer No. 74 white, and that it was 6-foot-3 former Raiders and Buccaneers center Jonathan Compas. When Solder does sign and gets into camp, he will be wearing No. 77.

Compas, along with running backs Chris Morris and Richard Medlin, were signed by the team on Wednesday.

- A chorus of “Happy Birthday” was sung for quarterback Tom Brady, who celebrated his 34th birthday on Wednesday. The crowd went bonkers when Brady was shown stretching during the song, though as Christopher Price pointed out earlier in the day, no love was shown for nose tackle Landon Cohen, who turned 25.

- The field was split into two halves for 1-on-1 drills for a portion of the practice, with Brady and Ryan Mallett throwing to receivers going against defensive backs, while Brian Hoyer threw to right ends and running backs going one-on-one with linebackers. One nice play on receiver/d-backs one-on-ones came when Taylor Price gained good separation from Malcolm Williams around the end zone on a pass from Brady. The crowd went nuts when Chad Ochocinco make a nice diving catch on Jonathan Wilhite.

Later in practice, the Brady and Hoyer threw to receivers and tight ends as they went up against linebackers. There was good physicality between Devin McCourty and Aaron Hernandez, with the cornerback simply outmuscling his fellow second-year player to break up the play. Hernandez made a fine catch over the middle later in practice on a skeleton drill that featured Brady and and five skill position players against seven defenders.

- Speaking of skeleton drills, Bill Belichick once again took out the blocking pad for a skeleton drill and used it to disrupt the quarterback. He held it up to block Brady and Mallett’s line of vision and physically threw it Hoyer while he was getting settled in the pocket.

- Rookie UMass product Chris Koepplin got some work in when the Pats worked on the kickoff. One return unit featured Brandon Tate, while another featured Taylor Price and rookie Shane Vereen.

The team also worked on the safety kick, with Zoltan Mesko kicking to Julian Edelman and Tate.

- For those wondering if Brandon Spikes can handle being the middle linebacker in the 4-3, he had somewhat of a bright spot during 11-on-11 drills, as he nearly picked Brady.

- Players including Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork and Albert Haynesworth signed autographs after practice, but Mallett and Spikes took the cake. The two remained on the field signing for every fan that stayed until, with Mallett finishing his second around 9:30 — a full hour after practice ended — and Spikes the last one to leave the field at 9:40 on the nose.

Read More: 2011 training camp, BenJarvus Green Ellis, Brandon Tate, Chad Ochocinco
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