Quick notes on Patriots’ Monday afternoon practice
|08.08.11 at 5:27 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots just wrapped up a practice session that ran almost three hours on the practice field behind Gillette Stadium. It was an intense padded session that seemed to really test the players mental and physical toughness — there was steam heat, a driving rain and cool conditions to deal with, which really put them under some good pressure.
•The following players were not on the field for the practice: Eric Kettani, Brandon Spikes, Ryan Wendell, Albert Haynesworth and Mike Wright. The following players were in shorts and sweats: Brandon Tate, Ras-I Dowling, Shane Vereen, Kevin Faulk, Ross Ventrone, James Sanders, Josh Barrett, Marcus Cannon, Brandon Deaderick, Matt Light, Ron Brace and Shaun Ellis. Meanwhile, Gerard Warren came on the field in full pads about midway through the session.
Here are a few things that stood out:
•Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski seemed to be laboring through much of the first part of the session, and at roughly the halfway point after one drill, he went to one knee and called for a trainer. He walked to the sidelines under his own power — quarterback Tom Brady checked on him — and then walked off the field. He was not limping or flexing any muscles, so it could be heat-related. Something that bears watching over the next few days. In addition, late in the practice session, right guard Dan Connolly appeared to be getting his right elbow or forearm examined at the end of a drill — also worth keeping an eye on going forward.
•The conditions put the players under some level of stress they haven’t faced through the first two weeks or so of camp. As a result, it wasn’t the sharpest session of the summer: There were a handful of missteps, including a botched snap between Brady and center Dan Koppen in the rain that left them running a lap. (Backups Brian Hoyer and Chris Morris had to do the same later in the session, and offensive lineman Nate Solder and Mark LeVoir also had to run penalty laps.)
•Retired right guard Stephen Neal watched the entire practice session while rocking a San Diego Padres baseball cap. (For those of you asking on Twitter: Even given the state of their offensive line, I don’t think the Patriots are thinking about re-signing him. Not yet, anyway.)
•It was a sluggish day for the offensive line. Not sure if that was because of the heat, the constant rotation of new defensive linemen or the fact that the Patriots are a little thin at the spot — Wendell, Cannon and Light were all out — but they struggled through a good portion of the session. That extended to the rest of the offense as well, as there were several missed connections between Brady and pass catchers, with the quarterback delivering low passes to several players, including Chad Ochocinco, Tyree Barnes and Darnell Jenkins. (Jenkins and Ochocinco both made nice sliding grabs.) Brady was picked by safety Sergio Brown on a short ball meant for Barnes, while a Brady pass for Lee Smith was knocked down by linebacker Jerod Mayo.
•Couple of other offensive notes: One, rookie quarterback Ryan Mallett displayed a nice touch on several passes, with one connection with tight end Aaron Hernandez, who made a nice one-handed grab over linebacker Gary Guyton on the play. Two, Hoyer also displayed a smooth touch on a pass to wide receiver Julian Edelman on a pass play over the middle, lofting a floater just out of the reach of defensive back Malcom Williams. And three, wide receiver/kick returner Jeremy Ross made a pair of nice over-the-shoulder grabs on passes from Hoyer and Mallett. (Wondering if the phrase “getting Ross-ed” will enter the local lexicon in the same way that defensive backs were “getting Moss-ed” in the fall of 2007. Probably not, but that’s what a hot day at camp will make you think about.)
•Defensively, the Patriots continued to offer a steady rotation up front. Without Haynesworth in the lineup, it was a combination of bodies up front next to Vince Wilfork, a group that included Kyle Love and Myron Pryor. It was another pretty good day for the defense, with the highlights coming when Love made a nice stop in the blowing, blowing up a running back. (He got up and gave a fist pump.) Wilfork also made a similar play, delivering a big hit on BenJarvus Green-Ellis when the running back tried to sneak through the line. Stevan Ridley was popped by Mayo in goal-line drills, drawing a big cheer from the crowd. And in another drill, linebacker Dane Fletcher met Ridley in the hole on a blitz and drove him back 3-4 yards.
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