|Quick notes on Patriots’ Tuesday afternoon practice||08.09.11 at 6:09 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Under cloudy and occasionally humid conditions — with a spot of rain thrown in for good measure — the Patriots held a practice session in shorts and shells that ran for almost three hours on Tuesday afternoon on the fields behind Gillette Stadium. Here are a few quick notes on what happened:
• The following players were not on the field: Eric Kettani, Ryan Wendell, Rob Gronkowski, Albert Haynesworth and Mike Wright. In addition, the following players were in T-shirts: Brandon Tate, Ras-I Dowling, Shane Vereen, Kevin Faulk, Ross Ventrone, James Sanders, Josh Barrett, Brandon Spikes, Marcus Cannon, Dan Connolly, Chris Morris, Brandon Deaderick, Matt Light, Shaun Ellis and Ron Brace. The full session was held in shorts and shells.
• The Patriots held their annual “pig drill” for the rookies prior to the start of practice. Each one of the first-year players was forced to run a muddy gauntlet while being hosed down by quarterback Tom Brady while chasing down the football. (The rookies who weren’t in a helmet or shells were hosed down by Brady nonetheless.) Brady appeared to take great delight in soaking Ryan Mallett — however, the rookie would gain a small measure of revenge later when the quarterbacks took turns in one drill pounding on each other with blocking pads. The drill, ostensibly to improve concentration, feature Mallett getting in a few good-natured shots at Brady’s expense.
• Without Gronkowski in the lineup, tight end Aaron Hernandez got more reps than he had previously throughout camp, and looked like he had a good afternoon. No. 81 caught just about everything thrown in his direction — including a nice grab from Brady in a 7-on-7 passing drill — as he was leaned on heavily by the offense throughout the session. Hernandez has been overshadowed by Gronkowski throughout the early stages of camp, but really shone Tuesday afternoon.
• Without Light in the mix, Nate Solder continued to get good reps at the left tackle spot (and appeared to mix it up with defensive end Mark Anderson at one point in what could be termed a very minor dustup), although it appeared to be a good rotation at the position, with Sebastian Vollmer flip-fliopping from right to left and back again throughout the practice. Vollmer’s versatility could play a big role in the development of this offensive line throughout the season — he has serious experience on the left side, having played there as a rookie when Light went down — and could really be an valuable piece if there are personnel questions at either tackle spot in 2011.
• A handful of players who suffered injuries on Monday were not in pads, including Gronkowski, who appeared to struggle with a heat-related issue and left the field. There didn’t appear to be any injuries on Tuesday, but rookie running back Stevan Ridley was pulled off the field roughly halfway through practice, where a member of the team’s medical staff was apparently checking out either one or both of his ankles. He returned to the field shortly after that and participated in drills the rest of the afternoon.
• With Haynesworth missing his fourth straight practice, the Patriots again went to a rotation along their four-man defensive front. The clear leader at the tackle position is Vince Wilfork, but New England used a combination of Kyle Love (who had another good day gumming up the works up front) and Myron Pryor next to him. In his second day back, Gerard Warren rotated in at the defensive tackle position as well. It appears that the Patriots are easing Andre Carter into the mix slowly at defensive end — he didn’t really get much run on Tuesday afternoon.
• Lots of special teams work on Tuesday, as the Patriots continue to experiment with personnel options at a variety of spots. Julian Edelman is clearly the leader in the clubhouse when it comes to working as a punt returner, but Taylor Price continues to get some reps at that spot as well. (However, he muffed one punt on Tuesday, knocking it out of bounds.) Meanwhile, there were a wide variety of players serving in the role of punt protector on Tuesday, including Pat Chung, Jerod Mayo and Danny Woodhead.
• The following players were spotted running penalty laps for unknown infractions: Dan Koppen, Julian Edelman and Thomas Austin.
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