Notes from the Patriots’ Wednesday afternoon minicamp practice
|06.13.12 at 3:45 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots just recently wrapped up their Wednesday afternoon minicamp session on the fields behind Gillette Stadium. In a session that ran for nearly two hours and was more intense than any of the OTA or Tuesday minicamp practices, the team got after it in wet conditions while wearing T-shirts, helmets, sweats and shorts. Here are a few quick notes:
The following players were not spotted AT ALL on the practice field: tight end Daniel Fells, new tight end Jake Ballard (who is reportedly en route to Foxboro), offensive lineman Brian Waters and defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene (who was banged up at the end of Tuesday’s practice). The rehabbing group has been pretty consistent throughout the spring, as several of them were seen on the field at one point or another, whether it was emerging from the practice bubble or working off to the side: linebacker/defensive lineman Jermaine Cunningham, tight end Rob Gronkowski, defensive back Matt Slater, offensive linemen Sebastian Vollmer and Logan Mankins, defensive lineman Myron Pryor, linebackers Tracy White and Brandon Spikes and tight end Rob Gronkowski.
As they have done for much of the spring, Vollmer and Mankins were a straight duo throughout the session. They came onto the field shortly after the start of practice, did sprints and drills (with both moving gradually throughout the session) and left together before the end of practice.
Wes Welker appeared to tweak something in his right leg toward the end of practice, while Alfonzo Dennard looked to have a problem with his left leg midway through the workout. Neither injury appeared serious. In addition, running back Eric Kettani was getting some extra stretching in with a trainer at the end of the workout as well.
It was as star-studded a practice as we’ve seen this spring. Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, former Cardinals manager (and noted friend of Bill Belichick) Tony La Russa, NFLPA chief De Smith and Assistant Executive Director of External Affairs for the NFLPA George Atallah were all guests in attendance. (Belichick introduced Gronkowski to both La Russa and Thibodeau.) And despite the rain, Patriots owner Robert Kraft was on the field for portions of practice, glad-handing with the visitors. (At one point, Kraft spent a few seconds chatting with Welker.) Kraft later left with Smith and Atallah after a brief talk.
Overall, it was an intense session, but a little ragged at times, perhaps because of the weather. There was lots of kickoff work, throughout the afternoon, and several different returners worked into the mix, including Patrick Chung, Stevan Ridley and Donte Stallworth. (Belichick grew extremely animated at several points throughout practice, particularly during kickoff work.)
The Patriots got an opportunity to get some red-zone work in, and there were several nice connections, including one between quarterback Tom Brady and Brandon Lloyd (in the corner of the end zone) and another between Brady and Welker. (Brady and Lloyd also had a couple of impressive pass plays later in practice, with one of their best ones of the spring coming on a deep ball at the expense of Devin McCourty.) Brady spent the bulk of the session with a glove on his left hand. Backup quarterback Brian Hoyer made a couple of nice throws as well, with one coming on a fingertip catch just inches off the ground on a ball for Deion Branch. Aaron Hernandez also made a really nice twisting catch on a ball late in practice that was one of the best receptions of the spring.
Again, it’s been tough not to be impressed by the work that Lloyd is putting in. It’s worth noting that through sessions like these between 2007 and 2011, Brady and Randy Moss would often sequester themselves from the rest of the group to work on something or other. That doesn’t appear to be the case with Lloyd. That’s not to say there aren’t times where Brady and Lloyd aren’t standing by themselves talking — just the two of them. But it just seems that those talks these days are more inclusive than they have been in years’ past.
There were some defensive highlights mixed in as well, despite the fact that Belichick grew so agitated at one point he had the entire unit run a penalty lap. Defensive back Sterling Moore had an impressive pass breakup on a Brady attempt for Jabar Gaffney, and Tavon Wilson almost picked off Brady on another play. Dont’a Hightower had a solid practice with an interception of Hoyer. It was tough to get a read on what the front seven was doing, as they were mixing in some personnel throughout the afternoon and it was tough to tell through the raindrops who was doing what.
Maybe it’s because he spent part of the practice standing next to the 6-foot-1 Ras-I Dowling, but Dennard looks short. He seems to move pretty well for a corner through the drills, however, and was competitive for balls in the air. He appears to be generously listed at 5-foot-10, but we’ll see how that size translates once they put the pads on.