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Ten things we learned from Day 7 of Patriots training camp

08.02.12 at 6:05 pm ET
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Jerod Mayo (51) covers Danny Woodhead (39) in passing drills Thursday as Bill Belichick looks on. (AP)

FOXBORO – After the much-talked about scuffle between left tackle Nate Solder and linebacker Brandon Spikes during Wednesday night’s practice inside Gillette Stadium, the Patriots returned to a more regular routine outside on the upper training fields Thursday on the hottest day of camp so far. Solder and Spikes were both in attendance and there were no fights this time as the team worked out in shorts and shells.

BRADY UP AND DOWN, AND UP AGAIN

Tom Brady started practice well enough, completing crossing patterns to Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. But in 7-on-7 drills, he started a trend of over-shooting receivers on the deep ball. Brady overthrew a wide open Britt Davis on a post route. Later, in 11-on-11, Brady struggled to find Gronkowski on a post and Jabar Gaffney down the left sideline. Later, on a bubble screen, Brady fired a pass that went through the hands of Wes Welker.

“It’s good to see he’s human sometimes,” Welker said. “Everybody has bad plays out there. It’s how you bounce back from them and how you go out there and compete and keep fighting and really get after it out there. And he’s always doing that, and understanding that if he makes a bad play he’s going to come back and make one ten times better the next time. That’s the type of mentality he has and it really rubs off on all the other guys out there.”

Brady appeared to recover quickly in the two-minute drill, marching the team down the field, but was picked off by safety Steve Gregory on a pass over the middle intended for Julian Edelman. Brady finished his day by leading the troops down the field in hurry-up for a Chris Koepplin field goal from short range.

ROLL CALL

Brandon Lloyd, Visanthe Shiancoe, Tony Fiammetta, Jamey Richard and Will Allen all missed their second practices of training camp on Thursday

Others who did not practice on Thursday were Alfonzo Dennard, Tracy White, Nick McDonald, Logan Mankins, Sebastian Vollmer, Jeremy Ebert, Daniel Fells, Myron Pryor, Nate Ebner, Markus Zusevics and Jonathan Fanene.

Brian Waters and Jake Ballard were absent again, while Ebner, Ebert, Zusevics, Dennard, McDonald, Mankins, Vollmer, Lloyd, Fells and Pryor were all seen wearing shorts on the sideline.

Offensive lineman Dan Connolly returned to the practice field — and to his customary spot at left guard — after missing his first practice of camp on Wednesday. Connolly’s absence Wednesday made four potential starting linemen who have missed at least one day of training camp this year, as Waters has not arrived at camp while Mankins and Vollmer have not practiced due to injury.

STEVE GREGORY CONTINUES TO SHINE

Safety Steve Gregory continues to impress. In addition to the above mentioned pick of Brady, Gregory teamed with Tavon Wilson to break up a Brady pass in the end zone intended for Jesse Holley. Gregory is spending most of his time on the field with Patrick Chung, as it appears this is the early safety pairing that Bill Belichick likes in the secondary.

DONTE’ STALLWORTH FILLS IN AGAIN ON FIRST TEAM FOR BRANDON LLOYD

With Lloyd absent again on Thursday, Donte’ Stallworth spent most of his time in 11-on-11 drills running outside routes between the sidelines and the numbers. In 7-on-7 drills, he made several catches running intermediate routes over the middle.

BRANCH, GAFFNEY MAKE EARLY EXITS

Just over an hour into practice, Deion Branch jogged off the field holding his helmet and wearing a smile. It didn’t appear to be serious but he did not return. The news was slightly more concerning with Gaffney, as he walked slowly off the field 15 minutes later with a member of the Patriots medical/training staff, showing a slight limp as he made his way down the stairs and into the Patriots locker room.

HIGHTOWER STEPPING UP

With rookie linebacker Dont’a Hightower coming into the NFL with a reputation as a linebacker strong against the run but not so much against the pass, the Patriots are giving him a chance to improve upon his pass coverage skills. On Thursday, Hightower spent all of his time on the field with Jerod Mayo learning Patriots pass coverage schemes and techniques in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills.

PLAY OF THE DAY

While Tom Brady didn’t look at best, he and Stallworth did hook up for the play of the day, a rainbow of a pass from the quarterback connecting with the streaking receiver down the left side line for a good 50-yard gain, beating safety Ross Ventrone in the process.

GALLERY BACK WITH THE FIRST UNIT

With Connolly returning to practice and his spot at left guard, Robert Gallery returned to the first unit offensive line at right guard. Marcus Cannon (right tackle), Nate Solder (left tackle) and Dan Koppen (center) have been constants in the first week of camp along the O-line.

KOEPPLIN STRUGGLES

Back-up kicker Chris Koepplin once again handled kicking duties, giving Stephen Gostkowski more a rest during camp. Koepplin again showed a good leg on kickoffs and handled on-side kicking duties well but he struggled in field goal kicking as he was just 3-for-6 in hurry-up offensive drills toward the end of practice.

HOYER IMPRESSIVE LATE

Brian Hoyer looked impressive in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, connecting with Aaron Hernandez and Stevan Ridley in the hurry-up. With the preseason opener against the Saints just a week away — and Hoyer figuring to get a good, long look — Hoyer spent a good amount of time with the first team offensive line.

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, New England Patriots, nfl, Tom Brady
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