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Ten Things We Learned Wednesday at Patriots Training Camp

08.08.12 at 2:18 pm ET
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Small Ball: Pats Steve Gregory (left) and Danny Woodhead (middle) chat with Darren Sproles (43) after practice. (Mike Petraglia, WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Sunshine again baked the practice fields outside Gillette Stadium Wednesday morning as the Patriots and Saints finished their final joint practice in advance of their Thursday night preseason game in Foxboro.

The two teams warmed up for 45 minutes before going against each other for approximately 90 minutes in a toned-down practice in shorts and shells.

The two teams will meet on Thursday night at 7:30 at Gillette Stadium in the preseason opener for the Patriots.

ROLL CALL
The notable absentees from Wednesday included linebacker Brandon Spikes for a fourth straight day, defensive lineman Gerard Warren, offensive linemen Kyle Hix and offensive lineman Dustin Waldron. Also missing again were Spencer Larsen, Matt Kopa, Tracy White, Visanthe Shiancoe, Jake Ballard and Jonathan Fanene.

In shorts were tight end Daniel Fells,, offensive linemen Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer, Ron Brace and Myron Pyror, rookie cornerback Alfonzo Denard, and tackle Markus Zusevics .

Fullback Eric Kettani and offensive lineman Darrion Weems were both in attendance in shorts and shells and participated in all of practice in shorts and shells.

Here are nine other things we learned from Day 12 of training camp:

OFFENSIVE LINE:

In what could be the starting lineup for the offensive line for Thursday night, Nate Solder started at left tackle, Donald Thomas was at left guard, Ryan Wendell was center on the first unit, Dan Connolly got extensive work at right guard and Marcus Cannon opened up at right tackle. The interesting note from Wednesday was Nick McDonald getting a look at center for several snaps as the Patriots mixed up their rotations along the offensive line later in practice. Dan Koppen again found himself on the second team offensive line. McDonald – while playing right tackle – was the only Patriots player to take a lap on Wednesday for a false start during 11-on-11 drills.

DEFENSIVE GROUPINGS:

Rookies Dont’a Hightower and Chandler Jones continue to get a lot of work with the first team, an indication they could be starting when the defense takes the field for the first time Thursday night. With Spikes missing his fourth straight practice, Hightower continues to play on the inside linebacker spot with Jerod Mayo playing on the outside. Vince Wilfork and Brandon Deaderick again swapped out with Kyle Love on the defensive line.

VINCE THE QUARTERBACK:

Vince Wilfork likes to joke about his offensive prowess after intercepting a pair of passes last season. Well, on Wednesday, he was the quarterback handing off to Kyle Love early in defensive line drills as the second and third string D-linemen got their work in against each other early in practice. Wilfork had some fun handing off both under center and in the shotgun.

SPECIAL ADVICE:

Bill Belichick won’t hesitate talking to anyone if he thinks he can gain some perspective on the game he hasn’t had before. Such appeared to be the case just before the two teams began scrimmaging as he spoke to veteran placekicker John Kasay. The 42-year-old Kasay is entering his 22nd season in the NFL after being drafted in the fourth round of the 1991 NFL Draft by the Seahawks. Belichick and Kasay chatted for about 10 minutes on the sideline. Belichick also spoke with someone on the sidelines who was wearing an NFL hat and may have been a so-call “spot-checker” – someone from the league that visits NFL camps to make sure all practice guidelines are being followed.

BRADY MUCH BETTER:

After a Tuesday practice in full pads that featured a pair of interceptions, Tom Brady was back in form during 7-on-7 drills. He connected for five touchdowns to five different receivers, including connections with Brandon Lloyd, Aaron Hernandez, Jabar Gaffney, Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker. Stevan Ridley also caught a pass on a delay route out of the backfield.

SPECIAL WORK:

It came as no surprise that much of Wednesday’s session was focused on situational work as kickoff teams saw plenty of action in directional and on-side kick work. There was no shortage of eligible returners for the Patriots as Julian Edelman, Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead all saw work fielding kicks. Welker fielded a deep kick after a fake onside kick by the Saints. Woodhead cleanly fielded a squib kick and Edelman took a traditional kick. All of the kicks were off the leg of the aforementioned John Kasay.

PATRIOTS PLAY OF THE DAY:

In 11-on-11 drills, Brian Hoyer dropped back and heaved a ball 60 yards down field to a sprinting Jesse Holley, who laid out and made a spectacular diving grab and hung onto the ball. Holley appeared to momentarily have the wind knocked out of him as he crawled up to his knees momentarily before jogging off on his own power. That kind of play is something the crowd at Thursday night’s game might see again as Hoyer and Mallett figure to get plenty of playing time after Tom Brady.

KARMA IS A GRONK:

The most spectacular play of the day for the Saints was Drew Brees firing a pass on a post route that appeared to be out of the reach of Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham. But Graham went up over Dont’a Hightower and made a spectacular grab and came down in the end zone for the TD. He immediately got up and spiked the ball – Gronk style – right at the feet of Hightower and drew a flag. Not only that, but Graham made his way over the Saints sideline where he went to the ground in obvious discomfort. Apparently, he tweaked his back on the leap and the fall and didn’t help matters with the spike. But Saints coach Joe Vitt said the trainers didn’t even report it to him and Drew Brees said that was just Graham “going all out” for a pass that was too high and making every effort to catch it. “He’ll be fine,” said Brees, who after practice high-tailed it north to Fenway to take in the finale between the Red Sox and Rangers.

REMEMBER COACH SPAGS?:

He is most famous – or infamous in New England – for being the defensive coordinator of the only team to be the 2007 Patriots. Since his days as defensive coordinator of the New York Giants, Steve Spagnuolo has since coached the St. Louis Rams before the Saints hired him this season to work with the Saints. Now, with Sean Payton out for the season serving a suspension and interim coach Joe Vitt out for the first six games this season, it appears Spagnuolo will once again being calling the shots on an NFL sideline as he is the likely choice to start the season as head coach of the very talented Saints. Spagnuolo was chatting up some friends wearing Patriots apparel before Wednesday’s practice, enjoying a laugh or two. No word on whether he mentioned the city Glendale, Arizona in his friendly chat.

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Bill Belichick, Drew Brees, Joe Vitt Print  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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