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10 things we learned Wednesday from Patriots training camp

08.15.12 at 11:30 pm ET

FOXBORO ‘€“ The Patriots held their third straight day of practice in full pads on the upper practice fields Tuesday. The team will hold their final two open practices of camp – and the season – on Thursday and Friday from 1:30-4. The team likely will be off Saturday, the same day Bruce Springsteen plays Gillette Stadium. Camp will break as the team likely will have a walkthrough on Sunday before hosting the Eagles Monday night at Gillette.


The biggest news was the return of Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd to uniform practice. Gronkowski hadn’t been on the field practicing since the preseason opener last Thursday. He had spent the last three days in sweats and a t-shirt. Hernandez hadn’t practiced since shorts and shells on Sunday while Lloyd spent the last two days on the exercise machines.

With the roster still at 88 players, there were only 72 in full uniform as nine were in shorts and went through only conditioning exercises while seven were not spotted at all.

Among the seven not seen Wednesday were safety Malcolm Williams, fullback Eric Kettani, offensive lineman Matt Kopa, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, tight end Jake Ballard and defensive linemen Gerard Warren and Jonathan Fanene.

The nine players in shorts included Myron Pryor, Daniel Fells, defensive back Alfonzo Dennard, offensive tackle Markus Zusevics, linebacker Tracy White, safety James Ihedigbo, fullback Spencer Larsen and offensive linemen Kyle Hix and Sebastian Vollmer.

Here are nine other things we learned from camp Wednesday.


For the first time since hitting the practice field in shorts on Sunday, Logan Mankins was in full pads on Wednesday. His load was increased as he took more snaps in 11-on-11 drills, as well as agility drills. It’s a positive sign that he has made positive steps each day this week, increasing his work load each day. “I think we all know and think that Logan is one of the tougher players on our team,” Bill Belichick said earlier in the day. “We have a lot of tough guys, but he’€™s got a lot of physical and mental toughness, no question about that.”


Jabar Gaffney pulled up a bit lame, grabbing his right quadriceps after beating Devin McCourty on a 1-on-1 matchup in receiver-cornerback drills. Tom Brady lofted up a pass for the deep right sideline and Gaffney, who beat McCourty clearly, couldn’t catch up and limped to the sideline under his own power. He was treated by training staff and seen by doctor Tom Gill before heading to the sidelines, where he spent of the rest of practice watching without his shoulder pads on. In what could be construed as a good sign, he did not leave the practice field until practice was completely over.


It was not a good day for the offensive line. Several times in 11-on-11 drills, players like Brandon Spikes and Rob Ninkovich broke through and plays were whistled dead as sacks. Lineman Darrion Weems took several laps for various transgressions. At one point, Tom Brady yelled at his offensive mates to hurry up to the line and get things together as they worked hurry-up offense close to the red zone.


While Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer were getting their reps with the first-team offensive line of Nate Solder, Nick McDonald, Dan Koppen, Donald Thomas and Marcus Cannon, Brady worked with the likes of Darrion Weems, Derek Dennis, Ryan Wendell, Dustin Waldron and Kyle Hill.


Brandon Spikes dropped back in coverage in early 11-on-11 scrimmage and knocked away a Tom Brady pass intended for Stevan Ridley at the goal line. It goes to show just how athletic the inside linebacker can be and the dynamic dimension he brings if he can stay healthy and remain on the field.


During 11-on-11 drills later in the day, Marcus Harrison, playing with the 2s and 3s on the defensive line, fell to the ground. He limped off under his own power and trainers worked on his left knee. He did not return to practice.


Defensive end Jake Bequette showed a power rush during one-on-one pass rushing drills. He is making solid progress and is certainly a candidate for more playing time in the coming 10 days as the Patriots play three games to finish up the preseason.


Jeremy Ebert fielded two punts cleanly during Thursday’s win over the Saints but this week has been a rough go of it for the rookie. He fumbled for the third straight day, fumbling a punt on Monday and Wednesday while muffing a kickoff on Tuesday. Clearly, that’s an area of focus and improvement in the coming days for Ebert if he is to make the team.


After spending most of training camp so far on the right side of the defensive line – the primary pass rush position – Chandler Jones got some pass rush chances from the left side on Wednesday. Clearly, the coaching staff wants teaching film on how Jones’ technique may or may not differ if they switch him to avoid double teams on the right side or if they see an offensive line that is more vulnerable on one side than the other.

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Aaron Hernandez, Logan Mankins, New England Patriots
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