|10 things we learned Thursday from Patriots training camp||08.16.12 at 5:55 pm ET|
FOXBORO – The penultimate day of 2012 Patriots training camp was a busy one for the team’s training staff as the team held its fourth straight day of full pads practice. Three players needed medical treatment on the sidelines while another fight (fairly minor) broke out. The team will hold their final two open practices of camp – and the season – on 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 sight of Jabar Gaffney in sweats and a t-shirt. He injured his right leg on Wednesday and just watched from the sidelines.
With the roster still at 88 players, there were only 70 in full uniform as nine were in shorts and went through only conditioning exercises while seven were not spotted at all.
The seven players not seen Thursday were safeties James Ihedigbo and Malcolm Williams, offensive lineman Matt Kopa, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, tight end Jake Ballard and defensive linemen Gerard Warren and Jonathan Fanene.
In addition to Gaffney, nine other players were in shorts – Myron Pryor, fullback Eric Kettani Daniel Fells, defensive back Alfonzo Dennard, offensive tackle Markus Zusevics, linebacker Tracy White, fullback Spencer Larsen and offensive linemen Kyle Hix and Sebastian Vollmer.
Here are nine other things we learned from camp Thursday.
After watching a fight between Brandon Spikes and Nate Solder inside Gillette Stadium early in camp and then two more scraps days later, Bill Belichick warned his team that he had seen enough. The next time, he was going to put his foot down. On Thursday, that figurative foot landed squarely in the backside of Julian Edelman and linebacker Niko Koutouvides, both of whom were kicked out of practice after scuffling after Edelman fielded a punt.
BUMPS AND BRUISES
Aaron Hernandez, Stevan Ridley and rookie Tavon Wilson all suffered what appeared to be leg injuries during Thursday’s fourth straight day in full pads practice. Hernandez twice came up gimpy following pass routes, including a slant toward the end zone during 7-on-7 drills. Hernandez flexed his knee several times and stayed in practice. Ridley came out later during 11-on-11 drills after he ran the ball to the right side of the offensive line. He stayed on the field and got treatment on his right leg from trainer Jim Whalen on the sideline, several times balancing on his right leg in a strength test. Ridley, who stayed in uniform, did not return to practice. Rookie safety Tavon Wilson injured his lower left leg after going up with fellow safety Steve Gregory in double coverage on a pass intended for Hernandez, who made a leaping grab before falling to the turf. Wilson, who was in the area of Hernandez, limped off to the sideline under his own power and later had an ice pack taped to his left ankle. Wilson, Ridley and Hernandez all took part in team stretching at the end of practice before leaving the field for the day with the rest of the team.
MANKINS GETS MORE REPS
Logan Mankins had his most active day yet on the offensive line, taking part in over half of the 11-on-11 drills during hurry-up and huddle snaps. Perhaps most encouraging was his work during 1-on-1 drills against defensive linemen as he handled Brandon Deaderick. When Mankins needed a break, he was spelled at left guard by Nick McDonald in mid-drive during the hurry-up drills.
PLAY OF THE DAY
During 11-on-11 drills, Brady went play-action and threw deep over the middle to a streaking Aaron Hernandez, who put his hand up momentarily. By the time, Brady threw the ball, Hernandez was in double coverage but Hernandez went up and grabbed the ball away from safeties Tavon Wilson and Steve Gregory. What made the catch all the more impressive was the fact Hernandez came up gimpy just minutes earlier, shaking his right leg, after a TD catch on a tight end flare in 7-on-7 drills. Runner up: Donte’ Stallworth went all out and caught a pass from Ryan Mallett down the right sideline over safety Derrick Martin during receiver/corner 1-on-1 drills.
In addition to Mankins strong showing, Dan Koppen had a good accounting of himself, beating the powerful Kyle Love in an interior line battle. Defensively, Ron Brace beat center Ryan Wendell with the bull rush. Rob Ninkovich, who has been playing a lot on the defensive front in camp, battled Nate Solder to a draw.
The first team unit was fortified with more reps from Logan Mankins, who was lined up between left tackle Solder and center Wendell. On the right side, Donald Thomas lined up at right guard next to right tackle Marcus Cannon. Dan Connolly continues to see minimal reps, but he did come in and spell Thomas during first-team 11-on-11 drills.
OFFENSE STILL LOOKS ROUGH
During one 11-on-11 segment, Brady was 3-for-5 with a sack and a touchdown. Just before the touchdown, Hernandez appeared to tweak his right leg. During another red zone drill in 7-on-7 drills, linebacker Mike Rivera picked off a Brady pass in the end zone intended for Stevan Ridley. And on another 7-on-7 drill, Brady slapped his helmet after missing an open Brandon Lloyd on the sideline.
While the offense struggled later in practice, early Brady was enjoying success in the red zone with pass routes from running backs and tight ends, connecting for touchdowns with Rob Gronkowski twice, once over Brandon Spikes and another time in the back of the end zone on a nice one-handed running grab.
A fourth Patriots Super Bowl championship was only a foot from reality as Brady’s “Hail Mary” fell out of the grasp of Rob Gronkowski on the last play of Super Bowl XLVI. On Thursday, Brady worked on the drill at the beginning of practice and at the end, completing a pass to Wes Welker in the end zone late in practice from midfield. Early in practice, the drill was successful for the defense as Patrick Chung knocked down a pass in the middle of the end zone.
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