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Saturday practice notes: Patriots sweat through steamy workout

07.27.13 at 1:29 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots held their second training camp workout of the summer Saturday morning in steamy conditions on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. The workout, which lasted just over two hours, was held mostly in sweats and shells, although some players were in game pants. Here are a few quick notes on the practice:

1. The only players not taking part were wide receivers Julian Edelman and Mark Harrison, offensive linemen Nick McDonald (who was on the field in sweats again), defensive linemen Cory “Pork Chop” Grissom and Armond Armstead and tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski showed up on the field roughly 90 minutes into practice, and spent time on the sidelines with his teammates while wearing a gray t-shirt and shorts. For what it’s worth, he wasn’t wearing any sort of braces or casts, and appeared to be walking without any sort of limp.

2. It could be because he was standing next to Tim Tebow, but Ryan Mallett‘s arm strength is really something to watch. He connected on a deep ball in the drills with receiver Perez Ashford, and later had a nice hookup with receiver Michael Jenkins. Mallett also had a standout performance in early 7-on-7s, going 5-for-5 in a passing drill and capping it off with a deep ball for Josh Boyce that was bobbled by defensive back Tavon Wilson but picked up by Boyce. In that same drill, Brady went 2-for-5 and had two balls batted down by the giant paddles that were held up by staff members. (He wasn’t happy.) On his final turn, he tossed a ball toward tight end Jake Ballard, but Ballard couldn’t hold on to the ball, and Devin McCourty came away with the pick.

3. It’s clear that things are very fluid at this point at tight end. Ballard continues to get more and more reps at tight end, and looks a little smoother and more fluid than he did this spring during minicamps. Daniel Fells is part of the regular rotation, and Michael Hoomanawanui got consistent reps at both tight end and fullback. In addition, Zach Sudfeld continues to stand out because of his size and the fact that he doesn’t appear to be too overwhelmed by much.

4. Top defensive honors on Saturday likely go to cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who can away with a couple of really impressive pass breakups. One came on a Mallett pass attempt for Sudfeld, and another was on a Brady pass for Aaron Dobson. A third play where he knocked away another pass would have likely drawn a pass interference call, but all in all, it was a good day for the cornerback, who again took his regular reps on the outside with the starting defense.

5. The rookie receivers have all gotten serious reps over the first two days of camp, and not just draftees Boyce and Dobson. Kamar Aiken had his second straight nice day, while Kenbrell Thompkins had a great reception on a pass from Mallett, beating Logan Ryan down the sideline. Dobson was on the receiving end of a couple of impressive passes from Brady, including one where he hauled in a tough pass over Aqib Talib on the right sideline. Boyce also had a couple of nice catches, but flat-out dropped a deep ball from Brady late in the practice session. At least in the early going, it’s clear the Patriots are going to give the youngsters plenty of opportunities to prove their worth.

6. One interesting thing was the sight of all three quarterbacks wearing small cameras attached to their helmets.  Tebow (a southpaw) had his on the right side of his helmet, while righty’s Brady and Mallett had theirs on the left side of their helmet. Speaking of Tebow, there were ups (a nice connection with receiver Lavelle Hawkins down the sideline late in the day) and downs (in an 11-on-11 drills, Tebow waited at least 10 seconds scrambling around in the backfield before unleasing a one-hop throw).

7. Boyce, Leon Washington and Danny Amendola worked as the primary punt returners.

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