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Emptying out training camp notebook: Thoughts on parking spaces, cameras, Vince Wilfork-Logan Mankins battle

07.29.13 at 6:45 am ET
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Tom Brady and Tim Tebow hang out during practice on Sunday. (AP)

Tom Brady and Tim Tebow hang out during practice on Sunday. (AP)

Here are six items we’ve picked up over the first three days of training camp that are worth passing along.

• On Sunday, several media outlets reported the following players were awarded for their attendance in the offseason conditioning plan with the best spots in the players’ parking lot: Danny Amendola, Tom Brady, Ras-I Dowling, Dane Fletcher, Jerod Mayo, Rob Ninkovich, Matt Slater, Nate Solder, Aqib Talib and Vince Wilfork.

• The Patriots were having their quarterbacks work with cameras attached to their helmets on Saturday, but the cameras weren’t there on Sunday. Bill Belichick was asked about the cameras and what sort of purpose they might serve.

“It’s something we haven’t done before so we’ll take a look at it and see how effective it is or what we can get out of it. I’m not sure exactly how effective that will or won’t be but it’s something we’re trying that’s a little bit new. We’ll see how it goes,” Belichick said. “Anything we can do to help instruct and coach the players better, that’s part of our job.” We’ll keep an eye out if the cameras show up again when the players show up back on the practice field on Monday night in the stadium.

• Speaking of quarterbacks, Tim Tebow has spent a lot of time working with offensive assistant Brian Daboll over the first three days of camp. Daboll, who returned to New England as a coach this offseason after stops around the league as an offensive coordinator and quarterback coach, has been a fairly constant presence with Tebow throughout the workouts, and could be acting as an unofficial coach for the new quarterback. One more Tebow note: Other than catching a couple of passes in a drill, he has worked exclusively with the quarterbacks. He’s been in the traditional red noncontact jersey that all three signal-callers have been wearing. While the Patriots may eventually have other things in store for Tebow, to this point, it’s been all quarterback play.

• We made kind of a big deal about this on Twitter at the end of practice on Sunday, but it bears repeating: watching the line battles between guard Logan Mankins and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork on Sunday morning was terrific. The two faced off three times by our count, and pretty much wrestled to a draw on all three occasions.

Afterward, Mankins talked about the chance to go up against Wilfork. “Oh, it makes you a ton better,” he said. “To win against Vince, you have to do everything right in one-on-ones. He’s all-go, straightforward. He’s a big, strong man. If you don’t do it right, he’s just going to push you back. If you don’t get your hands in the right spot, it’s over for you. It makes you really focus on your technique.”

• Had the chance to talk with linebacker Dont’a Hightower, and a few things stuck out regarding the work of the Alabama product: One, he worked some off the edge as a pass rusher on Sunday, lining up against Sebastian Vollmer and holding his own against the right tackle. Not sure if that was just a one-off thing, or a sign that he might see more time coming off the edge. And two, he discussed the work of rookie linebacker Jamie Collins, who shares a similar background to Hightower in that they bring a good deal of positional versatility to the field. Hightower acknowledged the similarities, and added that he’s taking time to help Collins learn “all the linebacker positions.” That likely means the Patriots will be shuffling the young linebacker around a bit, not unlike what they did with Hightower in his first season.

“Jamie is very athletic. You can kind of see that from just looking at him. The guy is crazy athletic,” Hightower said of Collins. “I try to help him the little bit that I can — learning all the linebacker positions. But he’s very athletic. Any help I can give to him or the other guys, I try to help out.”

• The 6-foot-5, 260-pound defensive end Chandler Jones is just as long and lanky as he was as a rookie, and he’s still trying to learn how to best utilize that length when it comes to leverage. He’s distinguished himself in two different capacities: First, he picked off a Tebow screen pass on Saturday, making a neat play by coming away with the ball. And second, he executed a sweet move on Solder in one-on-one drills on Sunday and slipped past him. Both teammate Rob Ninkovich and Belichick discussed Jones and his length.

“I wish I had the length of Chandler — I wish my arms were that much longer,” Ninkovich said. “But he’s blessed with those. He’s definitely going to be a guy who will have a great year. He’s had that first year of experience to get the rookie jitters off so he can just go out there and play football.”

Meanwhile, Belichick said the Syracuse product is still a bit of work in progress. “I think [Jones] definitely understands how to use his physical attributes but like any player,” he said. “There will be things that he can learn and improve on and refine and develop as we go forward. That’s part of the natural progression of any player, is to take advantage of his skills. As you study more, learn more, different techniques, train, you’re able to utilize your strengths more effectively in time than you were before you did all that. I think he’s in that process.”

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