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Monday practice notes: Rob Gronkowski, Dominique Easley jump into contact work

08.18.14 at 4:01 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots had their final training camp practice open to the media Monday afternoon, a session that ran for just over two hours in front of a large crowd. Overall, it was the 17th practice of the summer for New England, and the 12th in pads. Here are a few quick notes:

Tyler Gaffney, D.J. Williams, Cameron Gordon, Sebastian Vollmer, Tommy Kelly, Chris Jones and Sealver Siliga were not spotted at start of practice. Chris Martin was in sweats. In addition, Michael Hoomanwanui, Chris Martin, James Anderson and Bryan Stork left after stretching, and worked on the lower practice fields.

— In 7-on-7 work, the biggest news was the fact that tight end Rob Gronkowski took part in the session, working clearly and getting in and out of his routes without an issue. The big fella was only partially involved when it came to contact, but the sight of Gronkowski running routes and catching passes from quarterbacks is an encouraging sight for Patriots fans. (For what it’s worth, Gronkowski was not involved in any of the blocking drills immediately following the 7-on-7 passing drills.) Gronkowski also saw work in 11-on-11 drills for the first time all summer, and made a couple of really nice connections with Brady over the middle. Again, another encouraging sign for New England fans.

— In other 7-on-7 news, there was a really nice pass breakup by Kyle Arrington on a Brady deep ball intended for Danny Amendola. And rookie corner Malcolm Butler had a really impressive pass breakup on a pass for Gronkowski, knocking the ball away cleanly and causing a fumble.

— Later on, the Patriots welcomed first-round pick Dominique Easley to 11-on-11 work in full pads for the first time all summer. It appeared that Easley was working with a reasonable facsimile of the second-team defense. He looked very good — quick, without any issues when it came to bursting and changing direction. On his first rush, he flew past center Ryan Wendell, and beat guard Dan Connolly on his second rush. He also flashed an impressive spin move on the following play. An interesting debut for the youngster, who might be on track to get some live snaps this week against the Panthers.

— In 11-on-11 work, it was clear (as it has been all summer long) that Julian Edelman has become Brady’s default receiver. There were a handful of occasions where the quarterback found “Minitron” after looking over the field and passing on a deep option. We’ve said it before, and it bears repeating — if he stays healthy, Edelman will have a terrific year.

Bill Belichick stopped practice for a few moments about an hour or so into practice and gathered the team together in a sizable huddle. They stopped practice for a few moments before jumping back into 11-on-11 work.

Steve Maneri had a drop in 11-on-11 work. (He bounced back nicely with a catch shortly after that.) Meanwhile, James Develin continues to catch everything thrown in his direction. Also in 11-on-11 work, Ryan Mallett was picked off by Brandon Browner and James Anderson stepped in front of a pass from Brady for Amendola and took it all the way back for a score.

— There was mixing and matching along the offensive line again. It’s a spot continues to be a bit complicated for a few reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the Patriots are low on tight ends and have been forced to utilize Nate Solder out on the edge from time to time, as well as the fact that Vollmer was not at practice. While the tackles appear to be set (provided Vollmer and Solder are healthy) as well as left guard (Mankins), there have been multiple personnel packages on the rest of the interior, as Connolly, Wendell, Marcus Cannon and Jordan Devey all got starting snaps on Monday.

— For the first time all summer, we saw some preseason game-planning during practice, as some of the Patriots’ scout teamers slipped into jerseys in hopes of replicating the performances out of some of the Panthers skill position players, including Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen.

— Brady and Gronkowski got their semi-regular work together off to the side on a couple of occasions. Meanwhile, Jerel Worthy and Devey worked together off to the side through the late stages of the afternoon.

— Amendola, Jeremy Gallon and Roy Finch were among those getting work as punt returners.

James White had to run a lap because of a botched exchange between the quarterback and running back. That’s notable, as White had only two college fumbles, and told the media when he first arrived in Foxboro that, “Ball security is job security.”

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