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Prepping for game action; Aug. 8 camp notes
Now in the second week of camp, the Patriots are beginning to work more on game situations in practice, as their first preseason opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars, come to Foxborough on Thursday.
At his daily press briefing, Bill Belichick explained how that more high-temp element is being implemented
"Looking forward here to getting going with kind of a semi-game week preparation for Jacksonville. We certainly have a long way to go in terms of taking our plays and making them situation-friendly, being able to do them at the right time and with very specific situations and so forth that we know come up in football, relative down and distance, field position, score, time and so forth.
"Those are some things we have to do here in the next few days," the head coach said, "as well as becoming familiar with Jacksonville and orienting the players to what we expect from Jacksonville and how we want to handle some of the problems that they will give us. It's a big week for us; we've got a lot to do here. We need a couple good days here early in the week and then try to tie things up on Wednesday and we're ready to go Thursday night. Hopefully we can get most done what we need to get done and be competitive out there Thursday."
Given the curtailed practice schedule and overall rushed atmosphere to camp this year, following the 11th-hour collective bargaining agreement settlement, this year's preseason contests may be more significant than normal in terms of evaluating players.
"Sure," Belichick agreed. "I mean, preseason games are definitely a good evaluating tool, both for individual players and also for units and collectively for your team. You can evaluate a lot of things because it's as close as we can get to games - it is games. It's not quite the same, but they are what they are. That's the evaluation - you evaluate the conditioning, you evaluate your team's ability to do different things: run, throw, kick, cover and so forth.
"What you see out here at practice is one [thing], it's an important evaluation, but our matchups on Thursday will be a lot different than the ones we have out here. We'll see very skilled and talented players from Jacksonville. We'll match up a little bit differently against them than we do against some of our own players. It's always interesting to see how that turns out. And the next week we'll see them against another group of players and there will be different matchups in that game.
"Hopefully," Belichick concluded, "by the time we have to make our decisions we will feel like we will have enough information and we've had enough opportunity to evaluate them on a repetitive basis, but also against different types of players, different types of schemes - not just see how they do against our offense or defense and our plays, but how they perform against something that's a little bit different than that. It's definitely an important step in the evaluation."
New England continues to bolster its defensive line. On Monday, the team announced the re-signing of Gerard Warren, who came to the Patriots a year ago on a one-year deal, and the additions of veterans Shaun Ellis and Andre Carter. To make room on the 90-man roster, the team parted ways with veteran safety Brandon McGowan and first-year defensive back Thad Turner (a practice squad holdover from last season) and placed rookie offensive lineman Kyle Hix on the injured reserve list.
Ellis observed practice in team-issued shorts and t-shirt, while Carter suited up in full pads. Warren, a late arrival to the practice field, was nonetheless ready to go and immediately saw action in the 11-on-11 team periods and in various individual and position drills.
Carter was issued jersey number 68, while Ellis appeared to have shorts with a 94 on them. Warren, who wore 92 last season, was given 62, as his old number is currently owned by Albert Haynesworth.
One of those days
Despite a mid-practice downpour, the heat and humidity that lingered throughout practice seemed to have gotten the better of a couple of offensive players.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who's been unstoppable to this point in camp, struggled to hold on to several pass and had difficulty sustaining blocks. After one particularly rough series, he slogged off to the sideline and took a knee. A trainer came up to him and spent several minutes by his side, just talking.
Eventually, Gronkowski made it to his feet and was able to walk off the field under his own power. He retreated to the locker room and was not seen again during practice.
A short time later, guard Logan Mankins appeared to have similar problems. When the second series of o-linemen were taking their reps, Mankins went behind the action and took a knee. Slumped over, he didn't move for several minutes. A water boy came over and offered him a drink, which he declined at first. Mankins went back in for a few more plays, but could barely walk off when he was through with his reps.
Finally, he took a drink, and was able to remain on the field for the remainder of the session.
More camp notes
Who's Not: The o-line
Particularly in the running game, the guys in the trenches haven't been able to open up many holes against their defensive counterparts.
Play of the Day: 4th-and-goal from the 1
During situational team work at the end of practice, Bill Belichick called for an all-or-nothing circumstance, giving the offense the ball on the one-yard line on fourth down. The play was a handoff to BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who ran toward the hole over the right guard. As he got to the goal line, linebacker Jerod Mayo shot the gap and met Green-Ellis at full speed. The ball carrier appeared to cross the goal line, but after a moment of discussion among the coaches, neither side celebrated, so it appeared that the play was ruled a draw.