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Kelly happy to be back; Tuesday notebook

Posted Jul 29, 2014

Tommy Kelly said it feels wonderful to be back on the field with his teammates.

Whenever players are forced to miss training camp time to injuries it causes an uneasy feeling – even for established veterans like Tommy Kelly.

The mammoth defensive tackle returned from the physically unable to perform list (PUP) on Saturday but had to wade through a couple of days of mostly watching before he donned his full uniform and got back at it for real on Tuesday.

"It felt wonderful, absolutely wonderful," Kelly said with his trademark smile. "I’ve been itching to get back on the field so it felt real good baby, real good.

"I’m getting better. I wouldn’t put a percentage on anything but I definitely feel comfortable, I don’t feel like I have any restrictions on doing anything, I feel good."

Kelly was back in pads over the weekend but was limited to individual drills and did not take part in any full team action, save for some non-contact work as part of the field goal block unit. Although he was in full pads on Tuesday he was still limited in terms of contact, although he seemed to do more than he had previously.

Kelly understands the importance of returning to full strength as soon as possible. The 33-year-old is entering his 11th season, and took a pay cut during the offseason as he was in the midst of rehabbing from a torn ACL that limited him to just five games during his first season in New England.

The affordable contract (it would cost the team $600,000 against the cap if he were cut) makes him expendable if he’s not fully recovered from the knee injury, and therefore the competition along the interior defensive line should be interesting to watch this summer.

"Me personally, I ain’t ever worried about any competition, I love competition," Kelly said. "You don’t ever worry about what’s behind you, you worry about what’s in front of you. I’ve always been very confident in myself so I don’t see anybody. I just go out there and play. I let my talent take over and I’ll be OK.

"It’s been positive. At the end of the day they’re looking out for your best interest. I’m a vet, I want to get out on the field, I’m the type of guy that I can’t roll out of bed and my game is going to be great. I have to go out there every day and work on my hands, work on my get-out, work on my explosion, read my keys. I’m the type of guy that loves practice."

At least now he’s back on the practice field. Now it’s a matter of doing more while he’s there.

Dennard off PUP

Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard made his way off PUP and was in full uniform for practice on Tuesday. Like Kelly, Dennard did not do much in terms of full contact but was able to participate in drills as he makes his way back from offseason shoulder surgery.

The secondary has been arguably been the team’s strength through the early portion of camp. With Darrelle Revis locking down receivers on one side and Brandon Browner showcasing his physical nature on the other, the Patriots cornerbacks have spearheaded that strong play. In addition, Logan Ryan and Kyle Arrington have been locked up in a spirited battle for the top slot position, and both have played well.

With Dennard soon to be added to that depth it will be interesting to see how Bill Belichick decides to use him. Browner appears to be the starter but he’ll be forced to sit out the first four games while serving an NFL suspension, and perhaps he’ll want to get Dennard some work with the top group.

Stork leaves

One of the underrated camp battles could be the fight for the starting job at center. Incumbent Ryan Wendell re-signed as a free agent but the deal isn’t anything that would be impossible for the Patriots to walk away from, and in May the team drafted Florida State standout Bryan Stork in the fourth round.

The 6-4, 320-pound Stork came with great credentials and through the early part of camp he received periodic reps with some of the frontline offensive linemen.

That competition may have been dampened on Tuesday, though, as Stork was forced to leave practice early due to an apparent injury suffered during a drill working on the running game. Stork spent time with the training staff and did not participate for the latter half of the workout.

Stock Watch

Buy: Logan Ryan – The second-year corner has been extremely competitive in his coverage throughout camp and has gotten his hands on a number of passes. On Tuesday he took the majority of reps in the slot as part of the nickel package and seems to have an early leg up on Kyle Arrington for that role.

Sell: Bryan Stork – Through no fault of his own the rookie suffered a setback in his potential bid to earn a starting job at center as he suffered an apparent injury during a drill midway through practice and did not return. If the injury is anything that keeps him off the field for any length of time, his chances of beating out Ryan Wendell are remote.

Play of the Day: Julian Edelman is enjoying a fantastic camp and his best play may have come on Tuesday. He was locked up with Arrington as he tried to make his way to the back corner of the end zone. Arrington likely would have drawn a penalty on the play but Edelman was still able to make a one-handed catch falling to the ground for the touchdown.

Staking their claim

Before practice, Belichick talked about the decision to claim former Panthers running back Tyler Gaffney off waivers on Monday. "He had a real good year last year, went to Stanford, and then was in baseball for a year. I think he’s a good all-around back that we want to work with. He was available and we’ll see how it works out."

Gaffney played one year of minor baseball after being drafted by Pittsburgh in the 24th round in 2012. He returned to Stanford and football last year and was drafted by Carolina in the sixth round in May. He went down with a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee and the Panthers waived him in hopes of putting him on IR, but the Patriots claimed him before they could do so.

Extra points

With Kelly and Dennard off PUP, that list is now down to three: Jeremy Gallon, Matthew Slater and Aaron Dobson (foot). The NFI list remained unchanged with Dominique Easley (ACL), Chris Martin and Deontae Skinner. A couple of veterans missed their first practices of camp on Tuesday. Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui appeared to injure his leg late in Sunday's practice and sat out while Dan Connolly also missed the workout. Marcus Cannon took Connolly’s place at right guard. Rookie Jemea Thomas missed his fourth straight practice with an undisclosed injury. Rookie defensive back Daxton Swanson returned after missing two days, reportedly due to the death of his father. ... Stephen Gostkowski once again made all seven of his field goals to close practice. ... The Patriots will be back at it for their sixth practice of camp on Wednesday starting at 9:45 a.m.