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Patriots return to Foxborough for 'big week'

Posted Aug 12, 2013

New England holds a training camp practice before welcoming the Tampa Bay Bucs for three days of joint sessions.

Rookie punter Ryan Allen has been “very competitive” in camp thus far, as head coach Bill Belichick noted in pre-practice remarks to the media. Allen, a two-time Ray Guy Award winner in college, has so far lived up to his impressive credentials, giving veteran incumbent Zoltan Mesko a run for his money.

Ryan has shown a strong leg at times, booting high, arching spirals on his deep punts and working to perfect his plus-50 kicks landing inside the 20-yard line.

“I think he’s had a solid spring and training camp. It’s a competitive situation,” Belichick declared. “He does a lot of good things. Like everybody, we’re all striving for more consistency.”

One area where Allen is still trying to gain his footing, so to speak, is as a holder for place kicks. He had not done so before coming to New England, but against Philadelphia in the preseason opener and in recent practices, he’s been given more and more chances to show what he can do there as well. That job, too, has belonged to Mesko the past few seasons.

“It’s actually been great,” Allen said of his new opportunity to hold. “I’ve been able to learn from Zoltan and picks some tips up from Steve [Gostkowski, the placekicker] and [special teams] Coach [Scott] O’Brien.”

“I think that’s been OK,” added Belichick. “He needs more experience in working with Danny [Aiken, the long snapper] and Steve. I don’t think we’re there yet, but he’s doing alright.”

Moving on to Tampa

New England’s Monday practice was the first in a week’s time that the team held on its own. After three days in Philadelphia last week, the Patriots will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for three joint sessions starting on Tuesday.

“This is another big week for us,” Belichick told reporters. “We had a good week down there with Philadelphia. Today is a day we can work on some things ourselves and try to get a few loose ends tied up which we need to do then start tomorrow with three good days against Tampa. That should be another good experience for our team; good opportunity for us to do a lot different things and see somebody new.”

Before the Patriots could put the Eagles week behind them, reporters wanted to get Belichick’s reaction to an incident at Philly’s NovaCare Complex last Tuesday. In the first joint practice with the Eagles, rookie receiver Aaron Dobson got into a violent shoving match with Philadelphia veteran corner Cary Williams. Both players were benched for the remainder of practice, and Williams later admitted starting the fight for a particular reason.

Williams told The Philadelphia Inquirer that the Patriots had been practicing “dirty,” and Williams wanted to send them a message that the Eagles wouldn’t tolerate it.

“I don’t know. I didn’t even see it,” Belichick claimed.

When pressed further, the head coach stated flatly, “We’ve moved on. We’re welcoming Tampa.”

Positive signs

New England had been practicing recently without the services of at least a dozen players who’d missed several sessions. On Monday, however, a number of them were back in uniform and on the field, although in a mostly limited capacity. Wide receiver Michael Jenkins, cornerback Ras-I Dowling, and safety Nate Ebner suited up for the first time since Aug. 2, guard Tyronne Green since Aug. 3, and Kevin Haslam since the first of August.

In addition, backup QB Ryan Mallett, who left the Philly game prematurely with what was announced as a head injury, took part in all of practice and seemed no worse for the wear. Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, injured during the week in Philadelphia, missed the game last Friday, but was back on a limited basis Monday. Fullback James Develin apparently was held out of the Eagles game as a healthy scratch, but hadn’t missed any practice time prior to that. He was on the field as well Monday and took part fully.

One injured player wasn’t so lucky, however. Rookie tight end Brandon Ford suffered an unknown injury in the first Philadelphia joint practice and wasn’t seen the rest of the week. He was waived/injured Monday. In his place, the Patriots signed veteran cornerback LeQuan Lewis, a journeyman who last was with Chicago this offseason.

Stock Watch

Buy: Will Svitek – Normally a tackle, this free agent pickup has been thrust into the starting right guard role after injuries to four other players at that spot. Svitek has drawn praise from head coach Bill Belichick for his play at guard and tackle, both of which he played against Philadelphia in the preseason opener.

Sell: Marcus Cannon – On a day when three of those aforementioned injured o-linemen returned to practice (albeit on a limited basis), third-year man Cannon remains on the shelf. He’s not been seen on the field since July 30.

Play of the Day: During 11-on-11 action, wide receiver Danny Amendola ran a crossing pattern toward the left sideline. Tom Brady fired a pass to him as Amedola reached the left hash marks, but the ball was way behind Amendola. The receiver reached back with his left arm and made contact with the ball. It bounced straight up, and as Amendola’s momentum carried him forward, he tipped the ball again. Safety Devin McCourty came rushing in to try to make the interception, but Amendola tipped the ball a third time over McCourty’s head and finally secured it on its way down with his left hand. The one-handed grab received the loudest cheers from the crowd of spectators on hand to witness it.