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Monday Patriots practice observations

Posted Aug 12, 2013

New England got back to practice Monday afternoon, a day before the team will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for joint work.

FOXBOROUGH -- Following a day off on Sunday to recover from last week’s work with and against the Eagles, the Patriots returned to the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium for a two-plus hour workout Monday afternoon.

The practice action took place in helmets, shells and shorts, and didn’t lead to the most active, competitive workout of camp. That makes sense with the Patriots coming off a week of pretty intense work with the Eagles, including last Friday night’s preseason opener.

Add in the fact that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers arrive in town on Tuesday for another series of what should be pretty physical, competitive workouts, and it’s quite logical that Monday’s work was one of the more bland sessions of camp.

Maybe the biggest news of the day was that backup quarterback Ryan Mallett was back on the field and a full participant, this after leaving Friday night’s game in Philadelphia in the second quarter with what was announced by the Patriots as a head injury. Mallett downplayed the injury in his postgame comments– saying he simply got hit in the chest and that his head was fine – and certainly seemed to be under no limitations or worse for the wear on Monday.

Beyond that, here are one man’s observations from the sunny, warm practice fields:

--Six players were not dressed for/seen at the workout. That included Mark Harrison (foot), Marcus Cannon, Jason Vega, Rob Gronkowski (arm/back), Jermaine Cunningham and Armond Armstead (infection).

Vega is a new addition to the list of injuries, as he saw action on Friday night against the Eagles and had not previously missed practice time.

Gronkowski was on the field in shorts and a t-shirt, watching the workout.

Harrison was in shorts and did his usual running/rehab work on the Revs practice field.

A number of other players were in jersey and helmet, but did not participate fully in the workout. That included Michael Jenkins (leg), Kevin Haslam, Tyronne Green, Ras I-Dowling and Alfonzo Dennard. It was the first time we’d seen Dowling in more than a week.

Dan Connolly, as is normally the case, was dressed but didn’t participate fully. Much like other practice days he took some pre-practice walk-through reps, but didn’t do much after that he.

Previously injured players Nate Ebner, Markus Zusevics and James Develin returned to practice.

Devin McCourty continues to wear a red, non-contact jersey.

Connolly and Zusevics actually did some extra conditioning work while the team segment was going on late in practice. Niko Koutouvides joined in with them for good measure.

--May be worth noting that when the snappers and holders took some reps together before practice, incumbents Danny Aiken and Zoltan Mesko worked tougher while rookies Mike Zupancic and Ryan Allen were paired up. Stephen Gostkowski did some faux kicks with the Mesko group.

--Chad O’Shea and the wide receivers broke out another drill early in practice, This one involved the pass catchers running shallow crossing routes behind three evenly spaced tall tackling dummies. The receivers then caught passes in each of the open windows between the tall bags.

--A DirectTV blimp flew over the practice fields during the session.

--The Patriots made a minor roster move on Monday, releasing rookie free agent tight end Brandon Ford and signing young journeyman cornerback LeQuan Lewis. Ford had missed practice last week and the preseason opener with an unknown injury. Lewis played in eight games last season with the Cowboys and Buccaneers. He entered the league with the Titans as a rookie free agent out of Arizona State in 2011. Lewis is wearing No. 35 and took part in practice on Monday.

--While most players were in shorts and short sleeve shirts, Brandon Spikes was in full-length undershirt and pants.

--During some early team work on defense, McCourty took reps at right cornerback. He then bumped back to safety for the rest of the practice, including team action against the top offense late in the workout.

--When McCourty was at safety Kyle Arrington handled the bulk of the reps at right cornerback while veteran Marquice Cole did the bulk of the work with that group in the slot in nickel situations.

--Tom Brady and Danny Amendola had a number of nice hookups on the day, including a nice deep crossing pattern group action. Amendola continues to show some pretty impressive speed and the ability to make some plays down the field.

--Logan Ryan and Justin Green took the reps at left and right cornerback, respectively, with the second unit defense.

--Daniel Fells had another strong day catching the football. The seemingly overlooked veteran once again displayed soft hands all over the field. He also showed strong hands by taking a ball away from Tavon Wilson for a touchdown from Brady.

--Zach Sudfeld also had another impressive day, catching passes from both Brady and Mallett.

--Haslam, Green, Dennard and Dowling all rode stationary bikes for a while late in practice.

--During kickoff return action Leon Washington and Shane Vereen were the first group of returners. They were followed by Matthew Slater and LeGarrette Blount.

--While Stephen Gostkowski went one for three on field goal attempts with just he, the snapper and holder from 45-ish on the side field, including one that hit the uprights, he was much better with the pressure on. He was good from 50-plus yards on a pair of kicks to cap drives in the team action.

--During some nickel situations, Marcus Benard came on the field as an extra rusher along with Cole at cornerback. The pair replaced Brandon Spikes and Dont’a Hightower.

--Blount put on a very impressive performance in the preseason game action on Friday night, but he continues to struggle catching the football. The big back clearly does not have natural hands and if he does make the team won’t likely be an option too often in the passing game.

--The quarterbacks did a drill at one point where one of the passers stop in the middle of a ring of seven pass catchers. The passer rotated to work on their footwork and then had to locate and throw to a receiver that called for the ball. They worked the drill in both directions, clockwise and counterclockwise.

--Robert Kraft walked onto the field midway through the workout and watched much of the practice.

--Tim Tebow took some extra reps throwing to Jenkins on the far field during some downtime.

--Amendola eventually made a nice, one-handed catch with his left hand on a short throw from Brady that he tipped to himself. Of course he probably should have caught the ball the first time.

--Josh McDaniels continues to experiment with various combinations in the backfield. He’s used fullbacks, tight ends and even wide receivers together in the backfield at times. We’ve seen Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen at times. Monday a look included Blount with Brandon Bolden.

--Aqib Talib had a nice pass defense on a Mallett throw intended for Fells in the red zone.

--Zupancic and Allen did the snapping and holding for Gostkowski’s long field goal attempts during the team segment of practice.

--Gostkowski also did a pooch punt attempt on a long field goal attempt. Scott O’Brien had to remind his field goal team to run down and cover the kick near the goal line.

--Many of the young players put on shoulder pads for a segment of “opportunity” reps late in practice. Tebow was the quarterback for the offense in the drill, with Brian Daboll watching closely. Josh Boyer seemed to call in the defenses from the sideline for that side of the ball.

--Interesting to keep an eye on the playing time and reps for tight end/fullback Michael Hoomanawanui. The veteran played portions of the entire game on Friday night and then was out on the practice field with pads on for the “opportunity” reps.

--Brady hit Jake Ballard for a nice completion down the middle in team action late. The only problem was that Bill Belichick called the tight end for a false start. The veteran was sent for a penalty lap while the rest of the offense ran the play again.

--Brandon Jones had a nice break on a Tebow pass in the “opportunity” reps for the interception. On the next snap Tebow threw well low and behind Quentin Sims, although the pair did connect on a nice deep ball for a touchdown down the left sideline later.

--Brady took some extra reps with Amendola on the other field while the “opportunity” reps were going on.

--Brady, Mallett and Tebow did some extra conditioning running together after practice. Tebow still had his pads on at that point, but still found a way to out stride the other passers to win each sprint.

--Kyle Arrington celebrated his 27th birthday, although there were no signs or singing from the crowd.

--Talib, Ballard, Rob Ninkovich, Tommy Kelly and a few other players met with the media after practice.

--The Patriots return to the practice field from 2-4:30 pm on Tuesday for joint practice work with the Buccaneers in advance of Friday night’s second preseason game between the two teams at Gillette.

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The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on the PFW Blog represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the New England Patriots organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Patriots officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.

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