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Tommy Kelly returns, Pats send birthday wishes and other Day 3 blogservations

Posted Jul 26, 2014

The pads came on for the first time in training camp and the physicality was on the rise.

For the first time this summer the Patriots donned full pads for their third workout of training camp, which took place under mostly sunny skies with comfortable temperatures in the low-80s.

The practice marked the return of defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, who opened camp on PUP but was back on the field wearing shoulder pads and helmet while in shorts. He took part in the practice on a limited basis, working in drills and as part of the field goal block team but didn’t seem to take any reps that involved full contact.

The first weekend workout of camp also brought out the fans as 13,819 diehards packed the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. Among those in attendance was 6-year-old Danny Nickerson of Foxborough. Nickerson is suffering from an inoperable brain tumor and recently became an Internet sensation when he received about 100,000 birthday cards from well-wishers from across the globe.

Robert Kraft met with him and invited him to training camp, which ultimately concluded on Saturday when the team serenaded him with a rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

As for the practice, as expected the physicality was turned up with an emphasis on the running game, and here are one man’s various blogservations on Day 3 of Patriots training camp:

-With Kelly back in action, the PUP list is down to four: Aaron Dobson (foot), Matthew Slater, Jeremy Gallon and Alfonzo Dennard (shoulder). The NFI list remained the same with Dominique Easley (ACL), Chris Martin and Deontae Skinner all remaining out of action.

In addition, rookie defensive back Jemea Thomas missed his second straight day with an undisclosed injury. He was joined by wide receiver Greg Orton, who was carted off the field yesterday after appearing to suffer a leg/knee injury, and defensive back Daxton Swanson on the injured list.

Dennard and Dobson spent a lot of time riding exercise bikes behind the south end zone while many of the others players out of uniform were spotted in doing various rehab work.

-In an interesting pre-practice routine, Tom Brady and Ryan Mallett seemed to be racing one another during the warmups that take place as part of the team’s calisthenics. Neither is known as a speed demon but perhaps the quarterbacks had something on the line as part of their competition, which took place on at least two occasions. For the record it appeared that each won a rep.

-A couple of mild surprises have been among the defensive players opening during team work. Sealver Siliga, who emerged as a quality run-stopper a year ago late in the season, continues to line up at defensive tackle alongside Vince Wilfork. Obviously Kelly is just getting back in the swing of things and Easley has yet to take part in camp, but Siliga seems to be ahead of Joe Vellano and Chris Jones, who each worked in with the next group.

Meanwhile Tavon Wilson took the spot next to Devin McCourty at safety early in practice during 7-on-7 and team work. Wilson had that job on Thursday as well before Patrick Chung took most of the reps on Friday. Duron Harmon was part of the group during the latter half of practice when the Patriots ran their second period of full 11-on-11 work.

-Stevan Ridley donned a pair of red, white and blue camouflage-type cleats. He seems to break out a new pair every day, although we haven’t seen the Batman version since opening day.

-With the pads on and the running game in focus, it was interesting to watch some of the newcomers. Tight end Justin Jones, who at 6-8, 275 is an imposing figure, more than held his own locking up with Chandler Jones on a couple of half-line running drills. Jones appeared to have good leverage and was able to keep Jones from getting outside his body and therefore was able to contain the athletic pass rusher.

-During 9-on-7 drills the offensive line reverted back to the group that opened the 2013 season together – from left to right it was Nate Solder, Logan Mankins, Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly and Sebastian Vollmer. Josh Kline continues to work in at guard with the rest of that group.

-One interesting facet of camp every year is watching the various drills the coaches employ. It seems the staff comes up with something different each summer and the receivers, quarterbacks and defensive backs joined forces for one I don’t remember seeing – at least not this version. The quarterbacks dropped back and took some shots with pads from ball boys and were forced to scramble. At the same time the receivers worked back toward the quarterback while being double covered, allowing the wideouts some practice in an improvise situation while the DBs got some work on containing their receivers in the open field.

-Tight ends coach Brian Daboll stood behind Rob Gronkowski and Brandon Bolden and dropped footballs over their heads. The receivers looked straight ahead and only saw the ball when it passed their line of vision, therefore making it challenging to catch it. Gronkowski handled virtually all of his flawlessly but Bolden had a difficult time reacting quickly enough. Gronkowski, incidentally, was in full pads but remains limited to individual drills against air.

-The special teams segments involved the kickoff team, and the second group included an interesting name: Darrelle Revis. He took several reps covering Stephen Gostkowski’s kickoffs, perhaps setting himself up as the NFL’s all-time highest-paid special teams performer. Three undrafted rookies, running back Roy Finch, defensive back Travis Hawkins and wide receiver Derrick Johnson, all took reps returning the kicks. Punter Ryan Allen took a couple of reps punting the ball away off a free kick as well.

-The 1-on-1 matchups between the offensive and defensive linemen are always fun to monitor, but unfortunately they took place on the far side of the field away from the media. Among those we caught, Kline did a great job controlling Chris Jones, and rookie Cameron Fleming handled Michael Buchanan on another rep. Rob Ninkovich appeared to get the corner on Vollmer, and Chandler Jones also had some success rushing off the edge.

-The wideouts and defensive backs got their chance to go at each other in 1-on-1 drills. Darrelle Revis is impressive to watch in this setting, particularly when covering anyone trying to run an out route. He was easily inside Julian Edelman and picked off a Brady pass on one rep. Logan Ryan also had a strong performance going against Danny Amendola three times. He picked one pass off and forced two incompletions with tight coverage on the other two. Edelman had his way with Brandon Browner on one play but Browner bounced back with a couple of strong reps later. Josh Boyce and Malcolm Butler locked up a couple of times with each having some success. Later Edelman completely baffled Butler on a back shoulder fade in which the rookie fell down trying to stop short along the sideline.

-Kenbrell Thompkins fell awkwardly trying to make a catch down the left sideline and appeared to be shaken up. He was looked at briefly by the medical staff but popped back on his feet and took part fully in the practice the rest of the way.

-There was also some hard-to-view goal line work done later in practice that featured some of the most physical work of the day. The highlight of those reps involved fullback/tight end James Develin and linebacker Dont’a Hightower. The two teamed up for a couple of memorable clashes with the pad-knocking clearly audible across the field. Ridley was able to squirt into the end zone off left tackle behind blocks from Develin and Michael Hoomanawanui, but James White didn’t fare as well when he tried his luck on the other side on the next two plays.

-For the second straight day rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was forced to run a penalty lap, this time for fumbling a snap from Bryan Stork during the goal line drill. Stork joined him on the lap.

-Gostkowski once again closed practice by making all seven of his field goals, ranging in distance from roughly 27 to 45 yards. The veteran is now 21-of-21 on his kicks at the end of practice.

-The Patriots will be back at it and in full pads once again on Sunday with practice set to begin at 9:15 a.m. Player personnel director Nick Caserio will kick things off with a press conference at 9 a.m. inside the press box.

Blogservations from Patriots training camp, Day 2>>

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