What a difference a day makes. After opening camp with a glorified walk-through on Thursday, the Patriots slapped on the pads and ushered in 2004 training camp with a more conventional workout Friday morning.
Several players remained in various states of dress, as Bill Belichick put it on Thursday, but those who suited up were put through the paces at 100 percent. Among the highlights was some spirited one-on-one work pitting the offensive line against the defensive line, a physical drill with the gunners taking on vise guys and even a short goal line period toward the end of practice.
"We have things moving at a lot faster pace out there today," Belichick said. "We had a lot of contact work out there this morning in the running game and to a certain extent the passing game. It was good to see everybody moving around and getting the contact started. I think we have started moving forward hopefully at a pretty good pace."
In addition to the start of physical play, the Patriots also found some time to work on the finesse game. Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis had to be pleased by what appeared to be a relatively proficient passing game, led of course by Tom Brady. The top dog looked to be in mid-camp form, delivering the ball sharply and crisply throughout the morning.
But of more interest to many given Brady's security was the play of the backups. Rohan "Hog" Davey, Kliff Kingsbury and Kurt Kittner all got plenty of work as well. Davey, who gets the nickname because he's sporting a red quarterback jersey with Hall of Fame guard John Hannah's No. 73 on it, looked to be getting the reps with the second group behind Brady. Kingsbury and Kittner got less action on offense but threw the ball well in drills.
Kingsbury actually came up with the play of the day when he connected with David Patten deep down the right sideline for a would-be touchdown. Patten got behind veteran safety Je'Rod Cherry during the drill and Kingsbury's high-arcing pass landed softly in his hands some 40 yards downfield.
But the focus of the muggy morning was the banging. Veteran guard Joe Andruzzi smothered newcomer Dwight Johnson during the linemen battles. A few plays later, one of the more interesting matchups came when Keith Traylor and Dan Koppen went head-to-head. Traylor got the better of it, pushing the center well into the backfield with a bull rush before tossing him aside.
The special teams work, particularly with the speed guys on the outside, isn't generally the most physical action. While those players expend a tremendous amount of energy trying to block and defeat blocks, the physical toll it takes isn't usually noticeable during camp.
But that wasn't the case Friday when Cherry, Bethel Johnson, David Patten and rookies Dexter Reid, P.K. Sam, Christian Morton and Randall Gay took turns torturing each other. Johnson and Cherry hooked up a coupled of times and wound up on the ground, as did Sam. Morton had to leave the drill at one point when he was shaken up, although no official word was given on his status.
The best was saved for last as the goal line drill is always one of the highlights of camp. Dan Klecko, lining up at inside linebacker, stormed into the backfield on the first play and wrapped up Michael Cloud for a loss. Cloud was subbing for Corey Dillon, who skipped the session after limping out of the lineup during an earlier drill. On the next play, Brady used a pay action fake and found David Givens open in the right flat for a touchdown.
Several frontline players did not take part in the workout. Some are nursing injuries while others were given some time off based on their participation in the offseason program. Among those not taking part in practice were starters Matt Light, Tom Ashworth, Willie McGinest and Roman Phifer.
With so many regulars out of action, the door was open for several less experienced players to get time with the starters. The offensive line consisted of Koppen at center with Joe Andruzzi and Russ Hochstein at guard – the normal starters inside – with fill-ins Adrian Klemm at left tackle and Brandon Gorin at right tackle. Newcomer James "Big Cat" Williams rotated in at right tackle with the first and second groups.
Second-year outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain saw an increase in playing time on defense. In addition to McGinest and Phifer, Matt Chatham and Rosevelt Colvin also sat out practice, leaving Mike Vrabel as the only regular outside linebacker dressed. Banta-Cain joined him with the first unit and didn't look out of place, particularly defending a screen pass during the team period.
Davey drew a lot of attention during the first two day of camp with his No. 73 jersey, but he wouldn't bite when asked why he was missing his traditional No. 6. "It's no problem," the quarterback said. "It's just something me and coach [Belichick] have going on."
Davey admitted that when he returned from Europe in June he didn't initially make his required weight, which some speculated was the reason for him wearing a number usually reserved for a lineman. But Davey said the number had nothing to do with that and his weight was not an issue as camp began. He wouldn't elaborate any further but did admit to enjoying wearing such a storied number in Patriots annals, adding that "hopefully some of [Hannah's] luck will rub off on me. He turned out all right."
Perhaps with all the attention Davey drew from his performance as the NFL Europe MVP, Belichick decided to issue him the Hall of Famer's number as a way to keep him grounded. Judging from the smile that came across Davey's face when presented with that scenario, it may not be all that far-fetched. Belichick would only support Davey's claim that it was between him and the quarterback.
The Patriots punt team got some work in late in the morning with undrafted free agents Grant Steen and Brian Sawyer filling in for Lonie Paxton (knee) as the long snapper. New punter Josh Miller unleashed more than a few bombs during the session. Interestingly, Troy Brown did not handle any of the kicks. Instead, the trio of Terrell Buckley, Tyrone Poole and Deion Branch rotated throughout and none mishandled a single punt. … James Fuller, the offensive coordinator for the Arena League's Philadelphia Soul, will be part of the Patriots coaching staff throughout the summer as part of the NFL's minority coaching program. The Soul is owned by Belichick's close friend Jon Bon Jovi. … Several players left the practice fields periodically to do some work in the field house. Light, Ashworth, Paxton, Chatham, Christian Fauria and Kevin Faulk all spent time indoors during the morning. … Jim Miller, who isn't expected to be ready for action for at least another month as he recovers from shoulder surgery, was on the field and joined the four other quarterbacks. He spent the bulk of the practice working on conditioning. … An interesting sight in the stands was a fan wearing an old Patriots jersey with Curtis Martin's No. 28 on it, but with a twist. The fan placed a piece of white tape over the name and wrote DILLON in its place.