Bill Belichick may be trying to manage training camp practice to keep his veteran team from wearing down and aggravating any minor bumps and bruises.
With a veteran dominated club, there is less need to push the players to the brink in July and August and break them down to the point where you may not have them healthy in November and December. Also, to the players' credit, the tempo of the practices has been high whether the team has been in pads or not, another benefit of an older team.
Wednesday morning, Belichick kept his club honest with a physical, full-pads morning workout that featured some intense one-on-one work, and featured the running game, and goal line work.
While the Patriots defense has probably had an upper hand during camp, the offense dominated goal line play. Of course, the first units never went head-to-head, but Antowain Smith scored on both of his attempts from the 2-yard line and J.R. Redmond did the same. Smith's first score came on the type of second effort seen many times throughout 2001 and the type that makes him an effective goal line runner.
When the first defense came in, it immediately stuffed Patrick Pass before allowing quarterback Rohan Davey to find fellow rookie Daniel Graham in the corner of the end zone off a play-action fake. Davey actually connected with Graham for two scores during the session, but in between, running back Walter Williams was swallowed up behind the line of scrimmage.
During the initial team portion of practice, the running game was a focus and after Smith barreled through a big whole on the right side of the line for a nice gain, the defense tightened up. The coaches always scream for the players to stay on their feet to avoid injury and on one play, diminutive wide receiver Jimmy Farris pushed down defensive lineman Bobby Hamilton, who was moving laterally across the line of scrimmage to string out a run. Hamilton was caught up in some bodies and a few linemen went down. He then stood up and grabbed Farris, who didn't back down, despite his size disadvantage. Cooler heads prevailed, however, as the scuffle didn't escalate.
Later in that series Farris caught a beautifully thrown bomb down the right sideline from Damon Huard over Tony Scott.
The early segments of every practice focus on fundamentals and walk-through instruction before one-on-one drill augment that work. The wide receivers squared off with cornerbacks and safeties and the offense was able to hit some deep balls during the session. Rohan Davey hit Troy Brown over Ty Law's solid coverage in what was a fine throw and catch. Brady hit rookie wideout David Givens for a deep touchdown over Darryl Porter and Huard hooked up on a deep touchdown to Deion Branch with Brock Williams in coverage.
Watching the offensive and defensive linemen square off in pass rushing work is always fun and the Patriots offensive linemen held their own during that segment.
Onside kick return and regular kick return were the special teams focus for the day as well as the "may day" field goal in which a short pass sets up a field goal situation with the clock ticking and no timeout available to stop it. Adam Vinatieri missed wide left on his first attempt at the narrow goal posts, but drilled his next two down the middle.
There was little change on the injury front, but wide receiver Donald Hayes was back in pads and safety Antwan Harris shed his red jersey, clearing him for contact after Belichick called him out Tuesday for still wearing the no-contact shirt.