Tom Brady did a lot of talking Friday morning at Patriots training camp.
Figuratively the New England quarterback spoke volumes with his play during a blue vs. white intra-squad scrimmage on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium as Brady was just about perfect leading his team to "victory."
Afterwards Brady spoke with the media for the first time since the aftermath of last January's AFC title loss in Denver, and first time since he ended his appeal of the four-game suspension he'll serve to open the 2016 season.
On the field Brady utilized his weapons – including Chris Hogan, Martellus Bennett, Malcolm Mitchell, James Develin, Matthew Slater and others – to move the ball up and down with relative ease in the pass-heavy battle.
Jimmy Garoppolo led a white squad that included Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Dobson and James White but found little success after a big gain to the All-Pro tight end on the first throw of the day.
In the end the very unofficial score was somewhere in the range of 31-9 in the favor of Brady's blue squad (depending on field goal calls and guys being in bounds or awarded touchdowns), that also had an impressive lineup on defense that included Malcolm Butler, Jamie Collins, Jabaal Sheard, Rob Ninkovich, Devin McCourty and others.
Brady was extremely excited and vocal throughout the morning of work, celebrating often with his teammates while talking some trash to his "opponents."
When he stepped in front of the media, though, Brady was far more reserved and controlled as he answered Deflategate questions for the first time, and maybe final time, this year. That included an opening question on his reasoning for abandoning his appeal after such a long and arduous 18-month process.
View a collection of the best images from Patriots Training Camp in Foxborough on Friday, August 5, 2016.
"It was just a personal decision," Brady said. "I try to come out here and just focus on what I need to do to get better and help our team, and like I said, I'll be excited to be back when I'm back. I'll be cheering our team on and hope we go out and win every game."
Beyond Brady's impressive performance and well-handled media availability, here are one man's blogservations of the fun, exciting scrimmage on the practice fields of Foxborough:
--The list of Patriots on PUP remained unchanged on Friday, a group that continues to include Julian Edelman (foot), Danny Amendola (knee/ankle), Dion Lewis (knee), Sebastian Vollmer, Tre' Jackson (knee) and Clay Harbor. Amendola, Lewis and Jackson were absent from the field altogether.
[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="455811"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]--Hogan took part in the scrimmage fully, wearing a red, non-contact jersey. Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan also continue to work in the jerseys.
--Those players absent from practice on Friday included Donald Brown (hamstring), Bryce Williams, Jonathan Cooper (foot), Bryan Stork (reported concussion), Jonathan Freeny and D.J. Foster. Stork made an appearance on the far end of the field at one point, wearing a helmet and doing some sprints under the watchful eye of trainer Jim Whalen. Foster was on the field in helmet and pads, but did not participate, while Freeny was on the field in sweats and pads but did not take part.
--Players returning to the field in full pads were Mitchell, Keshawn Martin and Nate Washington, although the two veteran receivers didn't seem to do much or take part in the scrimmage. Mitchell returned after one day, although he also missed a day of work last Saturday, and was very active in the scrimmage. The rookie has performed very well over the last week despite the absences.
--Vincent Valentine was the last player on the field, significantly after the rest of his teammates had arrived.
--The scrimmage kicked off with a bang as V'Angelo Bentley's return of the Stephen Gostkowski boot ended with the young returner getting knocked off his feet by Geneo Grissom's coverage. Grissom ran through a block from Shea McClellin, pushing the linebacker back into the return man.
--The white squad was coached by Josh McDaniels, the coordinator calling in the plays on a headset to Garoppolo.
--Matt Patricia was on the blue sideline along with tight ends coach Brian Daboll, who called the plays in for Brady's unit. Unfortunately I didn't note who was calling the defenses for the white squad, which might have actually been the most notable nugget to see who's behind Patricia in the pecking order on that side of the ball.
--Garoppolo's first throw of the day was a pretty toss down the middle for a nice 20-plus-yard gain to Gronkowski who went up to get the strong catch with Patrick Chung and Elandon Roberts in coverage.
--The line working in front of Garoppolo was, from left to right, Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Josh Kline and Marcus Cannon.
--The core of the receiver group working with No. 10 was Chris Harper, Dobson and DeAndre Carter. Garoppolo hit some early short throws/screens to Carter as well as passing back James White.
--Butler had a nice pass defense on an early throw for Dobson. Later, he had perfect coverage twice on deep balls for Carter, just missing the interception down the left sideline on the second one.
--Garoppolo's opening drive ended in a field goal, primarily due to the long connection with Gronkowksi.
--Cyrus Jones and Develin were back deep on the kickoff for the blue squad.
[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="455831"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]--Brady's offense had a line, from left to right, of LaAdrian Waddle, Chris Barker, Ted Karras, Shaq Mason and Cameron Fleming.
--Brady's first throw went to Develin, the fullback spending a lot of time lined up out wide during the scrimmage, at least partly due to the lack of depth at the receiver position given all the injuries at this point. Still, he caught the ball well, earning vocal praise from a scrambling Brady when Develin came back for a sideline reception on one play.
--Brady threw to Hogan next, the first of many completions on the day with the newcomer serving in the driver starter role in many ways with guys like Edelman and Amendola out of action.
--LeGarrette Blount picked up an opening third down with a short run to the left side, running wide in an I-formation with Develin at fullback.
--Brady then threw a couple passes to Brandon Bolden, the latter a deep ball down the right side beating linebacker Kevin Snyder for the touchdown for the early 7-3 lead.
--Interestingly the PAT was from a longer distance than the game-rule 15-yard line as it appeared to be 10 yards further back.
--Garoppolo's second series ended in a punt despite an opening completion to Carter.
--On the punt, Jones was back deep for the blue squad while Vinnie Sunseri served as the personal protector for Ryan Allen's punt.
--The only time that Brady's offense wasn't perfect on the day was when he had to pull the ball down to either "run" or the whistle blew the play dead as a sack. Brady himself seemed annoyed at whistles a couple times, clearly thinking he was on a legitimate scramble.
--Garoppolo's had a second nice completion to a tight end, but not nearly as pretty a connection as his opening throw to Gronkowski. A throw to AJ Derby was tipped by Jordan Richards on the right side in coverage and probably should have been an interception for the second-year safety.
--Gronkowski had a pretty cool play that wowed the fans in attendance, although it brought an end to another drive for the white side. Unfortunately, Patriots media relations rules specifically prohibit reporters from writing about the details of the play in any fashion.
--After getting the ball back, Brady immediately found Bennett for a catch-and-run big play beating Harmon in coverage.
--After a short run by Blount and a pass play with some unique, non-traditional personnel at wide receiver, Brady called a timeout in the third-and-goal situation. After the break he found Hogan for the touchdown in the front right side of the end zone on a pretty quick out cut, badly beating Ryan. Hogan threw the ball in the air in joy and then joined Brady and others for a group sideline celebration as their dominance over the white squad began to snowball.
--The ensuing kickoff resulted in a touchback. Strangely it appeared the ball was placed at the 35-yard line, not the 25 which is the new NFL rule this season.
--After a short completion to Carter, Garoppolo's next throw was right at a couple blue defenders. Lucky for him, it was at the feet of Rob Ninkovich and not high enough for the turnover.
--After another field goal left the score at 14-6 – a dangerous game of field goals by Garoppolo against touchdowns by Brady that many an NFL quarterback has lost over the years – Grissom returned the ensuing squib kickoff. The second-year defensive lineman continues to show the impressive versatility and athleticism that was so much of his resume at Oklahoma, even if he's yet to really show up much on defense.
[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="455841"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]--Soon after, Brady took a shot down the field for a bomb to Slater. The Pro Bowl special teamer got behind the defense to and hauled in the long touchdown as he tumbled into the end zone to close the first half of the scrimmage at 24-6, even though they technically didn't kick the PAT. Some wondered if they actually called Slater for stepping out of bounds before reaching the goal line.
--After the break Hogan got things going again with a pretty, strong-hands catch on a quick slant to ensure that the ball thrown in front of him didn't get by and to a waiting defender.
--A couple plays later Brady looked deep again, this time for Mitchell down the right sideline for the big play. Bill Belichick, who not surprisingly oversaw the officiating of the scrimmage, originally ruled touchdown before respotting the ball for first-and-goal.
[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="455846"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]--With the second life, the defense stood tall to force a field goal, including a would-be sack by Rufus Johnson to force the kick on third down.
--Former Patriots linebacker Don Davis watched the practice from the sideline between the two fields.
--With the offense struggling for the white, McDaniels called for an end-around to Gronkowski that wasn't overly successful. We've seen the tight-end-around from the Patriots in the past, including with Benjamin Watson and Daniel Graham.
--Mitchell made a nice fighting catch on the left side at one point, only to have the reception waived off by an offensive pass interference call to move the ball back for the blue offense, one of its few bad plays on the day.
--The blue offense followed that up with a false start in which multiple offensive linemen appeared to move early on a Brady hard count.
--After the false start helped end the series, Brady walked off talking with his rookie center/guard Karras.
--Brady hit a wide-open Bennett again for a long catch-and-run gain after a very wide play-action fake, something the quarterbacks have worked on with regularity early this summer.
--In the latter part of the scrimmage Garoppolo tried to find Gronkowski deep down the right numbers, despite the tight end being closely covered by the trio of Ramon Humber, Chung and McCourty.
--E.J. Biggers had a nice, emphatic pass defense on a Garoppolo throw intended for Dobson.
--Garoppolo's final throw of the day – the final play of the scrimmage – was batted at the line and then hauled in by Jamie Collins for the interception.
--Rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett did not take any reps in the scrimmage, though he was standing the white sideline the entire time.
--Brady took his pads off and ran over to meet with the media after practice. After the press conference, he ran back on the field, put his pads and helmet back on and took part in a bucket drill battle with Garoppolo. Today the garbage can was in the back, right corner of the end zone. Working from different distances, Garoppolo actually seemed to hit it more often and put some in for the big score. The barrel was actually moved to just outside the back, right pylon later in the game. That's probably a more realistic setting for a corner throw by a quarterback in terms of where the ball would be aimed to hit an actual receiver, with hands, in a game setting.
--After the bucket drill, Brady did his usual extra work including tethered running.
--Players meeting with the media included Brady, Gronkowski, McCourty, Derby, Steven Scheu and others.
--The Patriots will be off on Saturday, returning to the practice on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. for the first afternoon session of camp.