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Blogservations Day 3: Patriots hit the goal line

A couple Mike Gillislee goal line touchdown runs highlighted the first day of full-pads practice in Foxborough.

Check out our favorite photos from Patriots Training Camp at Gillette Stadium on Saturday, July 29, 2017.

While the quarterbacks, receivers and defensive backs have been putting forth pretty competitive work in the passing game for months during spring and summer practice action, it's impossible to really get a good look at the running game working out in shorts.

But that's not a problem anymore, as Bill Belichick's Patriots put on the pads Saturday morning on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. That means full-contact is now an option for the rest of training camp as the coach and his staff work toward game action and figuring out various battles at spots where contact is a clear requirement.

As Belichick predicated a day earlier, real training camp is now finally underway.

And there may be no better example of what pads and full-contact work offer than running plays on the goal line.

The huge crowd of fans in attendance got a taste of the goal line work late in practice, including an early glimpse of restricted-free agent running back addition Mike Gillislee twice punching the ball into the end zone as he looks to fill the void created when LeGarrette Blount took his franchise-record 18 touchdowns with him to Philadelphia.

Gillislee looked quick and decisive on his two scores, the first coming right up the A gap and the other following fullback James Develin's hellacious block off left tackle.

Overall the first practice of the year in full pads wasn't quite as energetic or physical as might be expected, but Gillislee and the rest of the goal line offense's work was a good appetizer taste of what's on the menu in the coming days and weeks.

The pads are on. Training camp and the battles that it entails are finally very much underway.

Beyond Gillislee's goal line work, here are one man's blogservations from the unseasonably chilly practice fields of Foxborough:

--A day after hot, sunny conditions left some players cramping, the first day of pads took place under cloudy skies and chilly temperatures. An occasional breeze kept things well into the low 60s.

--PUPers LB Dont'a Hightower and DT Alan Branch remained in sweats and spent most of the practice doing rehab work on the lower practice field, far from the eyes of fans and media.

--NFI rookie T Andrew Jelks also remained in sweats and did rehab work on the lower field.

--LS Joe Cardona was on the practice field in full pads and did his normal snapping duties after missing the first two days of action, reportedly due to his Navy commitments.

--After missing Friday's practice, WRs Danny Amendola and Malcolm Mitchell were on the field in full pads but did not take part in the session. After early pre-practice work and stretching the pair retreated to the lower field for rehab work.

--Rookie defensive back David Jones was also in full pads but did not take part. A day after appearing to suffering a lower body injury that left him limping off the field, Jones also spent the bulk of Saturday doing rehab work on the lower field.

--DE Rob Ninkovich was absent for the third straight day to open camp for what Belichick has said are "personal reasons."

--The group of linemen working on center-exchanges with the quarterbacks in pre-practice work included David Andrews, Joe Thuney, Ted Karras, Cole Croston, James Ferentz, Jamil Douglas and Jason King.


--Celtics coach Brad Stevens walked onto the practice field with Belichick and watched the entirety of the workout from between the two fields. Stevens spent some time early in practice chatting with Patriots Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio. He then walked off the field afterwards with both Caserio and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

--Just hours before his induction into the Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon, legendary Patriots cornerback Ray Clayborn was on the field watching the workout. He was joined by a large group of Patriots Hall of Famers that included Mike Haynes, Kevin Faulk, John Hannah (wearing a cowboy hat) and others sporting their red, Hall jackets. Belichick had the entire group of Hall of Famers meet with the team at the conclusion of the practice.

--For the second straight day Kenny Chesney's "Boys of Fall" was the first song that played over the speakers as New England did its pre-practice stretching/running.

--Tom Brady got his usual huge ovation from the crowd as he walked onto the practice field. Backup tackle LaAdrian Waddle also got to the field at the same time and the big man had some fun by jokingly acknowledging the crowd with waves like the cheers had been for him.

--Running back Brandon Bolden jogged off the field and down the steps back into Gillette Stadium early in practice. He didn't appear to be injured and was alone.

-The defensive backs once again used the boxing sparring gloves/pads early in practice in work at the line of scrimmage against the wide receivers.

--Kony Ealy was in full pads and did a bit more work in his second practice of the summer. Unfortunately that included one really tough 1-on-1 pass rush rep in which James O'Shaughnessy essentially pancaked the pass rusher to the ground. O'Shaughnessy is one of the sleeper positive performers early in camp. The trade addition has shown soft hands and impressive route running early on and looks ready to be more than just a special teams contributor as a possible third tight end.

--Both Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise Jr., the team's defensive end draft picks, had to do laps during the 1-on-1 pass rush drills. Wise Jr. did another lap later, and both times the rookie practically sprinted, easily the fastest penalty lap in recent memory.

--With Cardona back, both kicker Stephen Gostkowski and Ryan Allen finally had a chance to get some reps working with the long snapper. Gostkowski kicked on the side field for a while and then finished things up late with some full-team PAT and field goal reps.

--Much of the special teams segments of practice focused on the punt team. For his part, Allen had a really tough day in his first punting of the summer. He shanked a number of kicks, including one that actually landed many rows up into the bleachers on his right side.


--Something not seen before, Gostkowski appeared to record each of Allen's punt reps with a tablet.

--The first real popping of the pads on the morning came with some half-line work in the running game on the far end of the field.

--Gostkowski rode the exercise bike between the two fields at various points, staying loose in the chilly temps.

--Julian Edelman dropped a punt from Allen in group work, something you don't see very often.

--Interesting that rookie punt returner and defensive back Will Likely was not wearing a knee brace for the first day of work in full pads. Likely suffered a torn ACL last fall at Maryland and had been wearing a brace throughout much of the spring and early summer.

--As he did without pads, Gillislee once again showed the ability to catch the ball. So far it looks like the only running back who isn't overly comfortable catching the ball is undrafted Iowa rookie LeShun Daniels, the biggest back in the group.

--During some 1-on-1 work James White toasted Devin McCourty for an easy catch on an in-cut. Shortly thereafter O'Shaughnessy did the same to Duron Harmon.

--Jordan Richards stayed hot, hauling in his third interception in as many days with a great break and diving catch in coverage of Jacob Hollister in the 1-on-1 work. It was Brady's first interception thrown this summer. On the next snap the defense got another win as competitive undrafted rookie cornerback Kenny Moore II picked off Jacoby Brissett.

--For the offense in the 1-on-1s Chris Hogan shook Malcolm Butler easily, while Brandin Cooks got behind Justin Coleman for a deep ball.

--Hogan and Cooks have developed a habit of celebrating together whenever one makes a catch or big play. They run up to each other and do a jumping hip bump, even if they weren't both on the field for the play. It's a good sign that Cooks is fitting in so well making plays and within his position group.

--During punt work Matthew Slater and Coleman took the first reps at gunner. Nate Ebner as the personal protector. Rex Burkhead also took reps in front of Allen.

--Trey Flowers was handled easily by Nate Solder in a 1-on-1 pass rush rep. Waddle then took care of business against Geneo Grissom. Rivers beat fellow rookie Conor McDermott, while Wise struggled against Max Rich and then took one of his speedy laps.

--Caleb Kidder also took a lap.

--A plane towing a sign for a frozen burger company flew over practice. In the breezy conditions it almost looked like the plane was struggling to keep going while towing the large sign. But it thankfully made it over and beyond without apparent incident.

--After allowing a short completion to Cooks, Stephon Gilmore shoved the receiver to the ground while wearing his boxing gloves in team action.

--The early reps of team action included a defensive line of LDE Grissom, DT Lawrence Guy, DT Malcom Brown and RDE Flowers. Butler and Gilmore were at corner, McCourty, Harmon and Patrick Chung at safety with Kyle Van Noy and David Harris at linebacker.

--Brady completed a nice pass to Hogan on a spot throw down the field in the 11-on-11 work, beating zone coverage with Gilmore and Chung in the area.


--Brady then completed a pass down the hashes to Edelman on a flea flicker, though Van Noy was right there in coverage. The linebacker has been pretty impressive in his coverage early in camp, showing his versatility and athleticism.

--Garoppolo had a throw early in the team action that fell to the grass in ugly fashion. Tough to tell who the bad ball was actually intended for.

--Garoppolo did hit a deep ball score to Cooks. The ball was a bit underthrown but not enough to allow Ebner or Harmon to make the play.

--Garoppolo hit Rob Gronkowski crossing despite decent coverage from Richards. The All-Pro then turned up field and sprinted toward the end zone. Linebacker Elandon Roberts chased the whole way and tried to punch the ball out. The second-year thumper certainly puts his all into every play and goes down fighting feistily.

--The first offensive line to take reps in the team action included LT Solder, LG Thuney, C Andrews, RG Shaq Mason and RT Marcus Cannon.

--On one team rep on the goal line Solder worked as a blocking tight end on the right side, announced as eligible to the defense by Belichick, with Cameron Fleming actually lining up at left tackle.

--Harmon went down awkwardly defending a pass in the end zone. Immediately trainers and medical staff came on to check the safety's right knee. He limped off under his own power and watched the rest of the day's action. But he didn't appear to be limping too badly after practice and stayed on the field for an extended time talking to family and friends, likely a good sign.

--Brady never lacks for fire, shown again when he turned and screamed toward the defensive sideline after Gillislee punched in his first goal line touchdown.

--Brady locked onto Gronkowski in the low red zone and threw to the big tight end with Richards draped all over him. Gronk got his hands on the ball but the third-year safety made a nice play to knock it away as they fell to the turf.

--Richards has looked solid in the start to his third camp. The safety has really not been able to find playing time on defense over his first two seasons. Of course that will remain difficult for the former second-round pick with McCourty, Chung and Harmon still on the depth chart.

--The second group of linemen for the goal line work included LT Fleming, LG Croston, C Karras, RG Douglas and RT Waddle.

--One day after Josh Augusta muffed a short kick on the kickoff return team, the group of blockers that generally lines up in front of the returners actually worked catching kicks from the Jugs machine. That included Brandon King, Darius Kilgo, Woodrow Hamilton, Adam Butler, Croston, and Augusta. It wasn't always pretty for the big men, with Kilgo one of those with a drop. Augusta did haul one in this time around. But this is one of those little things that a team works on in camp that could pay off later. Hey, maybe there is a Dan Connolly-like long kickoff return in the cards this fall for one of these guys.

--Late in practice the tight ends once again did suicide sprints on the field, including coach Nick Caley.

--Cyrus Jones continues to take plenty of extra reps catching punts from the Jugs machine, including many in which he has to retreat a long distance to make the catch. He's handled the ball well, for the most part, for the first three days of camp.

--Brady and Garoppolo both did post-practice work with resistance bands with equipment manager Brenden Murphy.

--Flowers and Ealy did extra work with large blocking dummies together after practice.

--McDermott stayed out late working by himself.

--Matt Lengel, Austin Carr and Hollister were among those catching extra passes from the Jugs machine after practice.

--Players talking to the media included Harvey Langi, Mike Gillislee, Ferentz, Lewis and others.

--New England will return to the practice field again on Sunday morning at Gillette Stadium at 9:15 a.m. Be sure to check, though, for any possible schedule changes.

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