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Blogservations: Full pads brings some banging

New England training camp heats up with full-pads work in hot morning action.

It's the third day of training camp, but really it's the start of all the fun.

Bill Belichick's team took to the sunny, hot practice fields behind Gillette Stadium Saturday morning for the first summer session in full pads.

Not surprisingly, the increased equipment helped to increase the intensity and competitive environment. That included always-exciting full-pads work such as 1-on-1 battles between the offensive and defensive linemen, interior running drills and goal line 11-on-11 action.

Unfortunately the increase in competitive contact brought a couple injuries, as both guard Jonathan Cooper and defensive lineman Anthony Johnson were carted off the field due to health issues.

Cooper remained on the ground after a drill in team action, appearing to suffer a lower right leg injury that was attended to by the training staff. He was then assisted in walking to a nearby golf cart which then drove him off the field.

Johnson was carted off after remaining on the turf during some group "opportunity" work at the very end of practice. There was little indication of the exact issue the second-year player might be dealing with although he did have a towel over his head and was drinking water as he road off.

Two other players also did not finish the practice, as both center Bryan Stork and running back D.J. Foster left the field early for unknown reasons.

View a collection of the best images from Patriots Training Camp in Foxborough on Saturday, July 30, 2016.

Beyond those top talking points from the first "real" day of Patriots training camp, here are one man's blogservations from the grassy hill in front of the media tent:

--A few new players were absent from practice action. Rookie receiver Malcolm Mitchell, running back Brandon Bolden and rookie defensive lineman Vincent Valentine were not seen on the field to open the day. Mitchell did come on out in his jersey and street clothes after the practice ended. Valentine appears to be away from the team to return to Nebraska for the funeral of former teammate Sam Foltz, the punter who was killed in recent tragic car accident.

--Nate Washington was on the field yet again, but he was not wearing pads and did not take part in the practice. The veteran is dealing with the aftereffects of eating something that did not agree with him and caused him to vomit on the field during the first day of practice on Thursday.

--The PUP list continues to include Julian Edelman (foot), Tre' Jackson (knee), Sebastian Vollmer (ankle), Danny Amendola (knee/ankle), Clay Harbor and Dion Lewis (knee). Lewis was the only one not seen on the field. Harbor continued to do a lot of sprints throughout the practice on his own.

--Alan Branch (reported hip) remains on NFI and was not seen.

--Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan continue to practice in red, non-contact jerseys. With full pads on both players took part fully in individual, group and team action seemingly without physical limitation.

--The full pads brought back fullback/tight end James Develin's large neck role, which appears to be even bigger than it's been in the past. Develin caught the ball well in early pre-practice work.

--One of the daily pre-practice drills is the quarterbacks taking snaps from all the would-be centers. Today Tom Brady took snaps from Stork, Jimmy Garoppolo from David Andrews, Jacoby Brissett from Ted Karras. Rookies Joe Thuney and Kyler Kerbyson took turns snapping to each other, while Josh Kline snapped to a ball boy. That's six different offensive linemen working on their snapping and center versatility at this point in the process.

--A member of the Toronto Argonauts staff was in attendance watching the workout with an eye on potential CFL talent, as was someone wearing Boston College attire.

--During early group work run at seemingly partial speed, Martellus Bennett made a nice, one-handed catch down the left sideline that drew decent reaction from the crowd.

--Though it's apparently been around for some time, first time we've noted here the use of a lower Jugs machine used for long snaps to punter Ryan Allen.


--Soon-to-be-inducted Patriots Hall of Fame running back Kevin Faulk watched the entirety of the practice. The timely playmaker spent the bulk of his time following the running backs and talking with former teammate Sammy Morris, who's had a role working the team dating back to the spring.

--Early on in practice the large crowd got a loud "Brady" chant going. TB12 gave those in attendance a wave to acknowledge the vocal support. There were a lot of Brady and Deflategate-related t-shirts seen throughout the crowd, supporting the quarterback and some with very crass things to say about NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

--The pads brought physical drills to all the positions. That was noticeable early with the wide receivers working on their stalk blocking with the defensive backs. Aaron Dobson, for one, seemed to do a good job in this area.

--Malcolm Butler has always been physical in his cornerback play. That's true in practice, almost with or without pads. For example in an early 1-on-1 drill against Chris Hogan the Pro Bowl cover man tackled his receiver teammate. That caused coaches to remind players to stay up in the drill.

--Bryce Williams, the undrafted rookie tight end out of East Carolina, had a really nice day catching the ball. AJ Derby has also shown flashes during the spring/summer. Of the three young tight ends, Steven Scheu has done the least to stand out, including a bad drop in 7-on-7 action today.

--The wide receivers and defensive backs did some 1-on-1 work on the sidelines that included a lot of back-shoulder throws. Dobson made a nice catch on one such rep, making it look very easy coming back for the ball to beat V'Angelo Bentley.

--Just before Cooper was carted off, Brady came over to check on his short-time teammate.

--The first real banging of the day came in interior run dills with a full offensive line against a defensive front seven, sometimes knowns as 9-on-7 or interior. LeGarrette Blount had a couple nice powerful runs, including one that he delivered a nice blow to Jamie Collins as he sort of ran through the linebacker. Donald Brown also ran OK in the drill, seemingly diving over the pile for yards at one point. James White wasn't as impressive, though it was made pretty clear last season that running between the tackles is not the young back's strength.

--Devin Lucien and Jonathan Jones had a great fight for a pass in 1-on-1 drills in the back right corner of the end zone. The two fought for the ball as they went to the ground out of bounds, with Jones eventually coming away with the catch that clearly would have taken a long look under game replay rules.

--Almost every open field tackling drill or ball security drill in practice action sees Develin at the front of the line for the first rep.

--Today's Hall of Fame drill with the quarterbacks and pass catchers working on the side field during special teams action included Brady, Garoppolo, Rob Gronkowski, Bennett and Dobson with Edelman and Washington watching.

--At the end of the segment the quarterbacks asked Dobson to stand just over the goal line down the left sideline. They then threw him passes form about 35 yards out to see who was more accurate. It's sort of like the old game the quarterbacks had in past camps trying to throw the ball into a garbage can from a similar distance. Brady was more accurate on this day.

--Kickoff team was the special teams focus of the day at various points. The first group working with kicker Stephen Gostkowski was, from sideline to sideline, Devin McCourty, Jordan Richards, Geneo Grissom, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Brandon King, Harmon, Matthew Slater, Ramon Humber, Hogan and Ryan. Guys that stand out in their inclusion in the mix are a defensive lineman in Grissom and the team's highest-paid receiver in Hogan.

--Garoppolo made a pretty throw to Keshawn Martin deep down the right sideline with Justin Coleman in relatively tight coverage in 7-on-7 work, unfortunately the receiver could not make the catch.

--Brady had another ball batted down by the ball boys with racquets/paddles in 7-on-7 actoin. Afterwards he voiced clear displeasure but did not throw his helmet, as was the case a day earlier after a similar occurrence.


--Though it's hard to watch from a distance away at the media tent, the 1-on-1s between the offensive and defensive linemen can be some of the best action in practice. Nate Solder was up and down in the drill, getting beaten badly by Trey Flowers' outside-in move but was stout against Shea McClellin who was praised for his pass rush work earlier this week by Belichick. The young interior linemen Thuney and Karras both were very impressive in their reps in the drill, with Thuney have a notable win over Malcom Brown. As an All-ACC left tackle at N.C. State, it will be interesting to see how Thuney measures up to the bigger, more powerful guys he'll face in the NFL on the inside. For this day, he more than held his own.

--Andrews, who was taking the bulk of the early reps in most drills at center even before Stork left the field, had to take a penalty lap at one point.

--Brissett had a tough-luck interception when a pass for Lucien deflected off the receiver's hands and ended up an easy pick for safety Vinnie Sunseri.

--A small helicopter flew over the practice, drawing Brady's attention between drills. The future Hall of Famer then yelled to Garoppolo and said something as he gestured to the sky, causing the fill-in starter to look up as well.

--Though probably not worthy making much of it, Gostkowski's kickoffs mainly landed right about at the goal line. There will be much focus this year how teams handle kickoffs given the rule change that touchbacks will be brought to the 25.

--Gostkowski also mixed in mortar and onside kicks during the kickoff work.

--Hogan continued to mix good, impressive catches with drops for another day. The free agent receiver spent time working extra on his hands after practice, including the drill making receptions while a teammate pulls on one arm with a towel. Edelman did the work with Hogan.

--The play of the day came on a pretty corner, back pylon throw from Brady to Gronkowski, beating Patrick Chung for the touchdown as the All-Pro pass catcher made the tough catch falling to the ground.

--Blount put the ball on the ground in one 11-on-11 rep, with Rob Ninkovich recovering the fumble that popped out and fell to the ground away from the pile. Blount then ran a penalty lap for the ball security lapse.

--Markus Kuhn took reps next to Brown on the defensive line in 11-on-11 action. The veteran is being given an early shot to show his stuff early in camp.

--The offensive line in front of Brady in team action late in practice was, from left to right, Solder, Thuney, Andrews, Karras and Cannon for some goal line action.

--Blount punched in a goal line score over the right side. The work saw Develin lead the way blocking, his value clearly more obvious in full-pads practice. After the physical drill, the fullback went over to high-five a number of the guys he was blocking, including McClellin.

--21,781 fans filled the bleachers, hill and Gillette Stadium ramps to watch the crowd and support the Patriots.

--Josh McDaniels wore a headset to call in plays in the 11-on-11 action. The offensive coordinator was also very vocal urging his group on and acknowledging their success in the segment.

--Gostkowski completed the practice with PAT work.

--After the squad got together the more proven players broke up with their position coaches while younger players took part in some "opportunity" action. That included 1-on-1 blocking with offensive (OL/TE) and defensive players (DL/LB) in a tight area between two large bags. A quarterback would then hand off to a running back to make a cut off the head-to-head battle that's a version of the old Oklahoma drill.

--There was then some 11-on-11 "opportunity" work as well, with Brissett at quarterback.

--Brady and Garoppolo did a little extra work on the side field during the oppourity segment, with Gronkowski a willing helper (pads off). Edelman and Hogan later joined the mix.

--Edelman wore a red shirt from his personal line of apparel that read "Come On Jules!" and had the JE11 logo on it.

--Bennett worked on his hands with some extra reps with the Jugs machine after practice.

--Williams spent some extra time working/talking with veteran tight end Bear Pascoe out on the field after practice.

--Always a tradition within positions, Scheu carried Bennett's pads off the field for the veteran.

--Those players meeting with the media after practice included Terrance Knighton, Pascoe, McCourty, Tyler Gaffney, Hogan, Chris Long and others.

--The Patriots will return to the practice fields again on Sunday morning at 9:15 for another workout that is scheduled to be open to the public. But, as always, check for any potential last minute schedule changes.

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