There are some people who believe Bill Belichick controls everything on a football field. If so he's done a masterful job with the weather thus far during training camp.
Although the Patriots are just four days into the festivities, the conditions they've worked in have varied about as much as could be expected at this time of year. On Thursday it was oppressively hot and humid while Friday saw intermittent showers. Saturday it was back to bright sunshine but not quite as hot and humid as opening day.
Sunday's conditions were a bit more taxing on the players as the two-plus hour workout was conducted almost entirely in rain, steady throughout and heavy at times. The wet footballs led to some issues with ball security, and while Belichick may have been unhappy with some of the results and was likely thrilled to get the practice in under conditions that can't be replicated.
At least four snaps were fumbled, two involving Jacoby Brissett and one each for Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo. Several passes also sailed through or off receivers' hands on plays that likely would have resulted in completions in drier circumstances.
Rookie Malcolm Mitchell was one receiver who saw a pass or two slide through his hands but he found the challenges "fun." He also found amusement in watching Rob Gronkowski dominate in his own special way.
Gronk made three ridiculous grabs during a late red zone drill, celebrating in his own inimitable style after each. Mitchell was asked about his impressions of his All-Pro teammate after practice.
"Oh my goodness," Mitchell exclaimed before the question could even be completed.
Indeed Gronkowski was in rare form. He made one grab jumping underneath Patrick Chung in the end zone before tossing the ball in the air while gesturing to some guests sitting in the Patriots community relations tent alongside. He then caught a corner fade near the pylon and then high-fived those same fans on his way back to the huddle.
Later Martellus Bennett made a similarly impressive catch and the two raced toward each other with an enthusiastic chest bump. Rookie Bryce Williams got in the action with an impressive catch of his own and suddenly the entire offense was celebrating.
It was the end of a pretty solid day for the offense, which also performed well early on in the running game.
In addition to Gronk being Gronk, here are one man's blogservations from Sunday's fourth practice of training camp.
-There were some changes to the attendance report as Jonathan Cooper, Bryan Stork and Keshawn Martin all missed practice and were not present on the fields. Cooper and Stork left Saturday's workout and reports indicated Cooper was dealing with plantar fasciitis and would need some rest. There was no update on Stork's absence. Nate Washington missed his third straight practice.
-The PUP and NFI lists remained unchanged but Tre' Jackson and Dion Lewis were the only two that were not seen on the fields. Alan Branch (reported hip), Julian Edelman (foot), Danny Amendola (knee, ankle), Sebastian Vollmer (ankle) and Clay Harbor were all spotted with Edelman, Amendola and Harbor getting plenty of running in.
-Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon continue to wear red, non-contact jerseys but don't appear to be limited in any way.
-On the positive side, Mitchell and Brandon Bolden returned after missing Saturday's practice while Anthony Johnson and D.J. Foster were both in uniform after not completing yesterday's workout. None of the four appeared to be limited.
-A funny moment before practice began as Gronkowski walked onto the field. A fan shouted "Marco" several times, trying to get him to respond "Polo" in honor of his famous Dunkin Donuts commercial with David Ortiz.
-Offensive lineman Kyler Kerbyson was the first player on the field.
-Kevin Faulk was once again in attendance and he addressed the team following practice. Belichick introduced him and the two embraced before Faulk turned his attention to the players. Check back with Patriots.com for video of the post-practice activities. Some of Faulk's former teammates including J.R. Redmond and Randall Gay were also in Foxborough in advance of tomorrow night's Hall of Fame ceremonies, which begin at 5 p.m.
-During one pre-practice rep with some of the younger players, offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia stepped in at left guard. I didn't notice any young defenders looking to take on the respected veteran coach.
-Ted Karras continued to work at right guard with both Cooper and Stork out of the lineup. The rookie also continued to perform well, especially during one-on-one reps with the defensive line.
-Bennett and fellow tight end Bear Pascoe were forced to run laps early in practice.
-The offense worked on some short-yardage running situations during practice. Before going against the defense, both Brady and Garoppolo practiced some hard counts and quarterback sneaks, at times rushing to the line to simulate a game situation. Garoppolo left the center a tad early on one rep.
-Chris Harper spent a lot of time fielding Ryan Allen punts in the rain. He bobbled one but was able to handle at least a dozen others without incident. Cyrus Jones and V'Angelo Bentley later took some reps returning punts.
View a collection of the best images from Patriots Training Camp in Foxborough on Sunday, July 31, 2016.
-The first half of practice was heavily focused on the running game. The offense used half lines and some solid physical work ensued. Shea McClellin got some penetration on one play and would have had Donald Brown for a loss, but overall the offense seemed to get the better of things. Tyler Gaffney had one run over right guard in which he cut back to the left, where there were no players based on the set up of the drill. I'm guessing that won't win him any friends among defenders. Otherwise he, LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden all seemed to find running room.
-While that drill was taking place there was plenty of 1-on-1 work among wide receivers and defensive backs on the opposite field. Brissett threw a gorgeous deep ball to DeAndre Carter, who beat Cre'von LeBlanc down the left sideline for a touchdown. Gronkowski got loose cutting across the middle and began high-stepping his way toward the end zone. Brock Vereen made a nice breakup working against Gronkowski later in the drill.
-A member of the Toronto Argonauts coaching staff was once again in attendance.
-The running game remained in focus with some 9-on-7 work and once again the line featured Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Karras, Marcus Cannon. The defensive front saw Rob Ninkovich, Markus Kuhn, Malcom Brown and Jabaal Sheard take the first reps. During full team work later one, James White made a terrific run with a nice cut back through traffic that got him in the clear. Overall it looked like the offensive line got the better of their defensive counterparts for much of the day.
-Justin Coleman turned in a solid day of work as we was around the ball often and came up with a terrific pass defense working against Aaron Dobson. Coleman worked his way around Dobson and got his hand in front of the receiver to knock the pass away. Later on Coleman executed a nice corner blitz and knocked down a Brady attempt.
-Punt returns were the special teams focus with Coleman and Logan Ryan working as one pair of vise guys while Chung and Darryl Roberts were on the other side. Malcolm Butler and Duron Harmon teamed up on the left side for the next rep while E.J. Biggers and Devin McCourty manned the right. Matthew Slater, Ramon Humber, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Trey Flowers, Brandon King and Jordan Richards worked as the front line.
-Most of the passing work during 7-on-7s featured short dump-offs to backs and tight ends. Brady took the first reps followed by Garoppolo and Brissett. Only a couple of the reps saw the ball travel down the field with the highlight coming when Garoppolo found Dobson down the left side behind Ryan.
-Drew Rosenhaus, Gronkowski's agent, was seen chatting with Belichick after practice. A Boston Herald report indicated that the Patriots are trying to work out a contract extension with the All-Pro tight end.
-Garoppolo was twice victimized by tipped passes and was intercepted both times. The first came during 7-on-7s Garoppolo's high pass went off Bennett's hands and McCourty picked it off. Later during a team period he saw LeBlanc deflect a pass intended for Harper and Vereen cleaned up the mess. Those were Garoppolo's first two picks of camp.
-Ninkovich dominated a pair of 1-on-1 reps against Marcus Cannon, using his speed to get around the edge each time. Solder also seemed to struggle with Sheard's speed during the drill. It wasn't all bad for the offensive line during the period, however. Thuney did a nice job containing Brown and Karras held his own as well.
-Stephen Gostkowski was seen riding an exercise bike on a couple of occasions during practice. Normally the festivities end with him kicking several field goals or extra points, but that was not the case on Sunday. Perhaps he was dealing with a slight injury and Belichick chose to have him rest his leg for a day.
-As practice wound down and most of the veteran players were stretching out as they cooled down, several younger players took the "opportunity" portion of practice to get more reps. The offensive and defensive lines went at it for several minutes with some 1-on-1 work. LaAdrian Waddle was impressive in the drill, containing Geneo Grissom and Rufus Johnson with impressive ease. Waddle appeared to get one late crack in against Johnson, and the linebacker didn't like it. Johnson came back and bumped Waddle with his shoulder as the tackle had his back turned. Defensive line coach Brendan Daly did not like that reaction and sent Johnson to the sideline. Kerbyson did a real nice job against rookie third-round pick Vincent Valentine, spinning him around and completely neutralizing him at the line. Grissom later got the edge working against Keavon Milton.
-SIRIUS NFL Radio was in the house and Belichick and Ninkovich joined Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller after practice. Those interviews will be available on Monday, but check Patriots.com for some additional video of the proceedings.
-Monday will be a big day in Foxborough with Faulk's Hall of Fame induction kicking off festivities at 5 p.m. The Patriots will then conduct their annual practice inside Gillette Stadium in front of season-ticket members. This is a ticketed event which will begin at 7 p.m.