While there is still plenty of work to be done before the start of the regular season, the public portion of training camp came to close on Wednesday as the Patriots practiced for the 16th time. The Patriots and Bears worked together for the third straight day and concluded things with a situational walk-through as the players donned shells, shorts and helmets, which marked the seventh time that has been the case.
The teams went through a variety of situations in all three phases including several late-game scenarios. The most enjoyable of those came when the Patriots were faced with a do-or-die kick return scenario in which the players were forced to lateral the ball to each other several times as they tried to navigate their way to the end zone.
Julian Edelman, Cyrus Jones and Chris Hogan all handled the ball with Edelman showcasing his quarterback skills along the way. He threw a pass about 25 yards toward the sideline to Hogan before flipping one behind his back a bit later after he found himself in possession once again.
The play ended with Edelman and Hogan still going inside the Bears 20 with only a couple defenders remaining. As one made his way toward Edelman, the receiver faked an option pitch to Hogan and kept it as he raced into the end zone.
The play was reminiscent of the famous Cal-Stanford, "the-band-is-on-the-field" ending some 35 years ago, even though it was conducted at less than half speed. The band may not have been on the field but Bears coach John Fox was, and so were about half dozen others along the way.
Still, after Edelman found the end zone and made his way back to toward the bench, LeGarrette Blount came racing off the sideline to chest bump his teammate.
Anything to amuse yourself during an otherwise uneventful walk-through.
Anyway, here are one man's blogservations from the final day of public access to training camp.
View a collection of the best images from Patriots Training Camp practice in Foxborough on Wednesday, August 17, 2016.
-The four members of the PUP list remain out of action as Dion Lewis (knee), Tre' Jackson (knee), Sebastian Vollmer and Danny Amendola (knee, ankle) didn't practice. Amendola and Jackson were spotted wearing their jerseys. Shea McClellin, Jonathan Cooper (foot), Rob Gronkowski and Jabaal Sheard all missed practice as well.
-Malcolm Mitchell (elbow), D.J. Foster, Donald Brown (hamstring), Bryce Williams (knee), Rob Ninkovich (triceps) and Keshawn Martin were in uniform but left the practice fields to do some conditioning work.
-Logan Ryan continues to wear his red, non-contact jersey while Brandon Bolden returned to work after missing Tuesday's practice.
-Nate Ebner was in uniform for the first time this summer and took his spot on a number of special teams units including punt return. He also spent time doing some sprints with strength and conditioning coach Moses Cabrera on the opposite field while the teams were doing 11-on-11 work.
-Matthew Slater took some time for a bathroom break before practice but as has been his habit throughout camp he chose not to use the porta potty.
-Scott O'Brien was with the Patriots for the fourth straight day and now has added some team attire. He wore a Patriots visor and pullover windbreaker while closing watching the special teams work. The team struggled during the preseason opener against New Orleans, particularly in punt coverage, and I wonder if Bill Belichick gave the veteran coach a call for some consulting work.
-Clay Harbor and Vincent Valentine were both in uniform after seemingly dealing with various ailments during Tuesday's practice. Harbor went down awkwardly after attempting to catch a pass and didn't return while Valentine spent time with trainers late on Tuesday as well. Both appeared fine on Wednesday and received plenty of reps during the walk-through.
-The quarterbacks spent some time early in practice working with the running backs on play action. The Patriots appear to be using a lot of wide fakes this summer with the quarterbacks venturing out to the tackles to execute the fakes. The players worked on finding the mesh point for the play action and the quarterbacks would first look downfield as if searching for a big play before checking down to the flat for a dump to the backs.
-The Patriots also spent some time working on a jumbo package with three tight ends – Martellus Bennett, Clay Harbor and AJ Derby – along with fullback James Develin in front of Blount. Develin caught a short touchdown pass off play action out of one of these looks.
-The kickoff team worked on a number of onside kick looks with Darryl Roberts, Cedric Thompson, Ramon Humber, Jordan Richards, Elandon Roberts, Vinnie Sunseri, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Geneo Grissom, Brandon King and Justin Coleman joining Stephen Gostkowski. Sunseri motioned from the right side to the left on one attempt, and on the next the interior guys all crowded toward the kicker in anticipation of an attempt down the middle.
-As Andy pointed out on Tuesday, Belichick and Fox spent an inordinate amount of time talking during the practice. The got together on at least three separate occasions and spoke at length each time.
-Gostkowski attempted some line-drive squib kicks and the teams also worked on free kicks as well. It was interesting to watch Gostkowski throw the ball on the free kicks rather than kick it. Ryan Allen also threw a "punt" out of his end zone a few moments later.
-During a 7-on-7 red zone drill, Jimmy Garoppolo got the better of one of the ball boys holding a paddle. Garoppolo had Derby across the middle just over the goal line and dropped down sidearm to get the ball around the waving paddle. It's not likely a throw Garoppolo would attempt in game as there would have been much more traffic with offensive and defensive linemen in the way but that didn't stop the quarterback from getting in some good-natured trash talk on the ball boy.
-The Patriots hands team consisted of Develin, Jamie Collins, Derby, Bolden, Edelman, Patrick Chung, Ebner, Hogan, Dont'a Hightower and Harbor with Devin McCourty back as the safety valve. Gronkowski is usually a member of this unit and it's possible either Derby or Harbor (likely Derby based on alignment) took his place.
-The offensive and defensive team periods consisted of a variety of late-game situations. Brady and Garoppolo would throw passes that set up would-be field goals as time wound down. They also worked on some Hail Mary plays during these segments.
-Even though there was little-to-no effort being made by either team on most of the situations, Jay Cutler's Hail Mary to Alshon Jeffery was mildly impressive as the wideout leapt among several Patriots to snag the ball in the end zone. Again, the defense allowed the catch to occur, but based on the manner in which Jeffery went after the ball it was noteworthy nonetheless.
-It's also worth noting that the defense the Patriots used during these reps included rookie Anthony Johnson at nose tackle. He was flanked by Chris Long and Trey Flowers with the rest back in coverage. That group included Collins, Malcolm Butler, Hightower, Cyrus Jones, Duron Harmon, Chung, Coleman and McCourty.
-At the end of practice Brady worked with Edelman and Hogan on some red zone routes. Brady was quite upset with himself following an errant pass toward Edelman.
-Chung, Jones, Develin, Hightower and Jacoby Brissett were among the Patriots who conducted interviews after practice. Bears backup quarterback and former Patriot Brian Hoyer also chatted with the media.
-The Patriots and Bears will conclude their worked together when the meet in preseason game No. 2 on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium with kickoff set for 8 p.m.