Anytime front line players miss practice time it creates opportunities for others to make an impression. On Tuesday Danny Amendola made the most of his chances.
Julian Edelman appeared to tweak an ankle toward the end of practice on Sunday and limped off the field at the end of the workout. He was on the field in pads at the start of practice but did not take part as he left for some rehab work in the Empower Field House.
That put Amendola in the spotlight and Tom Brady looked his way often. He grabbed a number of passes, including touchdowns on consecutive plays during 11-on-11 red zone work.
"I'm just focused on doing whatever I can to help the team and getting in position to make as many plays as I can," Amendola said. "Everybody's getting great work in out here with both quarterbacks and we're all focusing on just getting better."
While most of Amendola's work on Tuesday came with Brady at the helm, he's also caught more than his share of passes from Jimmy Garoppolo. The possibility still exists that Garoppolo could wind up as the team's starter for the first month, but Amendola isn't worried about any such uncertainties.
"My job is just to get open and catch the ball," Amendola said. "I'm just trying to build a rapport with whoever is calling the play. That's my job."
Second-year tackle Cameron Fleming also got a chance to move up the depth chart a notch due to an absence. Marcus Cannon, who had been manning the right tackle spot in place of Sebastian Vollmer (shoulder), missed his first practice and Fleming stepped in.
Fleming, who saw most of his action as an extra tackle during his rookie season, appeared to handle himself well during the practice with no noticeable gaffes evident. Fleming's presence on the line gave the unit a youthful look with a pair of rookies (guards Tre' Jackson and Shaq Mason as well as two second-year players in center Bryan Stork and Fleming to go with left tackle Nate Solder.
[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="345341"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]Gronk here to stay
The Patriots had until the end of the 2015 league year to pick up a $10 million option bonus that would kick in the final four years of Rob Gronkowski's contract. Although there wasn't much of a decision to be made, the team decided to act sooner rather than later.
According to ESPN, the Patriots restructured Gronkowski's contract and will pay the All-Pro tight end $4 million of his $10 million option bonus immediately as a signing bonus. Gronkowski was due $10 million at the end of the 2015 league year, but now will receive $4 million up front while the remaining $6 million will be paid at a later date. According to Pro Football Talk, the move was made at the request of Gronkowski, who wanted to secure his future with the team.
"It's a great feeling. I just want to thank Mr. Kraft, Coach Belichick and the New England Patriots organization," Gronkowski said after practice on Tuesday. "They're first class always to deal with. It is what it is now and it's time to put that behind you and just play football now.
Check out our favorite photos from day five of Patriots Training Camp at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday, August 4, 2015.
"It's an honor to be part of it. Ever since I was drafted it's been an unbelievable feeling just coming out to practice every single day and putting that jersey on."
If the Patriots chose not to pick up the option, the tight end would have become a free agent, but instead Gronkowski is now officially under contract through 2019. By splitting up the bonus the Patriots are able to spread out the cash hit while rewarding Gronkowski at the same time.
In the meantime he's enjoying camp, which has featured more than a few standout plays from the game's most dangerous tight end.
"Camp's going great. We're out here competing, building chemistry. It's great," he said. "We're out here playing the game of football again. We've been out of it for a couple of months. It's great to come out here and compete, especially with the hitting aspect now.
"You have to practice harder than the games so you can be prepared. You can't go through the motions. You have to push yourself so when game time comes you're ready and prepared to face your opponents."
The Patriots may have lost one of their depth receivers when Brian Tyms went down midway through practice. Tyms took a textbook hit from cornerback Robert McClain during a 1-on-1 tackling drill and fumbled the ball. He remained on the ground with the training staff for several minutes before being carted off the field. Trainers held his right arm as they positioned him in the cart. There was no update on his status after practice.
Comings and goings
It hasn't been a good camp for any Patriots who've had a hard time avoiding injury. First rookie D.J. Lynch was released after limping off the field during practice on July 31. The latest players to get the axe also were dealing with maladies. Tackle Kevin Hughes, who left Saturday's workout with an apparent shoulder injury, and rookie defensive lineman Vince Taylor, who reportedly failed his physical and had been on PUP throughout camp, were released Monday.
The Patriots began filling those roster spots by claiming guard Harland Gunn off waivers from Atlanta. Gunn, 6-2, 310 pounds, spent three seasons with the Falcons and appeared in 13 games with one start during his career. Also the Patriots brought back linebacker Cameron Gordon, who was with the team in 2014. Gordon spent last season on injured reserve but was released in May.
Gordon will add to the depth behind starters Jamie Collins, Jerod Mayo and Dont'a Hightower, the latter of whom is also still limited in his contact with a red jersey.
New England also signed fullback Eric Kettani, who was on the Patriots practice squad for parts of the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Kettani has been on practice squads in Washington (2012), Kansas City (2013) and Jacksonville (2014) as well.
Finally, the team added defensive tackle A.J. Pataiali'i, a 6-3, 319-pounder who spent time on the practice squad in Baltimore and Cleveland last year.
Buy: Danny Amendola – With Julian Edelman out of the lineup Amendola stood out on Tuesday. He caught everything thrown in his direction and continues to look more comfortable in his surroundings. His best work came in the red zone when he grabbed consecutive touchdowns in the corner of the end zone. He also showed a willingness to go over the middle and catch the ball in traffic. Another strong day for him
Sell: Aaron Dobson – Dobson also is enjoying additional opportunities as Brandon LaFell remains off the field and on PUP. But unlike Amendola Dobson hasn't always taken advantage. He was covered tightly on several occasions on Tuesday, starting with some 1-on-1 drills in the red zone. First Tarell Brown and then Dax Swanson had him blanketed in the end zone, and later he tried to get deep on Malcolm Butler and Jordan Richards and couldn't shake free. Dobson has caught most everything he's gotten his hands on but too often has been covered so far this summer.
Play of the Day: Few Patriots have been more impressive than Malcolm Butler during camp and the young corner came up with another play on Tuesday. Covering Josh Boyce down the seam, Butler cut underneath the receiver's in-cut and easily picked off Tom Brady's pass. Butler then showed the ball to Brady after the play, seemingly in a continuation of the competitiveness between the two that began on Sunday.
In addition to Edelman and Cannon, the Patriots were without running back Tyler Gaffney and tight end AJ Derby. Also, there were no changes to the lists with Matthew Slater, LaFell, Dane Fletcher, Chris White, Ryan Wendell and Chris Jones still on PUP and Matt Flynn, Caylin Hauptmann and Alan Branch on NFI. Belichick told Sirius Radio that Flynn would be returning to practice soon. Rokie Xzavier Dickson returned to his normal blue jersey after wearing a red one over the weekend. … Harvard basketball coach Tommy Amaker was on hand to watch practice. … The Patriots worked on kick returns with Amendola, Travaris Cadet and Dion Lewis all taking reps. … Logan Ryan worked mostly as a slot corner during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work. Butler and Brown worked together on the outside while McClain replaced Ryan after the first two plays. … Garoppolo has a tendency to hold onto the ball too long, and at times when scrambling he gotten into the bad habit of throwing across his body. He did this early during a 7-on-7 drill and his errant pass was picked off by Nate Ebner, who was one of three defenders around tight end Jimmay Mundine on the play. … The Patriots will hold their annual in-stadium practice for season-ticket members and Foxborough residents tomorrow night inside Gillette Stadium following the Willie McGinest/Houston Antwine Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. The festivities are set to begin at 5 p.m. with practice slated for 7 p.m.