After two days off following the preseason-opening win over the Redskins, the Patriots returned to the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium for a full-pads workout Sunday afternoon.
Much of the two-hour session took place in heavy rains that created a slippery surface and wet ball conditions.
Beyond the team’s return to action, moving forward toward this coming Thursday’s second preseason affair in Foxborough against the Eagles, the biggest note of the day was Tom Brady putting forth his most active practice in more than a week.
Brady did not play in the preseason opener and has had relatively light practice work more often than not since his birthday on Aug. 3. According to the Boston Globe Brady missed the Washington game because he was “dealing with a sore back.”
Sunday afternoon Brady had a bounce in his step as he jogged onto the practice field and put forth a very active workout. He took part in all segments in the practice, taking the first reps in every drill including 11-on-11 action.
It was also a very active day for tight end Rob Gronkowski, who like Brady has seemingly had his workload monitored early this summer.
Not surprisingly, with Brady and Gronkowski on hand the passing game found more success, particularly when the two All-Pros connected.
Beyond Brady’s increased workload and the heavy rains, here are one man’s blogservations from another day in the media tent that had river of rainwater flowing through it:
--Four players not seen on the field for the workout included Sony Michel, Harvey Langi, Marcus Cannon and Rex Burkhead.
--Players spending time on the lower rehab field included Trey Flowers, Ryan Lewis, Matthew Slater and Jason King.
--The most recent guys returning from PUP, Nate Ebner, Jonathan Jones and Cyrus Jones, all spent time on the lower rehab field just before the start of practice. The trio had their most active practice since coming off PUP, all three taking part in group and team drills at one point or another.
--Both Joneses took part in one-on-ones with the other defensive backs and had their ups and downs as they knock off the coverage rust.
--A large group young men from the URI football team was on hand in the VIP area watching the practice. After practice the group got Rob Gronkowski’s attention and the All-Pro tight end came to the edge of the field to take cell phone photos.
--Gronkowski again spent some time with Sports Illustrated swimsuit model and former Patriots cheerleader Camille Kostek after practice.
--As he came onto the field for practice, rookie cornerback Duke Dawson continued his tradition of taking a knee for a moment by himself before getting to work.
--Bill Belichick was one of the last to jog on the field for practice. The coach was dressed in full foul-weather Patriots gear in preparations for the rainy conditions.
--Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was noticeably loud with his group early in practice, most of his words seemingly of the positive variety. Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia was also vocal throughout much of the team portions of practice.
--During pre-practice position drills a lot of the defensive players worked on loose balls and fumbles in the wet, muddy conditions. One drill had one player batting a ball back into the field of play toward a teammate to prevent the loose ball from bouncing out of bounds.
--The defensive backs worked on high-pointing interceptions at various spots of the field.
--During various times working individually with his players, Joe Judge had Brandon King, Christian Sam, Jeremy Hill and Jacob Hollister. It is interesting to see how much is seemingly being invested in Hill as a special teams contributor both in coverage and in the kickoff return game as the veteran newcomer works to win a roster spot at running back.
--During one positional drill the tight ends caught over-the-shoulder passes thrown by Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio.
--In early group work against air, Riley McCarron had a nice twisting, one-handed catch from Brian Hoyer.
--Not sure what to make of it, but during the early work with the receivers and quarterbacks working against air all the receivers were to the right of the passers except for Kenny Britt, who lined up alone to the left and took reps.
--Early in one-on-one battles between the linebackers/DBs and pass catchers Hoyer hit Gronkowski for an easy completion, the tight end toasting safety Patrick Chung.
--While Hoyer worked with the running backs and tight ends on the far end of the field, Brady threw to the receivers against the cornerbacks. More often than not, Brady and his targets got the better end of the battle.
--Brady did one-hop a throw toward Cordarrelle Patterson on a comeback on the right sideline.
--One of the more lopsided battles had Chris Hogan shaking free to make Cyrus Jones look silly in the middle of the field for the easy catch from Brady.
--Rookie Danny Etling got some reps mixing in with Brady. He had one very pretty, perfectly-thrown ball down the right sideline for a completion to Devin Lucien beating Jason McCourty.
--After a preseason opener in which he gave up a few early catches, Stephon Gilmore had an up-and-down session of one-on-ones. He got beat by Patterson for one completion, but later blanketed Phillip Dorsett.
--Braxton Berrios may have had the catch of the day with a one-handed grab in which he spun 180 degrees to adjust to the Etling throw.
--Cyrus wasn’t the only PUP returnee to get toasted, Jonathan Jones was beaten badly on a Brady-to-Julian Edelman completion.
--Dorsett’s inconsistent hands continued as he had a bad drop on a Brady throw after the receiver beat Eric Rowe to get open.
--Jonathan Jones was pretty physical in his first taste of team action, tackling Hollister to the ground as he broke up a pass early in 11-on-11 work.
--Brady hit Edelman on a deep ball down the middle, connecting over linebacker Kyle Van Noy. The veteran actually had pretty decent coverage despite the bad matchup but either couldn’t or let up and wouldn’t knock the ball away as it arrived.
--The first line to take reps continued to be, from left to right, Trent Brown, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason and LaAdrian Waddle. Rookie top pick Isaiah Wynn rotated in with the group at right tackle and also took reps at the position with the second unit. It’s the third position we’ve seen Wynn, who did not play in the preseason opener, take reps at in practice action. Wynn previously worked at both left tackle and guard.
--The second line to take reps included Matt Tobin at left tackle, Ted Karras at left guard, James Ferentz at center, Ulrick John at right guard and Wynn at right tackle. Cole Croston rotated in at left tackle with the unit.
--During one portion of team drills Dont’a Hightower really took control of the front, using his hands to physically move a defensive lineman who was not lined up properly.
--Today’s open field tackling drill in the middle of the practice had quarterbacks getting hit in the back as they threw to a receiver who then turned up field toward the would-be tackler. Hoyer did all the throwing as Brady stood nearby and fed him a new football occasionally. Given the reports of Brady’s “sore back” it makes sense that he wouldn’t take part in drill that involved ball boys hitting him in the back with a pad.
--The special teams segments focused on kickoff and kickoff return work. Patterson continues to take the first reps in kickoff returns with James Develin and Hill in front of him as blockers. The next group had a new look with Jason McCourty deep with Develin and Dwayne Allen in front of him. McCarron took reps with Hill and Geneo Grissom in front him.
--During the special teams work, Hightower and Van Noy worked with martial arts expert Joe Kim.
--Second-year player Keionta Davis, who spent last year on NFI, took a couple early reps at left defensive end lined up next to Lawrence Guy.
--Etling once again ran a read-option play in team action. The rookie actually made a nice read on one such play in the preseason opener and may have had a big run had he and Mike Gillislee not gotten hung up on the fake, leading to a fumble.
--As he’s been doing of late, Jason King worked alone drive-blocking the sled at the end of the field has he works back from injury.
--Whether it was against defensive backs, air or team defense, Brady and Gronkowski made completing passes look very easy on the wet practice field. Belichick noted a number of times after the preseason opener that he wasn’t pleased with the passing game production, but smart money says things will look differently at whatever point Brady, Gronkowski and Edelman get into the mix together on the game field. Call it a hunch.
--Ebner had by far his most active practice. He continued to do some running on the side but also got into some 11-on-11 action on defense late. For whatever it’s worth, as he works back from the torn ACL suffered last season the special teams ace seems to run with a slight limp. Ebner has not been wearing a brace in practice action.
--Flowers continues to be absent from group and team drills. The defensive end once again spent time on the rehab field and then working by himself at the far end of the field. Later he spent time doing hand-fighting drills with Kim.
--John Atkins had to take a penalty lap during one-on-ones with the offensive linemen.
--It’s not rare to see players – elite athletes that they are -- jump up and down bringing their knees to their chest to get loose. It is a little rare when the player is an offensive lineman, as was the case with Karras on Sunday.
--John ran maybe the most precise penalty lap we’ve seen this summer at one point during team action, following the complete exterior of the field and not cutting it short as so many players seem to.
--As is seemingly the case during some portion of every practice, Hoyer had a couple throws that just fell incomplete to the grass, never really having a chance to be completed.
--Jason McCourty did not play in the preseason opener and his practice reps continue to be scrutinized. He spent time on the field with a secondary that included Ebner at one point in 11-on-11 work. After practice McCourty said he has not been dealing with an injury of any kind that might have led to his limited practice reps this spring or early this summer.
--Hill caught a couple passes from Brady in a hurry-up team segment late. Hill has shown the ability to catch the ball relatively well this summer considering his size. He did have productive seasons catching the ball with the Bengals.
--Jonathan Jones nearly picked off a Brady pass when McCarron fell down on a crossing route.
--Late in practice Cyrus Jones retreated to the hill at the far corner of the field for some conditioning work.
--After an impressive game against Washington, rookie linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley showed up a number of times in the practice. He was in the backfield on a couple running plays for the offense.
--Etling got very few reps in group or team action with Brady and Hoyer doing the bulk of the work.
--During the “cooldown” at the end of practice where players get together by position, the cornerbacks, tight ends and running backs all did extra sprints across the field.
--Edelman walked off the field and down the steps with his young daughter.
--Those players meeting with the media after practice included Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, Bentley, Stephen Gostkowski, Ebner and others.