Free agent wide receiver addition Eric Decker and wet weather both arrived on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium Saturday morning for the ninth workout of training camp.
Though the full-pads session – the sixth such practice to date – began under sunny skies and warm temperatures, by the end the players were doing their conditioning work on the side hill under heavy downpours.
In fact the day’s media interviews were moved inside, where linebacker Elandon Roberts talked about the fact that you play in the rain so you might as well do conditioning in it. He joked that he would have been stunned had Bill Belichick actually cut the work short due to the wet conditions.
As for the action on the field, it was a day filled with situational reps for both sides of the ball, and lots of special teams work.
Decker, wearing his new No. 81 jersey, was on the field and took part in some positional and group work but not team action. He got plenty of individual instruction from Tom Brady, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and receivers coach Chad O’Shea.
Decker appeared to have fresh legs, ran crisp routes against air and caught the ball well.
Beyond the heavy rain and Decker’s debut, here are one man’s blogservations as he crept further into the media tent to avoid the precipitation:
--Cyrus Jones (ACL), Jonathan Jones (Achilles) and Nate Ebner (ACL) remain on PUP. The trio retreated to the lower rehab field after stretching.
--Rookie running back Sony Michel (reported knee issue), Marcus Cannon, Jason King and Marquis Flowers (reportedly absent to the birth of a child) were missing from the practice field.
--Malcolm Mitchell, Matthew Slater, Keion Crossen, Kenny Britt and Trey Flowers all spent some time down on the rehab field in full pads.
--Flowers spoke after practice a day after leaving Friday’s session early and said he was dealing with something minor. He also noted that he had to get three stitches to close a cut on his forehead suffered on a goal line play on the first weekend of camp.
Check out our favorite photos from the ninth day of Patriots Training Camp at Gillette Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018.
--Britt was once again in a wide variety of stages of participation. He was in full pads for pre-practice work and stretching. He took some reps with the quarterbacks and receiver running routes against air. After one drop on the sideline he immediately took his helmet off and spoke with O’Shea before he strapped up again for one more rep. He then spent time on the rehab field and later left the field altogether midway through the workout. On his way to the stairs back to Gillette, Britt called a couple young children out onto the field to meet him. He put his helmet on one of them and spent time with them. Just before he left he also chatted with Robert Kraft, who himself was headed back inside after spending some time at practice. Britt’s routine coming on and off the field over the last few days has been curious.
--In some early work on field goal/PAT block both Geneo Grissom and Jordan Richards were allowed to get through to knock down Stephen Gostkowski’s “attempt.”
--Belichick called the entire team together for a quick huddle prior to the start of pre-practice installation. Not something that happens every day.
--Belichick chatted with Decker during stretching.
--One of the more youthful drills is watching defenders work on their tackling with the giant rolling ring pad. Defensive line coach Brendan Daly took a hands-on approach and showed his troops exactly how he wanted the tackle made before the players took their reps.
--Beyond his skills adding to an undermanned and banged up receiver corps, one of the buzz-worthy talking points regarding the Decker signing was his good looks. A local country radio station – his wife Jessie James Decker is a country singer – was running a poll as to whether the receiver is now the most handsome Patriot. Rob Gronkowski was asked on ESPN if Decker and Brady formed the most attractive quarterback/wide receiver combo in the NFL.
--ESPN broadcast live from the far corner of the practice field with a full set under a tent. Former linebacker Tedy Bruschi was part of the crew. The Patriots Hall of Famer spent time on the field chatting with Belichick early in practice.
--That meant there were three No. 54s on the field today, with Bruschi joining Dont’a Hightower and rookie linebacker Christian Sam.
--The wide receivers worked on out routes on the sideline in group drills, with paddles and thrown towels used to distract them as they attempted to make the catches. Cordarrelle Patterson failed on one attempt when a thrown towel actually knocked the ball down.
--A day after being carted off the field midway through practice, veteran Brian Schwenke was back in full pads taking his usual reps on the offensive line.
--During kickoff work the unit from left to front along the line of scrimmage was Devin McCourty, Brandon King, Brandon Bolden, Duke Dawson, Stephen Gostkowski, Jordan Richards, Nicholas Grigsby, Grissom, Patterson and Patrick Chung.
--Braxton Berrios served as the scout returner for the kickoff work. As he broke free with one return – the plays aren’t live by any means – he raised his hand and his pointer finger in the air as he sprinted down the right sideline. Bit of a bold move by the confident rookie.
--Former Patriots cornerback Ty Law arrived on the field midway through practice.
--McDaniels served as the look defensive back for his receivers and tight ends as they ran routes for the quarterbacks. He seemed to always bite on the first break on double moves.
--Kyle Van Noy and Hightower got some reps reading the option in one small group drill. Danny Etling was the quarterback on the plays. It looked like a drill that may have been benefiting both sides of the ball. It will be interesting to see if the athletic young quarterback gets any sort of read option plays in preseason game action.
--Edelman struggled catching the ball, including in work with Brady against air. He had a handful of drops causing him to slam a sign on the fence by the sideline at one point and cry out regarding his own errors later.
--Corey Bojorquez continued to hit booming punts in work on the side field with just the other specialists and then lose some of his power and consistency when he took actual reps in team punt action. There is no questioning his leg strength at this point. There is also no questioning his need to become more consistent in his battle with incumbent veteran Ryan Allen.
--During one punt/punt return rep Sam blindsided Dawson, leaving the rookie cornerback on the turf. The two exchanged some seemingly playful words and fake punches before being “separated” by Derek Rivers. Still, the block was out of place given the rest of the tempo and action of the drill.
--Riley McCarron struggled tracking and catching the ball on his punt return reps. He dropped one high, booming Bojorquez punt and stumbled to the ground catching another rep. After the drop he yelled out a naughty word.
--Former defensive end Rob Ninkovich, who’ll be working the sidelines for the upcoming broadcast of Patriots preseason games, was at the practice. With Ninkovich, Bruschi and Law on the field you had the makings of a pretty impressive Patriots alumni defense.
--Random note on Decker, he throws lefty.
--Rookie tight end Ryan Izzo and defensive end Deatrich Wise took reps as the wings on the punt team.
--During one team rep tight ends Gronkowski and Izzo seemed to shift quickly in an effort to draw the defense to jump, with Wise doing just that. Belichick immediately spoke with his young defensive end.
--The offense had a couple Hail Mary throws into the end zone. Hoyer completed one throw to Phillip Dorsett, catching the ball just a few yards away from a heavily-covered Gronkowski, although it didn’t look like the defensive backs were actually trying to stop the play but merely getting into position.
--Some of the situational work included a red zone play with 10 seconds left and one timeout. Another rep was more of a one-play red zone situation. Brady also ran a sneak to his left to likely set up a potential game-winning field goal.
--Gronkowski had a false start in one of the situational reps. While he finished the segment, he ran a penalty lap afterwards.
--Etling had a better day throwing the football, even in the wet conditions late in the practice with some of the lower-end reserves. It was also interesting to see him throw a swing pass to Mike Gillislee, the veteran who a year ago started the season as New England’s lead back.
--It wasn’t a super competitive day by any means. Arguably the play of the day came late when Izzo reached back to catch an Etling thrown down the seam before getting popped to the ground by defensive back A.J. Moore, who seemed to immediately regret the hit that laid out his teammate.
--The team finished the day with conditioning work on the hill in the heavy rain.
--Those players going to the podium in the media workroom for the audibled media availability included Elandon Roberts, Flowers and Chris Hogan. Dorsett, Burkhead and a few others spoke with smaller groups of reporters.
--The Patriots will not return to the practice field for a public session until Tuesday morning at 8:50 in the morning. The players have a day off on Sunday.