With humid weather dogging the team, New England held a full-pads practice Monday morning complete with NFL referees.
After some segmented drills in which the offense ran running plays against just the front seven of the defense, the team ran full-lineup plays. Personnel groups were mixed up a bit, with several new players getting time with the first-unit defense.
"One of the things I've talked to the players about is starting to add some responsibilities to certain players," Head Coach Bill Belichick said. "The more versatility a player has, the more depth there is on your team. You'll notice some different rotations and combinations, and that's really what that is about."
On defense, Matt Stevens worked at free safety instead of Tebucky Jones and Garrett Johnson was back in the nose spot in place of Jace Sayler. On offense, Kevin Faulk and Antowain Smith split time with the second and third offenses. Faulk has generally been with the third group except in third-down or passing situations for which he has been with the first unit.
The changes did not hurt the defense, which came up with four interceptions during the practice. Michael Bishop, who was trying to hit tight end Johnny McWilliams, threw the first. The ball bounced off McWilliams' hand and went to cornerback Kato Serwanga.
Drew Bledsoe was the next to get picked on an acrobatic play by linebacker Tedy Bruschi. Bledsoe was looking for fullback Marc Edwards over the middle, but Bruschi jumped up and batted the ball straight up. He landed on his back, but was able to roll over and crawl just in time to grab the pass just before it hit the ground.
Damon Huard was the victim of the final two interceptions. Stevens stepped in front of his through to Torrance Small and caught the ball in stride. Shortly after that Serwanga had his second pick of the day when he intercept a ball intended for tight end Rod Rutledge.
The team did not practice in the afternoon because of the sudden death of quarterbacks coach Dick Rehbein.
Shaw, Big Kat excused, Glenn AWOL
Cornerback Terrance Shaw was absent for the second straight day, but Head Coach Bill Belichick excused him so he could tend to personal reasons involving an undisclosed family situation. Linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer was also permitted to miss the workout.
Cornerback Leonard Myers was out again and probably will be for a couple days. Belichick said Myers rolled his ankle last Thursday, and he has been out since.
Wide receiver Terry Glenn was absent without clearance from the team for the second straight day. Belichick said he spoke with Glenn last Friday after the receiver's four-game suspension from the league was announced, but there was no discussion about the player missing practices. Belichick said Glenn did not ask to miss time in order to attend funeral services for former Ohio State teammate Korey Stringer.
The coach also said the team is not approaching the season as if Glenn will not be on the team.
"We have no plans to not have Terry on our team this year," Belichick said. "Assuming that he comes back here, works, is part of the team and shows a commitment to the team, then I think that there is a place for him."
Belichick did not feel Glenn's personal situations have been a distraction for the player's on the team. Obviously the dealings have garnered extra personal attention from the coach and the front office, but on the field activity really has not been affected.
"He really hasn't been around the team much this year to distract them," Belichick said. "It was a couple days in the offseason conditioning program and a couple days in training camp. He really hasn't been a real integral, moving part in anything the team has done on the field since the end of the 2000 season. I'd like to be devoting more time to our football team, and this is taking up some of that time and energy."
The Giants are coming
The New York Giants will arrive Tuesday for three practice sessions with the Patriots. In addition to getting new looks from a different set of schemes, Belichick hopes working with the Giants will help bring his players together.
"The Giants do some things that we don't do, and we do things they don't do. That gives both teams an opportunity to see a bit of a different picture," Belichick said. "When you go against another team, it has a tendency to bring some unity to your team. Instead of going against each other, you start to come together when you are facing somebody else. There isn't a lot of direct competition with the Giants, and I think those kinds of relationships can be pretty good."