With the weather breaking Thursday during the late morning, Patriots fans had their first opportunity to watch practice sitting in the field-side bleachers and the approximately 2,000 on hand provided some energy for the 6 p.m.-8 p.m. practice session.
After spending the morning full-pads work focusing on the running game, the attention shifted to the passing attack for the afternoon, when players adorned only helmets and shells rather than full pads.
The defense, as expected at this point in camp, is ahead of the offense in terms of the passing game, and the defensive backs and linebackers held a decided edge in seven-on-seven coverage drills as well as in full team work.
Linebacker Tedy Bruschi left his feet to break up a pass in front of the sideline bleachers, which drew an applause that grew into a roar when the veteran jumped to his feet and waved his hands upward, hamming it up with the fans.
With Otis Smith and Ty Law still out of action, physical rookie corners Asante Samuel and Eugene Wilson continued to take the snaps with the first unit and both look to be playing well in the early going. Head Coach Bill Belichick downplays the practice depth chart, but it's notable that the rookies are working ahead of veterans like Tyrone Poole and Leonard Myers. But Myers did make a statement during the evening session when he stayed with rookie burner Bethel Johnson and broke up a well-thrown deep ball down the right sideline.
The offense did have its moments, though. Quarterback Tom Brady hit Dedric Ward on a crossing route in which Samuel had decent coverage, but a perfect throw hit Ward in stride for about a 15-yard completion that would have been more with the run after catch. Brady also connected with Deion Branch on a deep ball for a score.
The throw of the night, though, came from backup quarterback Damon Huard who fired down the middle of the field just over the top of the defense to Troy Brown, who pulled away for what would have been about a 90-yard touchdown pass.
During some subpackage work in which the offense operated out of the shotgun with Mike Compton snapping, the defensive dime package featured a rush line of Anthony Pleasant and Rosevelt Colvin on the ends with Richard Seymour and Jarvis Green inside. Bruschi was the only linebacker on the field in that package that featured six defensive backs.
Camp notes: The wide receivers and defensive backs worked on winning the line of scrimmage with the defensive backs pressing the receivers, who had to fight off the line of scrimmage, in what was a non-live drill … there was more one-on-one pass rushing work in the evening, but it wasn't as intense as during the morning session when the players wore full pads … Veteran defensive lineman Anthony Pleasant was back in practice in the evening after being given the morning session off. Last year Belichick gave the older veterans select practices off and that is presumably why Pleasant missed the morning session … Mike Vrabel was rested for the evening practice as other players will be throughout camp. Vrabel will practice Friday … the practice featured a couple of special teams periods, which focused on the punting game. Deion Branch, Dedric Ward, Troy Brown and Kevin Faulk were the returners ... the Patriots also confirmed an ESPN.com report that veteran offensive lineman Brendan Stai visited with the team on Thursday.