The Patriots were in shoulder pads and helmets only as they took the field for their 9 a.m. practice Tuesday in oppressive heat.
It was nice to see some of the formerly injured players stay on the practice field for a second straight day after working out Monday afternoon. The players who remain sidelined are safety Rob Kelly, wideout Troy Brown, guard Joe Andruzzi, tight end Daniel Graham and cornerback Tommy Knight.
Knight was running sprints on the field opposite the team -- an indication, perhaps, that his leg injury is close to healing. Knight hasn't practiced with the team during camp, but could be an integral part of a secondary looking to replace Terrell Buckley and Terrance Shaw – both free agent departures.
With the heat, cramps were an issue, and tight end Cam Cleeland, who has been back in full-contact practice for just two days, was carted off the field late in practice. He seemed recovered when he left the lunchroom during the media's allotted interview time, but he shunned requests to speak with him.
Goal line work highlighted the morning session and both the offense and defense had its moments as one might expect. The defense had the edge when the offense tried to run it in, but Rohan Davey and Damon Huard both found some open receivers when rolling out. Davey hit a wide open Arther Love for a score on what had to be a major defensive breakdown. Love ran parallel to the goal line with no defender within five yards.
Huard's best play came on a roll out right when he stopped and fired back to his left to Freddie "Boom Boom" Coleman in the back of the end zone. Coleman continues to come on after a slow start. He made two nice catches against the Giants before being plagued with a case of alligator arms on one pass and also made a fine special teams tackle.
The defense was hardly outdone. Ted Johnson stuffed J.R. Redmond on one running play, and the unit had a couple of pass breakups as well. Mike Vrabel deflected one pass from Davey that Tedy Bruschi likely would have intercepted (if the official didn't see him holding Love's jersey along the backline) and Ty Law got his hands on another.
Law was silenced for a brief moment earlier in practice when rookie wide receiver David Givens got behind him and caught a deep pass from Huard. Brady, who sat out the play, started screaming toward Law, mocking the flashy defensive back. That give-and-take between Brady and the defensive backs has gone on throughout camp, but Law quietly walked back to the huddle after the play. Generally, it is the defensive backs mocking Brady's enthusiasm, but the table was turned Tuesday morning.
Several players rotated into the first unit during earlier team work. Cleeland took some snaps at tight end, Kevin Faulk handled turns at running back and wideout Donald Hayes was in there as well. Brady threw two beautiful deep passes during the session – one to Deion Branch and another to Hayes.
Branch continues to work in the two-receiver formation opposite David Patten and in place of Brown. The offensive line had a different look with Mike Compton back at center, Adrian Klemm at left guard and Damien Woody at right guard. Kenyatta Jones remained at right tackle and Matt Light rotated with Grant Williams at left tackle.
The second group featured Grey Ruegamer at center with Drew Inzer and Stephen Neal at the guard spots and Tom Ashworth and Greg Robinson-Randall at tackle.
The special teams portion of practice was shorter Tuesday and highlighted punt coverage and gunner vs. vice guys one-on-one (and two-on-one) work.
The 4-3 defensive front featured Richard Seymour and Steve Martin inside with Anthony Pleasant and Bobby Hamilton outside. The linebackers were Mike Vrabel, Bruschi and Roman Phifer.
Tuesday evening, the Patriots will practice at Gillette Stadium in a session closed to the public and media. Also, running back Walter Williams has left camp for personal reasons. Bill Belichick refused to comment further on the back's departure.