The Patriots got to work in earnest for their season opener one week from today at Buffalo. New England practiced outside on a muggy, overcast day, but the players wore full pads – including tight end Rob Gronkowski, who, with that, is now officially off the PUP list.
During the brief window of practice that media were allowed to view, Gronkowski stretched, ran through a gauntlet drill, did footwork exercises, and worked on blocking in position drills. That last effort seemed to be not at full speed or full power. Gronk's upper body does appear a bit leaner than when we last saw him in uniform, a result, no doubt, from his inability to lift weights normally for most of the past several months as he recovered from back and left forearm surgeries.
Also of note from practice Sunday:
…Three Patriots were not seen at the start of practice: cornerback Marquice Cole, running back Leon Washington, and offensive lineman Will Svitek.
…New England entered the day with just 51 players on the 53-man active roster, but just prior to practice, it seems they bumped that number up to 52. A player on the Miami Dolphins practice squad announced via his Twitter account that he'd become a Patriot. Rookie defensive lineman A.J. Francis, formerly of Maryland, would be a much-needed depth addition at a position where the Patriots have been beset by injuries all summer. He was not at practice, but presumably is en route to Foxborough. The team has yet to announce his signing.
…It looks like the team's eight-man practice squad is beginning to take shape as well, with at least three players who were cut yesterday suiting up on Sunday: linebacker Jeff Tarpinian, defensive tackle Marcus Forston, and defensive back Justin Green. There was another d-back wearing jersey number 36, but it was unclear if that was rookie Brandon Jones, who wore that number throughout camp, or some other player.
…Players are going to be made available for media interviews following practice, at around 4 p.m. EST.
UPDATE 5:10 P.M. EST
…Gronk came through the locker room after practice, smiled at the media, and promised he'd talk to us sometime this week, but not today. He was sporting a visible vertical scar, about two inches long, on his lower back along his spine, where his surgery took place.
…Fellow tight end Michael Hoomanawanui confirmed the media reports that indicated he'd taken a pay cut to re-work his contract with the Patriots. "I'm not supposed to talk about that," he added with a smile. "I'm just glad to be here." He elaborated a bit on that last point, saying that changing teams mid-season, like he did last year, is something he doesn't want to experience again. He feels more and more comfortable in New England and did what it took to remain a Patriot.
…Svitek walked through the locker room several times, each time sporting a black sleeve and brace around his right knee. He appeared to injure himself during the preseason finale against the Giants.
…During the media interview period in the locker room, several media reports indicated that the Patriots had made several more roster moves, including releasing Washington and Cole. New England is said to have added four players to the active roster: the aforementioned Francis, linebacker Chris White (late of Buffalo), and two o-linemen – Braxton Cave and Chris Barker. As of late Sunday afternoon, the team had yet to confirm any of these transactions.
…Rookie punter Ryan Allen spoke at length with reporters about his winning the job over popular veteran Zoltan Mesko. Allen seems like as nice a young man as Mesko was off the field. And he seems to have a very good handle on the punting part of his job, but he's a neophyte at holding for Stephen Gostkowski's placekicks, having never done so in a meaningful game before. He admitted as much today, but maintained he's "coming along" and feels "really confident about it."
…Undrafted rookie defensive tackle Joe Vellano was asked if he feels a sense of relief now that he's secured a spot on the 53. "[The pressure] gets bigger now," he insisted. "I've got to turn up my game and get better… Just trying to keep a good attitude, stay positive, and work as hard as I can."
…Rookie TE Zach Sudfeld is now occupying the locker where Wes Welker used to reside.
…A pair of rookies who've made the 53-man roster changed jersey numbers. Linebacker Steve Beauharnais went from 45 to 58, and defensive lineman Joe Vellano now wears 72. He'd been wearing 64.