Heat continued to be the most overwhelming factor as the Patriots took to the Bryant College practice fields for their only practice of the day Wednesday afternoon.
Dressed in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts the team worked through a full two hour practice with fewer mistakes and minor mental errors than had been the case over the past few days. There were few if any false starts, off sides, fumbled snaps or any of the other fundamental errors that had been evident earlier in the week. It appeared that while the heat was undoubtedly affecting the players physically, they were able to fight through and kept it from affecting their concentration and overall performance.
The team had a new/old face on the field for the first time this afternoon. Cornerback Jimmy Hitchcock, who was a third round pick of the team in 1995 and played with them for three years, rejoined the team Wednesday morning. Wearing the number 26, Hitchcock participated fully in the cornerback drills and reserve team work during the practice. While Hitchcock, who had been without a team since finishing last season with the Panthers, appeared to be in good condition, he also was a step behind many of the receivers he recovered. His addition adds immediate depth to the cornerback position and another solid veteran performer into the defensive mix. And as a player under Belichick's secondary in 1996, it shouldn't take Hitchcock long to get up to speed with the system. For his part, earlier in the day Hitchcock said he was a similar but more intelligent player than last stepped on the field in a Patriots uniform in 1997.
"I'm a smarter guy," Hitchcock said. "I am older and that makes you smarter. I've been tested and done some things out on the corner that gives you experience. I have been through everything."
Two others joining Hitchcock back on the field for full action were both Ted Johnson and Cam Cleeland. Cleeland had been carted off the field on Tuesday morning apparently suffering from severe cramps, but returned today and made a number of impressive catches during the practice. Johnson, who had been wearing a contact limiting red jersey since Saturday's game against the Giants, returned to his normal blue number 52 jersey and participated fully in the session.
On a whole the action on the field followed the same type of schedule that has become expected throughout camp, regardless of the oppressive heat. The one concession or liberty that has become a bit more noticeable, and rightfully so, is the frequent dispersal of water and short breaks by the positional coaches. To this point in camp players appear to have gotten enough water to keep the severe heat and humidity from becoming to much of a physical issue. Other than the players who experienced cramping in the Tuesday morning session, no other players seem have fallen victim to the heat wave.
The Patriots hosted a group of about 15 families who lost loved ones in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks during the practice. Following the session a group of players visited with the group to sign autographs and take photos. ... Damon Huard connected with T.C. Taylor on the play of the day during the 7-on-7 drill. Taylor made a nice catch as he had to come back for the ball and then took a pop from safety Victor Green. … Injured players Troy Brown and Daniel Graham remained out. Both players had their helmets though, and while Brown was running some sprints Graham was doing some work with the padded sled and also ran some prints. During his mid day press conference Head Coach Bill Belichick said he thought that both players were close to at least a return to partial practice action. … Rookie quarterback Rohan Davey continued to show proficiency for the play-action passing game in the practice. Davey made impressive play-action fakes during the preseason opener and continues to do so in practice. The fundamental skill appears to be one of the strengths of his developing game. … The team ran a couple sprints back and forth across the field following the practice, although they appeared to be of the scheduled variety and not in response to the practice action.