Day four at Patriots training camp saw the first inclement weather of the summer work with rain hitting the practice action midway through the morning session. But the moist conditions didn't seem to dampen the contact level of the full-pads practice on the fields behind Gillette Stadium. In fact Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick had mild words of praise for his players' production as the camp's practices begin to add up.
"This is kind of a little bit of a hump day of camp after three days…a lot of times the players start to feel a soreness and stiffness in getting back into the routine you just have to keep going," Belichick said at his late morning press conference. "I thought it was a pretty good effort out there this morning.
"It was a good, competitive practice. We had quite a bit of contact. This is part of the process of getting ready to play, getting the body conditioned to the hitting and taking some of the skills that we do and mixing them in with contact. We did a lot of that this morning."
The action on the field consisted of plenty of work on open field tackling, the running game and, always a fan favorite, goal line. But while Belichick was relatively pleased with the work his team is getting done at this point in camp, quarterback Tom Brady pointed out that there are still plenty of mistakes that need to be corrected.
"We are not in midseason form," Brady said following the morning session. "We are a long ways…we have five weeks to the opener and we are going to need all five weeks. We are not even close. There are some good things but there are far too many bad things."
And while Brady knows that mistakes are a part of the equation at this point, he believes the team needs to work even harder to continue to advance.
"You never really want to accept mistakes," Brady said. "You realize that they will come up, but at the same time you try to eliminate them. There are mistakes every day in practice and every day in games. I think we are trying to eliminate as many of them as we can and just get to the good part and make sure we don't error-repeat. We don't want to make the same mistakes the next day, the same ones we correct the day before, because then you are not getting any better. You aren't making progress. You are kind of staying flat."
At this point though, especially considering the hard hitting and relatively crisp nature of the first four days of practice, Belichick believes his team is on a good pace and prepared to avoid any unseen hurdles that may come up.
"We know how many practices we have until the first preseason game," Belichick said. "We know how many practices we have until the first regular season game. So we have an instillation schedule. We have it basically laid out. There will be some variation in it as camp goes along usually due to some circumstances which are generally unforeseen. There are things you just have to deal with in the course of camp. So I think generally we are on our instillation schedule, but what's more important is how we are executing those things and if it's not going well then we are going to have to slow it down to make sure we get things right before we move on to the next instillation."
So far though, in the eyes of the only one who matters, things are going "pretty good."
Nomar trade reaction
A number of Patriots players were asked Sunday morning to react to the Red Sox trade of New England sports icon Nomar Garciaparra to the Chicago Cubs. As working members in the business of sports, to a man the players acknowledged the unpredictability of the lifestyle while saluting the shortstop's contributions to the Boston sports community.
"You never know why those moves are made," Brady said. "I think the management from the Red Sox, they feel like they know what they are doing. I think as players you just try to go out there and play as hard as you can every day and let everything else fall into place. There are a lot of things that are out of our control from a player's standpoint. I am sure Nomar would have loved to play here for the rest of his career, but it's probably not going to happen.
"I love the way he played the game."
Patriots safety Rodney Harrison, who saw the harsh business end of the NFL when he was let go by the Chargers just over a year ago, is not only realistic about the business side but is happy that Garciaparra is going to his hometown team.
"No one is exempt from getting traded," Harrison said. "It's unfortunate that a guy like that, a tremendous talent and a tremendous leader, had to get traded. But he's going to my hometown and I am excited. Now he is going to help the Cubs out in a tremendous fashion."
And Belichick, a guy with a background in tough personnel decisions including moves dealing with guys like Bernie Kosar, Drew Bledsoe and Lawyer Milloy, spoke about the deal from a management perspective.
"I am sure they did what they felt was best for their team," Belichick said in the same way he might discuss one of his own moves.
Morning Practice Notes
Running back Kevin Faulk was back in full pads, taking an abundance of reps with both the offensive and kickoff return units. … Belichick said following practice that he expects a number of other players who have been sidelined to follow Faulk's lead and get on the practice field in the coming days. "I am hopeful that as we go through this week it will be a situation where every other day or every day, we will be getting some guys back. Hopefully Kevin will be the first here of a few guys in that type of category. A lot of those guys are close and hopefully they will be back out there soon." … The team re-signed Hofstra rookie free agent wide receiver Ricky Bryant. … First-round pick Benjamin Watson remains absent and unsigned. Belichick offered little when asked how close the two sides were to a deal that would get the 32nd pick into camp. "I don't know. I don't try to gauge closeness. When they are here they are here. They could be this close [hands close together] and it could take a month. They could be this far [hands wide apart] and it could take an hour." … The list of players not taking part in the morning session included new face David Givens, along with Jarvis Green, Cedric Cobbs, Asante Samuel, Rosevelt Colvin, Ted Johnson, Christian Fauria, Matt Chatham, Matt Light, Tom Ashworth, Buck Rasmussen, Willie McGinest, Jim Miller, Lawrence Flugence, Lonie Paxton and DeVonte Peterson. … Rookie cornerback Christian Morton and defensive lineman Rodney Bailey were absent from the practice fields. Bailey was injured in practice Friday evening, but Belichick did not have an update on his status. … Second-year wide receiver Bethel Johnson continues to show much-improved hands, hauling a number of balls while also displaying his still-amazing speed. … Tedy Bruschi was the star of a blocking drill that faced the linebackers off against the running backs. The popular linebacker ran through, around and over foes Fred McCrary, Michael Cloud, Patrick Pass and Malaefou Mackenzie. … Corey Dillon and Faulk took the bulk of the carries with an offensive line of Adrian Klemm, Russ Hochstein, Dan Koppen, Joe Andruzzi and Brandon Gorin during a team running game segment. … Hochstein did a nice job stalemating Richard Seymour during a one-on-one pass rush drill. … Terrell Buckley worked with the first unit as the third corner in nickel situations. … Harrison continues to be his physical self, getting good pops in during the morning on Bethel Johnson and Dillon. The later drew some words from Dillon. … Zeron Flemister, James Williams, Klemm and Dillon all ran the customary punishment lap around the practice field at different points during the practice. Strangely, fans cheered loudly as Williams passed by the hill and bleachers surrounding the fields. … Mike Vrabel caught two touchdown passes from his tight end spot during the goal line segment. "That's not going to come all the time," Vrabel said with a smile after practice. "I think as soon as Ben signs, my time there will probably be limited." … Dillon fumbled during the goal line work after taking a hit from a group of players that included inside linebacker Dan Klecko. … Vrabel and Larry Izzo intercepted passes from Kurt Kittner and Rohan Davey respectively. … During the kickoff return segment Cloud, Faulk, David Patten, Johnson, Pass and P.K. Sam all took reps as the deep men.