The injury carousel took another turn at Bryant College on Tuesday with cornerback Tommy Knight making his first appearance of camp. Knight, who had been sidelined with a leg injury, suited up and participated fully in the final training camp practice before the Patriots return to Foxborough on Wednesday.
Knight took part in all the drills and alternated with Otis Smith periodically with the nickel defense. He appeared to be moving fluidly and without pain before getting tangled up with Jimmy Farris on a crossing route and coming up limping.
He went to the sideline where he was treated by the medical staff with some sort of leg injury. Fortunately it wasn't serious and he returned to work after just a few plays.
While Knight's return represented the good news, Deion Branch's absence fell on the opposite side of the spectrum. The rookie wideout was in and out of practice on Monday with an apparent calf injury but was not dressed on Tuesday. It is unknown if Branch suffered a more severe injury (or any injury at all) or if Bill Belichick is simply playing it safe and holding him out.
The remainder of the injury corps remained relatively unchanged. Joe Andruzzi once again suited up and was the starter at right guard with the first offense. Linebacker Ted Johnson (concussion), center/guard Damien Woody (shoulder) and wideout Donald Hayes (leg) all donned the red (no-contact) jerseys and were limited in the workout. And linebacker Roman Phifer sat out for the second straight day with a possible hamstring problem.
One change was safety Antwan Harris out of pads and on the sidelines. His status is unknown.
The emphasis was on defense for the final workout at Bryant. Pass coverage got the most attention early as they worked on down-and-distance situations. After a strong start, the unit struggled on a few plays in the middle, prompting Belichick, who watched from well behind the play, to call for a re-run from the scout team offense.
On the original play, Farris squirted free along the left sideline for a decent gain. Belichick saw something in the coverage he wasn't pleased with, but couldn't have been too thrilled when Jabari Holloway wound up completely uncovered near the right sideline on the do-over. The dejected-looking coach simply ordered the drill to resume but it appears as if some work needs to be done in that area.
The play gradually improved and Victor Green came up with a nice interception a few plays later, stepping in front of Scott McCready and grabbing Rohan Davey's pass in stride. Davey, incidentally, returned to practice after missing Monday's workout for personal reasons.
The teams participated in some "riverside" drills where the defense goes against the offense at one of the field and then switch ends while the offense takes on the defense. There is generally different personnel being used for this with first units normally going against the No. 2s.
With Grant Williams being traded to the Rams, Tom Ashworth lined up at right tackle with the second string. Before camp began, Belichick said Ashworth is capable of playing either tackle spot, presumably making Williams expendable.
The practice finished up with special teams work which featured a lot of David Givens. The rookie wideout is in a heated battle with Freddie "Boom Boom" Coleman and Farris for the fifth receiver spot and his presence on special teams is likely an indication that Belichick is trying to learn about his versatility.
Givens joined Patrick Pass back deep on a receiving drill, taking Adam Vinatieri's first kick near the goal line and showing good speed up field. Ben Kelly and Kevin Faulk were the second group, but Givens remained on the field and worked as one of the front five on the receiving team.
When the sides switched and the kickoff team went to work, Givens was once again there with the first unit, lining up on the outside nearest the sideline. Coleman, Farris and Givens are all roughly 6-0 but Givens is a little bigger at 212 pounds. He also appears have the necessary speed to be a special teams contributor. This fight will be one of the tougher ones to call as the first round of cuts approaches on Aug. 27.