After a one-year hiatus, the Patriots continued their tradition of holding a practice inside Gillette Stadium in front of season-ticket members and Foxborough residents. A large and enthusiastic crowd was on hand to watch the team go through the paces on a picturesque evening that featured a less intense workout than the previous two sessions.
Bill Belichick talked about the environment inside the stadium and the importance of getting acclimated to the surroundings, which included newly-installed LED lights.
"Tonight's an opportunity for us to get out into the stadium and just kind of take advantage of that setting," Belichick said. "This will be the only time we'll do that before the Washington game. We've got new lights. We've got really our only time on the field.
"This will be kind of an opportunity for us to clean up a few things here from the last couple of days that we feel like we need to get to. The players will be off tomorrow, so it'll be a good chance for us to recover and get ready to finish off and have a good week here the rest of this week. Then we'll be into some element of preparing for the first preseason game after we get through next weekend. That's kind of where we are for today. We'll take care of a few loose ends and get a good experience in the stadium."
By far the most memorable moment of the night came as practice ended. Rookie first-round pick Isaiah Wynn was tasked with the chore of catching a Ryan Allen punt, but failed to do so on his first try. The entire team rushed toward him as the ball descended, and many players collapsed to the turf as the ball fell.
But Belichick gave the rookie a second chance, and this time he secured the punt and was soon mobbed by teammates as the crowd erupted.
"Tomorrow. He just got off two nights off," Danny Shelton explained after practice.
The workout went nearly two hours and featured a variety of special teams work, including onside kicks, free kicks and virtually every other scenario imaginable. The environment was a bit different from the normal practice, which Shelton appreciated.
"It was pretty cool," the defensive tackle said. "When I visited in March I didn't get a chance to tour the stadium because of the snow. I had a chance to get a feel for things tonight. Being able to make plays in front of the crowd was pretty cool.
"It makes me wonder if anyone has a job. It's pretty cool."
Check out our favorite photos of the Patriots in-stadium practice at Gillette Stadium on Monday, July 30, 2018.
Dorsett settles in
After arriving just before the start of the season last fall, Phillip Dorsett was forced to play catchup all season. He was able to contribute in spurts when called upon, but the speedy wideout never really became a significant part of the offense.
During the early days of camp there have been signs that could change in 2018. Dorsett appears much more comfortable in his surroundings, and he's been active during the opening handful of practices working both outside (where he spent most of his time as a downfield threat last year) and in the slot.
"[Kenny Britt is] way ahead of where [he was] last year, and I'd say even the same thing for Phil Dorsett. Even though he was here last year, being able to start at the beginning, he's had a real good spring, too," Bill Belichick said when discussing receivers during an appearance on SIRIU Radio's "Moving the Chains" program. "So, we'll see how all those guys continue to do as we get into competition against our defense and the preseason games."
With Julian Edelman set to spend the first month of the season serving a four-game suspension, the opportunity for Dorsett to earn some additional playing time exists. He's performed well in the slot in camp and has spent some time working with Tom Brady in small groups while the majority of the team was busy working on special teams.
Listed at 5-10, 192, Dorsett has always been able to fly. It was that impressive speed that caught the eye of the Colts when they made him their first-round pick in 2015. But now he's getting a chance to show his quickness as well, and he talked about his desire to get stronger based on work he did in the offseason.
"Just trying to open up the tool bag, just trying to be an every-down receiver," Dorsett said. "Not really just being a deep threat. A lot of coaches, they won't let you do the other stuff because you're fast. They just want you to run vertical."
Dorsett, who was acquired in the Jacoby Brissett trade last summer, caught just 12 passes for 194 yards in his first season with the Patriots, but he did show flashes of ability. He made a critical 31-yard grab late in the AFC title game win over Jacksonville to aid the Patriots comeback, and based on his early camp showing he's looking to build off that success.
He's hoping his offseason strength work puts him in a position to fulfill his potential.
"Trying to be more explosive, being able to get in and out of my breaks," he said. "A lot of leg work, a lot of squats, a lot of lunges.
"I am a meathead. You can ask our strength coach. I'm a meathead. I'm always in the weight room. I come from a training family. We work hard at what we do."
On the opposite end of the spectrum from the speedy Dorsett is James Develin, the no-nonsense fullback who takes pride in creating space for others. Coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance, Develin was eager to strap on the pads and get to work over the weekend with the Patriots went at with some physical practices on Saturday and Sunday.
Not surprisingly, Develin was at the center of the running game work. On one particular play, the fullback paved the way for a sizable gain by for Brandon Bolden with an inside block and was seen enthusiastically clapping on his way back to the huddle.
"It's real football when you have pads on," Develin said. "Contact is part of my game. It's part of this entire game as a whole. Football is an emotional game. I play it very emotionally. So when one of us does a good job, whether it's me or one of my backs or a lineman, it's good to get a little juiced up."
Buy: Jacob Hollister – The second-year tight end is off to a solid start in camp, and Belichick offered him some praise before practice. "He has a lot of football in front of him. He didn't have a lot of experience – had some – but has gained a lot and will gain a lot more. I think he's got a great future."
Sell: Mike Gillislee – The running back was missing for the second straight practice, which won't help his cause in an effort to earn a roster spot in a crowded Patriots backfield.
Play of the Day: With the tempo noticeably lowered and the team not in pads, there weren't many notable plays to remember. One worth mentioning came when Brian Hoyer lofted a deep pass down the right sideline that James White caught in stride. Jordan Richards arrived just as the ball hit White's hands and the safety was in position to prevent the completion but avoided contact. Elandon Roberts lost his balance and wound up knocking White off his feet, but fortunately both players came away unscathed.
The Patriots were missing a few more players for Monday night's stadium practice. In addition to the PUP list, which still includes Matthew Slater, Jonathan Jones (Achilles), Cyrus Jones (ACL), Nate Ebner (ACL) and Kenny Britt (hamstring), Malcolm Mitchell, Keion Crossen, Jordan Matthews, Gillislee and Shane Wimann were not in uniform. Reports indicated Crossen was dealing with a back injury while Matthews appeared to suffer a hamstring injury during Sunday's practice.
New England will get a day off on Tuesday before returning to the regular practice fields on Wednesday with the action set to get underway at 9:30 a.m. As always, please check with patriots.com for the latest schedule updates.