Check out our favorite photos from Patriots Training Camp on Tuesday, August 11 2015 at Gillette Stadium.
There was a surprise addition to the Patriots list of missing players when the team took the field on a rainy afternoon in Foxborough as Tom Brady was not present for the workout. Various reports indicated the quarterback was given the day off as he prepares to appear in New York on Wednesday for a meeting as the sides continue working toward a resolution to the Deflategate ordeal.
That left the offense in the hands of young Jimmy Garoppolo, which obviously could very well wind being the case at the start of the regular season. Like he has for most of camp, Garoppolo struggled to get the offense moving, and the wet, rainy conditions did little to help matters, although the second-year quarterback said the weather wasn't all that bad.
"It wasn't terrible. The conditions, they are what they are," Garoppolo said. "It's New England so you have to deal with a bunch of different stuff. You just have to come here and do what we do.
"There were some tough parts [to the practice]. We have to deal with the conditions better than that overall as a team. But it's good to practice in them and get used to them."
Much of the practice took place under a steady rain, and prior to the workout heavy downpours made the field quite slick. Not surprisingly, the biggest impact was seen in the passing game, where Garoppolo had a difficult time consistently getting the ball into the receivers' hands – and when he did manage to throw accurately they had a an even tougher time catching it.
Still, Garoppolo remained upbeat overall and continues working hard as he tries to prepare himself for extended playing time. In recent days he's spent much of his time chatting with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels off to the side during special teams periods as well as after his reps are finished in 11-on-11 work.
"Last year things were much different, the circumstances, just knowing the playbook, I was very new," Garoppolo said. "The comfortability of the offense. It's more than it was last year. You just become more comfortable with the offense, the terminology, calling the plays and reading the defenses. It all adds up. The more you do it obviously the more comfortable you get with it."
Garoppolo said he is looking forward to getting the preseason started Thursday night against the Packers, although he claimed he has no idea what to expect in terms of playing time.
"We'll find out Thursday, you know how that goes. I really have no idea," he said. "It's awesome to get back out there. Practice is fun and everything but the games are what we play for. Thursday's going to be fun."
Bill Belichick, not surprisingly, wasn't much more expansive on the subject.
"We'll probably talk about that tomorrow," he said. "Today's really, like I said yesterday, kind of a combination practice for us. We've got a little bit on Green Bay, but there are a lot of things we just need to work on no matter who we were playing or what we were doing, so we'll get through today and then talk about that tomorrow."
Ryan Lindley was out of work until Monday and now he's trying to learn an entirely new offense in case he's needed against the Packers Thursday night. The former Cardinals quarterback is trying to pick things up "at warp speed" after just his second day in a Patriots uniform, and it's certainly possible thatBill Belichick would want to use him at some point against Green Bay.
Lindley, who started Arizona's playoff loss to Carolina last season, expressed frustration over his unemployment throughout the offseason.
"As NFL players we're all more confident in ourselves than everybody else," Lindley said. "If I wasn't surprised that I was out of work in the offseason there would be something wrong. It was tough watching OTAs and seeing guys go to work."
Despite Lindley's limited experience in New England, it hasn't taken him long to understand the No. 1 tenet of the Patriots offense – throw it to Rob Gronkowski.
"I've heard that's the fail safe around here," he said with a laugh. "No. 87 is a pretty good player."
Robert McClain has been an active participant in camp from Day 1. He's been a regular part of the secondary, generally working as a slot corner, and also has been used in a variety of roles on special teams. In recent days that's involved quite a bit of work as a punt returner, and he's shown reliable hands in that role.
Belichick said he's been impressed with his work ethic and commitment.
"He's worked [in the slot], he's also worked outside. [He's] another smart player that's got a good level of experience," Belichick said. "Robert's played in the kicking game. He's also played defensively inside – more inside than outside, but he has played both. We've worked him there. We'll see how all that plays out, but he's been competitive – smart guy, picks up things well, communicates well on defense."
Buy: Darryl Roberts –The rookie corner has seen his reps increase of late and on Tuesday he worked at times with a group that included Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan. He's shown the ability to cover and was tight on his receivers most of the day. His ball skills could use some work but the seventh-round pick has shown some potential.
Sell: Receivers –The rainy conditions certainly didn't help but pretty much every wideout had trouble catching the ball. That even included Rob Gronkowski, who was among the half dozen targets who had balls deflect off their hands. Based on Tuesday's work the Patriots better avoid the rain this season.
Play of the day –Despite the tough overall day for the offense, there were few plays this summer any prettier than the one turned in by Jimmy Garoppolo and James White. The back ran a wheel route down the left sideline and Garoppolo dropped a perfect pass right into the bucket as White fought off Trey Flowers to make the catch.
Not in a giving mood
Belichick often has some interesting ways of putting things and that was the case when the coach was asked about the possibility of young players perhaps going to the coach to lobby for inclusion on special teams. The rather innocuous question was met with almost disdain from the coach.
"Around here, you earn your playing time," Belichick said. "Nothing is really given to anybody. Players that perform well and earn time, if they do a good job, then they get an opportunity to earn more time. If they don't, and other players outperform them, then we're going to give the opportunity to the players who performed better. We're not really in the gift-giving department here. This is a competitive situation; everybody knows that. In this league, you earn what you get."
Ray Ventrone earned the respect of the coaching staff as an undrafted free agent back in 2005, getting the most out of his undersized frame with his hard-nosed style. His high-energy mindset made him a quality special teams player and he enjoyed a nine-year NFL career.
Now he's transitioning to the coaching life himself after spending last season with the 49ers to close out his playing career. Belichick was asked how Ventrone was handling his new duties.
"Ray has been great. He came here in the spring – February, late February, March – and he's been with us all the way through," Belichick said. "He obviously has an extensive playing background, and he's transitioning to being a coach. He's working really hard at it, got a long way to go, but he's doing a good job. I know he'll work really hard at it, and it's important to him, and he's got a lot of experience in that area. I'm sure it'll all come together eventually."
Ventrone looks like he's still in tremendous shape, and it would not be shocking to see him back in uniform should injuries become a problem at some point during the season.
The list of players missing practice continues to be quite extensive. The PUP list still includes Brandon LaFell, Dane Fletcher, Ryan Wendell and Chris Jones while Caylin Hauptmann remains on NFI. Julian Edelman, Dion Lewis, Tyler Gaffney, Travaris Cadet, Eric Martin, Marcus Cannon, Bryan Stork, Joe Vellano, Nate Solder and Scott Chandler all missed practice as well. In addition, Aaron Dobson, LeGarrette Blount, Alan Branch and Darius Fleming were all in uniform but did little more than conditioning work either in the bubble or on the lower practice field.
Dont'a Hightower, Matthew Slater and Brian Tyms remained in their red, non-contact jerseys while Rob Ninkovich did not wear his normal practice pants and didn't seem to be part of much of the full team work.
Belichick was asked if the large number of absentees affects how the reps are handled during practice.
"Each day we take what we have and go through the practice schedule," he said. "Sometimes we have to modify the schedule. Usually it's just more managing the reps and figuring out how to get done what we need to get done. It's pretty common on our team and every team to deal with that to some degree." … HBO will debut its 2015 version of "Hard Knocks" featuring the Houston Texans tonight at 10 p.m. With so many local connections the series should offer more intrigue to Patriots fans than is normally the case. … The final training camp practice open to the public will take place Saturday morning at 9:15 a.m. behind Gillette Stadium. Please check Patriots.com for any updates to the schedule.