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Mallett absent, new tight ends abound and other Patriots Sunday camp blogservations

The Patriots returned to the practice fields of Foxborough Sunday afternoon missing one backup quarterback and with a trio of new tight ends.

A couple days removed from the preseason opener in Washington, the Patriots returned to the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium Sunday afternoon for the 12th practice of training camp, the ninth in full pads.

One of the biggest stories of the session – which was closed to the public but open to the media – was the attendance.

After putting forth a questionable performance against the Redskins that ignited talk of a backup quarterback controversy, Ryan Mallett was not seen on the field on Sunday. And Jimmy Garoppolo, coming off an impressive preseason debut in which he moved the offense well and threw an touchdown pass, received all the reps behind Tom Brady.

Check out photos from the New England Patriots joint practice with the Washington Redskins in Richmond, Va., Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014.

Mallett missed time this spring with a left knee injury, but no word on what the specific reason was for his absence on Sunday. Bill Belichick was asked in his post-practice, on-field press conference if the absence was injury related.

"There are all different players in different physical situations, so I'm not going to get into all that. We'd be here all day," Belichick said.

While Mallett was missing, New England had a trio of new tight ends on the field in full uniform. Having released undrafted rookie tight ends Justin Jones and Asa Watson, the team added veteran Ben Hartsock, re-signed Steve Maneri and added rookie free agent Terrence Miller (6-4, 234). Miller followed Rob Gronkowski's footsteps at Arizona, totaling 95 catches for 1,117 yards and three scores for his career with the Wildcats. He previously spent time with the Jets this spring.

Hartsock is a veteran blocking tight end with a 10-year NFL resume, while Maneri was a rookie free agent with the Patriots as a tackle who later moved to tight end and has spent time with the Chiefs, Bucs and Bears.

Miller is wearing No. 44, Maneri 86 and Hartsock 88.

Beyond Mallett missing time and the three tight end additions, here are one man's blogservations from the strangely-quiet, crowd-free practice fields of Foxborough:

--There were 16 players who did not take part in Sunday's workout. Those players not seen included Mallett, Tyler Gaffney (knee), Cameron Gordon, D.J. Williams (leg), Michael Hoomanawanui (leg), James Anderson, Chris Martin (NFI/unknown), Chris Jones (ankle) and Sealver Siliga (left hand).

Those players in shorts but not taking part included Aaron Dobson (PUP/foot), Tavon Wilson, Kanorris Davis, Ja'Gared Davis (leg), Bryan Stork, Jeremy Gallon (PUP/unknown) and Dominique Easley (NFI/ACL).

Mallett, Anderson, Kanorris Davis and Wilson are new to the list of missing bodies.

Running back Brandon Bolden returned to the practice field for the first time in more than a week, having missed the entire week of work in Richmond with the Redskins.

Rookie defensive back Jemea Thomas also returned to action for the first time since the first day of camp. He's been out since July 25.

--The team also released rookie free agent running back Stephen Houston on Sunday.

--Bill Belichick ran by himself on the practice field prior to the workout. He did laps around one of the fields, seemingly sprinting the sidelines and slowly jogging the end zones.

--While the practice was going on, there was plenty of bustle and noise emanating from inside Gillette Stadium as final preparations were taking place for the Luke Bryan country concert to be held later in the night.

--During many of the drills, the first group of linemen included Nate Solder at left tackle, Logan Mankins at left guard, Dan Connolly at center, Josh Kline at right guard and Sebastian Vollmer at right tackle. The next group included Marcus Cannon at left tackle, Jordan Devey at left guard, Ryan Wendell at center, Jon Halapio at right guard and Cameron Fleming at right tackle.

--Solder took some reps as an extra tight end. He lined up next to Vollmer, who was at left tackle, on one rep. That's a pretty massive mountain of man on one side of the line for the defense to deal with.

--Alfonzo Dennard seemed to be a bit more active in the workout as he works back to full health, including early 1-on-1 drills.

--Malcolm Butler, who played a ton in the preseason opener, was once again getting reps at corner opposite Darrelle Revis.

--Conversely, Brandon Browner didn't seem to take many, if any, reps on defense during 11-on-11 action late. He was on the sideline watching, but was alone and not with the rest of the defensive backs.

--Stork spent the bulk of the practice working out on an elliptical machine on the far end of the field. Wilson, Ja' Gared Davis, Kanorris Davis and Gordon worked on the stepper for a while.

--James Morris went to the rehab hill to run with strength coach Harold Nash at one point during the middle of the practice.

--There were some offensive sets behind Brady that utilized split backs in the practice. One grouping included Shane Vereen and rookie James White, another Vereen and James Develin.

--When he was taking part in some early drills in the red zone in 7-on-7, Browner did take at least one rep in the slot on the left side, the same side Revis was on due to the offensive formation. There has been talk that Browner may only be an option at right cornerback, the position he played in Seattle and where he's seen virtually every practice rep he's taken this summer.

--Jemea Thomas ran some sprints by himself on one field while the bulk of his teammates were doing team drills on the other.

--The quarterbacks were hit with pads by assistant coach Steve Belichick before throwing to a ball carrier who had his back to a pair of defenders in one open-field tackling segment. --Kickoff returns were the special teams focus of the day. Josh Boyce and Matthew Slater took the first reps, while Roy Finch and White were up next.

--Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Revis continued to work together off to the side while the rest of the team did special teams work. Tight ends coach Brian Daboll and assistant to the coaching staff Mike Lombardi kept a close eye on the action with the three elite talents. Brady had a lot of reps throwing to Gronk on the day. After one throw in the end zone the big tight end then went up and did a nice finger roll over the cross bar. Of course in a game that would draw a penalty flag this season.

--Joe Vellano took some reps at right defensive end in a 3-4 front in team action, in a group that included Tommy Kelly at left end and Vince Wilfork at nose tackle.

--Jimmy Garoppolo followed up his impressive second-half performance in the preseason opener against Washington with a sub-par workout that looked a lot like some of his other summer struggles on the practice field. He threw one interception to Devin McCourty on a ball with Boyce as the nearest receiver, although the pair didn't seem on the same page. He had another tipped ball deflected at the line and end up an interception for big defensive tackle L.T. Tuipulotu.

--Jake Bequette was on the field practicing and taking reps as a stand-up outside linebacker after sitting out the preseason opener.

--Brady took a break from throwing to Gronkowski at one point and held on a couple snaps for Stephen Gostkowski field goals attempts at the skinny uprights on the far end of the field. After the second Brady celebrated loudly, seemingly enjoying his own ability to hold. At age 37 he still has a lot of fun on the practice field and plenty of energy. --Brady was sacked by Vince Wilfork in a team segment late, although Chandler Jones and others probably could have sacked him even earlier were it a live game.

--Brian Tyms has a Randy Moss-like look to him in many ways. He wears Moss' old No. 84, the number he made famous early in his career with the Vikings. Tyms made the separation celebration gesture that Moss made famous on a deep ball against the Redskins. And he gets up after long catches with a Moss-like strut/bounce in his step. Tyms admitted after practice that he grew up idolizing Moss and signed with the 49ers out of college so he could learn from the future Hall of Fame talent.

--Maneri had a Garoppolo throw go off the side of his head in a team drill. On the next snap, Garoppolo failed to connect on a handoff. The very next play was a bad drop for Boyce. Not a very impressive three-play series for younger players.

--One random observation for Garoppolo – he doesn't always say the word "Mike" after he points out the number of the Mike in his pre-snap read. Can't remember Brady ever calling out just the number of the defender and not following it with "is the Mike."

--Brady was quite upset when the final play of a hurry-up drill in 11-on-11 ended with an incompletion and without a touchdown. No. 12 threw his helmet to the ground in disgust.

--The entire team, save for punter Ryan Allen, the long snappers and punt returners, did conditioning work on the hill at the end of one field to conclude the session. At that same time Allen punted to Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Finch and Patrick Chung.

--Beyond Bill Belichick, those players meeting with the media after practice on the side of the field included Rob Gronkowski, Brian Tyms, Malcolm Butler, Zach Moore and Joe Vellano.

--The Patriots will return to the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium on Monday afternoon 2:30 p.m. The session is open to the public.

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