After completing 10 OTA practice sessions the Patriots kicked off their three-day mandatory mini-camp on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium under overcast skies on a humid Tuesday afternoon. The workout offered some interesting wrinkles, such as Jimmy Garoppolo working with top receivers Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman while Tom Brady threw to Scott Chandler and Danny Amendola.
The practice also was the first for the team's newest quarterback, Matt Flynn, who took some limited reps late in practice after the veteran backup signed with New England late last week.
Flynn's signing gives the team some veteran insurance behind Garoppolo should Brady's suspension not get overturned when his appeal is heard June 23. Although Flynn once started for the Packers against Brady & Co. back in 2010, it was the first time he met the future Hall of Famer.
"He's a professional in every single way," Flynn said. "He comes in, and you can tell, he's the leader of this team. Just a smart guy who has been around the block obviously, and another guy in my career that I can look up to and learn a lot from."
"I've been around the league, seen a bunch of different offenses, seen a lot of defenses. There is nothing you can really teach a guy like Tom, but hopefully I can bring some kind of wisdom to him if he ever needs it."
Flynn has had very little time to get up to speed with the Patriots offense. He practiced with the team last Friday but admitted he still has a long way to go when it comes to learning the system.
"That was definitely an initiation into this offense. I didn't know what anyone was saying," Flynn said.
On Tuesday Flynn's work was relegated to the final 30 minutes. He began by taking snaps near his goal line in full 11-on-11 work. He executed a few handoffs before tossing some short passes before the Brady and Garoppolo returned to execute some hurry-up work on each field.
Later Flynn got more opportunities to throw and was able to execute a reasonable level, albeit at a slower pace than the regular offense worked.
"It's always tough going to a different team. You have this huge task of learning a new offense, and that's what I'm in the middle of right now -- just trying to cram as much information as I can right now and forget about the old offense," said Flynn, who has spent time in Seattle, Buffalo and Oakland as well as Green Bay. "That's probably the hardest part of learning something new -- forgetting the old."
For those wondering if Flynn was brought in to compete with Garoppolo for the starting job should Brady not be available, the soon-to-be-30-year-old said his focus was to "learn, learn, learn" and "we'll go from there."
Even though the team has progressed from OTAs to mini-camp, the uniforms remained in the locker room while the players continued to work in blue and gray T-shirts without numbers, so here are the rest of one man's blogservations from Day 1 of mini-camp:
Check out our favorite photos from Patriots mini-camp on Tuesday, June 16, 2015 at Gillette Stadium.
-The unofficial player count this afternoon had 77 players in helmets taking part in the workout with 36 in blue (defense) and 41 in gray (offense). Among those missing were Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower, Jerod Mayo, Sebastian Vollmer, Chris Jones, Ryan Wendell and Brandon LaFell.
-Brady worked with tight ends and running backs on short passing drills early in practice and was doing a lot of instruction with the newcomers. At one point he enthusiastically praised Dion Lewis after the back made a catch on a fade.
-Ryan Allen and Stephen Gostkowski both took reps working on plus-50 punting with the kickers alternating. For the record Gostkowski sent several impressive punts sailing high in the air inside the 10.
-As has been the case throughout the spring, Brady worked with the tight ends near the goal line during a special teams period. Brady threw to Gronkowski, Chandler, Michael Hoomanawanui and James Develin, often with the receiver working on combination routes. Garoppolo spent time near midfield with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels during the drill offering some instruction.
-Chandler did appear to get shaken up at the end of practice, but later told the media he was OK.
-At the end of the special teams period, Brady caught a pass from a teammate near the sideline as he made his way toward the opposite field. The quarterback shuffled his feet to keep them "inbounds" and made a referee gesture with his hands to indicate the catch was in fact legal. Made me chuckle if nothing else.
-The Patriots offense was forced to deal with some loud music during a team hurry-up period in the middle of practice. As the team neared the line of scrimmage the music would get turned up, putting an emphasis on communication during the drill.
-The noise didn't seem to bother Brady as he immediately hit Danny Amendola with a perfect dart deep down the seam for a would-be touchdown. He later hit Lewis out of the backfield for another score.
-The most interesting part of the hurry-up work was the personnel groupings. Brady did most of his throwing to Amendola, Chandler and Aaron Dobson while Garoppolo got to work with the so-called "first group" that included Gronkowski, Edelman and Brian Tyms.
-Garoppolo got off to a slow start with some reads taking a little longer than normal. He was also forced to check down a couple of times while others saw his passes come out a bit tardy. He did find Tyler Gaffney on a nice wheel route in which the quarterback showed excellent touch. He also threw the ball better as the drill progressed, and Gronkowski must have made him long for more chances when the tight end made a tremendous catch in traffic to highlight the period.
-Bill Belichick had the specialists practice rushing onto the field in a potential late-game situation as Joe Cardona, Allen and Gostkowski ran in from the sideline before attempting 40-yard field goal.
-Edelman shook free deep down the seam and caught a Garoppolo pass in stride for a touchdown as McDaniels watched on the near field.
--Josh Boyce worked a lot with Brady's group and got several opportunities. He made a number of catches and was active throughout, but later in the practice he had a chance to haul in a deep pass but couldn't quite hang on. He also appeared to get shaken up on the play but eventually bounced back to his feet. It was the type of "almost" play Boyce has unfortunately become known for during his time in Foxborough.
-Practice ended with some desperation late-game situations for both quarterbacks. Brady heaved one for Amendola that probably would have been broken up under game conditions but was completed. Two plays later he dumped one off to Travaris Cadet before spiking the ball to stop the clock. Completions to Amendola and Tyms preceded Belichick calling out a third-and-10 from the 21 with 25 seconds left in which Brady went short to Amendola before the field goal unit rushed onto the field as they had practiced earlier.
-Garoppolo's session didn't go quite as smoothly as his first pass was deflected in traffic and picked off. He then hit on a few short dumpoffs to his backs before finding Gronkowski and Brandon Gibson for short completions. His drill ended after consecutive passes to Gronkowski set up another "under-the-gun" field goal by Gostkowski.
-The Patriots will be back at it on Wednesday for Day 2 of their mandatory mini-camp.