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Monday morning camp notes

Deion Branch returned to practice Monday morning as training camp action continued at Gillette Stadium.

The focus was on the running game Monday morning on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium as the Patriots continue to push toward the regular season, and to some degree Saturday's second preseason game in Washington. But with plenty of time to prepare for the next exhibition game, Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick said for the time being the team's focus is more on overall, general improvement rather than preparation for the Redskins.

"This week we've spent Saturday, Sunday and today cleaning up some training camp things," Belichick said in his post-practice press conference. "We did some more installation, building on our scheme a little bit and then tomorrow we'll start to pick up the preparation on the Redskins. So Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week will be like a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday of a normal preparation week.

"It's just adding things to our scheme and building on the fundamentals that we've already had in camp, correcting some of the mistakes from the Giants game and we'll start looking at Washington."

In the action on the field the offense specifically looked to work on the running game. Antowain Smith and Kevin Faulk continued to alternate in the backfield, with each getting plenty of carries throughout the two-hour, full pads practice. The work also displayed the different combinations that can exist in the backfield between the two tailbacks, as well as fullbacks Larry Centers and Fred McCrary and even Patrick Pass.

The morning action also saw the return of second-year wide receiver Deion Branch. Branch had missed more than a week of practice, including the preseason opener, with an undisclosed injury. Monday, the diminutive receiver took part in all the wide out positional drills as well as rotating through the team drills with the other receivers.

Kerry Watkins also returned to the field Monday, while Otis Smith, who returned to action Sunday, saw limited work throughout the practice.

The team will hold a closed practice inside Gillette Stadium Monday night, before returning to the practice fields for an open session tomorrow afternoon from 2:30-4:30. As always, fans are urged to check or call the camp info hotline at 508-543-1776 to check for any schedule changes.


Joe Andruzzi had a humorous take on the fact that three offensive linemen, all guards that Andruzzi would have competed with, have retired in recent years. "Death threats," Andruzzi joked. "These veteran guards that come in here, I guess they must be scared of [Patriots offensive line coach, Dante] Scarnecchia or something. He must run them I out. I heard it was me and [Mike] Compton that's been running them out." …

Although the list of injured players continues to shrink, Kenyatta Jones, Gene Mruczkowski, Antwoine Womack, Tully Banta-Cain, Chas Gessner and J.R. Redmond all missed the morning session. … Fans may notice a bit of a change in the layout of the practice fields at Gillette Stadium. The two fields and goal posts have been rotated so that the action now takes place perpendicular to the large set of bleachers, rather than parallel to the largest grouping of fans, as had been the case for most of the early part of camp. … Despite the slight shakeup over the last few days with the retirement of guard Brenden Stai, there are two distinct units on the offensive line. The first unit consists of left tackle Matt Light, left guard Mike Compton, center Damien Woody, right guard Joe Andruzzi and right tackle Adrian Klemm. The second unit has Tom Ashworth at left tackle, Bill Conaty at left guard, rookie Dan Koppen at center, Russ Hochstein at right guard and Brandon Gorin at right tackle. … Jarvis Green continues to get practice reps with the first defensive unit at nose tackle, despite the fact that he was replaced in the starting lineup for the preseason opener by veteran defensive lineman Rick Lyle. … Rodney Harrison remains a physical and sometimes controversial presence on the New England defense in practice action. Monday he locked up with veteran running back Larry Centers on one play during a team segment and the pair remained grappling for a few moments after the end of play. Later in the practice he came in high and wrapped up Troy Brown around the head on a crossing pattern, although Harrison quickly released his hold on the Pro Bowl wide out. … Running back Frank Moreau put a nice move on linebacker Roman Phifer on a pass in the flat in one team drill. Moreau took the pass and looked like the veteran linebacker would stop him in the backfield, but the young back put a nice wiggle on the 13-year veteran who fell to the ground in Moreau's tracks. … Banta-Cain hasn't seen the practice field in camp, but he isn't exempt from rookie treatment. The linebacker carried what appeared to be the pads of every other linebacker off the field following practice. The seventh-round pick was barely visible beneath the pile of pads he carried around his neck, arms and hands, and actually had to make two trips to the locker room to get all the pads off the field. … Kliff Kingsbury remained on the field for quite a while after practice throwing passes to Thabiti Davis and the injured Gesner.

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