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Morris fights back; Monday morning notes

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Happy Birthday Tom Brady!

For the first couple days of camp Sammy Morris stood out more for the hits he was taking from linebackers Adalius Thomas and Jerod Mayothan for the many positive things the otherwise productive veteran was getting done on the practice field.

But after getting knocked on his butt in consecutive days -- first in an interior running drill by Thomas and then in team work by Mayo -- Morris bounced back with a couple highlights of his own Monday morning on the warm, sunny practice fields behind Gillette Stadium

On a day Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichickreferred to as a "really big red area day" as the team continues to build its way through situational football, Morris took consecutive handoffs and proceeded to take it to New England's blue-clad defenders.

On the first, Morris followed David Thomas' pancake block of Pat Chung off right tackle for the nice gain. Then, he took the following handoff headed in the same direction only to make a nice cutback into and through the teeth of the defensive front.

Despite his ending up on the wrong end of a couple of highlight hits early in camp, Morris is among those enjoying as best he can the full-pads action to open the summer.

"I don't think you want your first contact to be in a game," said Morris, who led New England with 727 yards rushing a year ago. "You kind of realize…when I got hit a couple times I realized my pads were a little high, which you probably wouldn't notice if we were in shorts and t-shirts.

"I think everybody hates to a certain degree being in full pads and practicing twice a day, but I think it's a necessary evil. I realized after watching the tape that I was running a little high and I probably wouldn't have noticed that if I was running in shorts and a t-shirt. That's what training camp is for."

Looking beyond both training camp and himself, Morris (10th year) is excited about what he sees in a veteran New England backfield that also includes Fred Taylor(10th year), Kevin Faulk (10th year), Laurence Maroney (4th year) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (2nd year).

"I like it. I think we have a pretty diverse group," Morris said. "We have some veteran leadership, some young guys and most of all have some hard workers back there."

Morris proved he's one of them on Monday by bouncing off the turf to take it to the defense with the same hard-nosed style he's shown when healthy over his previous two seasons in a Patriots uniform.

Brady turns 32
Tom Brady celebrated his 32nd birthday Monday. Many fans in attendance carried hand-made signs wishing the former NFL MVP a Happy Birthday, while the crowd also continued an annual tradition by belting out a group rendition of Happy Birthday to the two-time Super Bowl MVP.

As has been the case in recent years, his teammates also sang to him when the team came together at the conclusion of the morning session.

But those who literally first celebrated Brady's birthday with him were likely the first to sing to him on his big day. Brady's parents made a surprise appearance at the conclusion of the quarterbacks early morning interview with Gary Williams on SIRIUS XM's Mad Dog Radio channel earlier in the day.

Asked at his morning press conference if he'd wished his quarterback a Happy Birthday Belichick smirked and replied dryly, "Yeah, I wouldn't miss that."

Ninkovich snaps into actionAfter getting his release from the Saints on Thursday, it didn't take fourth-year linebacker Rob Ninkovich long to land on his feet in New England. The 6-2, 255-pound veteran has spent time as a defensive end in two stints in New Orleans (2006, 2008), the team that drafted in him the fifth in 2006. But he's worked as at both inside and outside linebacker as a Dolphin in 2007 and part of 2008.

Ninkovich believes he's far better suited as a 3-4 OLB in the NFL, position that's worked out well for other former undersized Purdue Boilermakers – including former Patriots Rosevelt Colvin. He also see some similarities between himself and the guy he's now competing to help replace – Mike Vrabel.

"I was actually reading his bio and it's kind of funny how he was with another team playing defensive end," Ninkovich said. "Because it's a rough position when you are 6-3, 260. You don't have all that weight on you to hold off double teams and the big tackles that are going to be on you. It's a good system for guys that are kind of that 'tweener size where they have the athleticism to pass rush and get to the quarterback but yet they can still hold off a tackle and still make run stopping plays.

"He's had a great career and I could only dream of anything coming close to that. I just have to work hard and see where it takes me."

Ninkovich – who had 16 sacks in two seasons at Purdue after setting the Joliet Junior College school single-season record with 16 sacks in 2003 – also could be an option at long snapper. He filled that role in college, did some deep snapping in the preseason as a rookie and said he considers himself an NFL-caliber long snapper. While the Patriots currently have veteran free agent addition Nathan Hodeland rookie draft pick **Jake Ingram *competing for that job, Ninkovich might be an emergency option.

"It's always been a talent that I've had, because not everyone can do it and do it consistently well," Ninkovich said. "[The Patriots coaches] did say, 'Hey, we're probably going to have you snap a little bit just to see how it looks.' I was like, 'OK, whatever you want.' It's just the more you can do."

Where have we heard that before?

AttendanceThose not seen on the field for Monday's practice action consisted of basically the same group of names that have missed various workouts to date, with the addition of Le Kevin Smith. Smith was seen running with trainer Jim Whalen on the sidelines on Sunday.

Missing from the morning session were Jonathan Wilhite, Shawn Springs, Tedy Bruschi, Al Johnson, Stephen Neal, George Bussey, Ryan O'Callaghan, Randy Moss, Benjamin Watson, Smith, Myron Pyrorand Richard Seymour as well as injured/unsigned rookie *Tyrone McKenzie; NFI-list rookie Brandon Tate; and PUP-listers Rich Ohrnberger, Mark LeVoir, Darryl Richard, Ty Warren and Shawn Crable.

37 texts in Rodney Harrison is no longer a Patriot, but that doesn't mean he isn't keeping in touch with some of his former teammates, including safety protégé James Sanders.

"Every morning I wake up, or these last couple mornings I've woken up, he sent me a text message – a couple verses out of the bible, a could things here and there. Just talking about working hard and continue to grind and play with your instincts. We try to stay in contact as much as possible," Sanders said.

Now the resident secondary leader and most experienced member in the Patriots system, Sanders is excited about the prospects of the unique mix of players battling it out these days in the defensive backfield.

"I believe we have a lot of defensive backs that can do multiple things," Sanders said. "That can make us a very special unit and a very difficult unit to play against. But we can only be as good as we want to be. We got to go out here and work hard each and every day and continue to improve. We can't have any down practices. We have to continue to improve each and every day and carry that into the preseason and the regular season."

Conversion rate Julian Edelman is making a huge transition in going from Kent State quarterback to New England where he's been worked at wide receiver, running back and returner. But one of the biggest changes the seventh-round pick has noticed is in the facilities he's working at.

"Obviously you have professional facilities here. It's a lot nicer," Edelman said, before giving a shout out to his form digs. "But I love Dix [Stadium] as well."

Speaking of adjustments, Edelman promises his return struggles won't last. While he said he "did a little" punt returning in college, he knows he needs to get much better in that area after allowing a number of balls to hit the ground on both punts and kickoffs early in camp.

"It's just repetition and practice," Edelman said. "Obviously I have to practice it a lot more. It's all experience. I'm about 1,000 punts away from where I want to be."

"It's going to get better."

NotesThe linebackers worked on getting their hands low and avoiding cut blocks in group work as coach Matt Patricia rolled a large weighted ball at their feet as the moved at the line of scrimmage. … Chung appeared to get his toe stepped on in one drill, limping around for a bit. He did not seem to miss any action. … *Russ Hochstein took reps filling in for Neal at right guard. Previously Ryan Wendell had been stepping in for Neal when he's missed practice. … Mayo had a nice pop on Fred Taylor in one red area rep. … *Stephen Gostkowski *ent just five-of-seven on field goals to close out practice missing his first attempt with each long snapper -- first Hodel then Ingram -- wide right. … Brady spent time after practice working 1-on-1 with *Chris Baker under the watchful eye of first-year tight ends coach Shane Waldron. "Just trying to get on the same page," Baker said. "He's worked with a lot of guys over the years and just some of things … I need to know what he's thinking and he needs to know what I'm thinking. That's really where we're trying to get to right now." … Edelman on his status with the team at this point: "I'm a rookie, I'm a nothing right now." … Belichick praised soon-to-be Hall of Famer Bruce Smith during his morning presser. While they obviously played different positions, he said there were some similarities between Smith and Lawrence Taylor. "You had to game plan for Bruce Smith like you had to game plan for Lawrence Taylor." … The Patriots will return to the field for a second Monday practice session at 3:45 P.M. on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium.

Who's Hot: Tom Brady. This is a combo prize for the Franchise. First, it's his birthday. Second, in red area work on Monday he struggled to find a receiver before rolling out to his right, throwing on the run and hitting Joey Galloway crossing the end zone for the touchdown. Knee? What knee?

Who's Not: Joey Galloway. The veteran has been too inconsistent to open camp, including another drop of a Tom Brady pass on Monday. Before dropping the ball Galloway likely would have been called for a two-handed push-off on the covering cornerback Darius Butler.

Play of the Day: Greg Lewis made a nice catch in the back left corner of the end zone, beating the coverage of Leigh Bodden and James Sanders to Tom Brady's pass.

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