The heat and humidity returned to Bryant College as the Patriots began their second week of training camp. As was the case during the tumultuous summer of 2001, Head Coach Bill Belichick had to deal with an unexpected defection.
Free agent guard Rich Tylski decided to retire after participating in the first five practices. Belichick explained the former Pittsburgh and Jacksonville starter simply felt he wasn't playing at the level he was accustomed. Tylski informed the coaching staff of his decision Sunday night and was not with the team for Monday's practice.
"Rich has been a starter for the last six years for some real good football teams," Belichick said. "I really respect Rich a lot. He's a guy that's come up the hard way as a free agent on the practice squad and really earned his stripes in the league. This was a very tough decision for him."
The situation was very similar to last year when newcomer Joe Panos opted to retire on the eve of camp, leaving Belichick with one less guard than he'd planned. The only difference was Panos left before practices actually began.
In Panos' case, it was a neck injury that eventually led to his decision. Tylski was having some difficulties with his knee and felt his body wasn't allowing him to perform the way he felt he needed to. Belichick said he'd like to add a guard quickly to make up for Tylski's absence.
With the temperatures on the field soaring into the 90s, the Patriots offense worked a great deal on the running game. The offense drew the wrath of the coaching staff with some untimely mental errors, but overall performed well during a smash-mouth morning session.
Right from the start it appeared as if the coaches weren't too happy as Belichick asked seven rookies to run extra laps before the team began its stretching. Daniel Graham, Deion Branch, Rohan Davey, Jarvis Green, David Givens, Antwoine Womack and T.C. Taylor made six extra runs back and forth on the field as the veterans looked on.
Evidently the youngsters performed skits and impressions poking fun at the coaches. Belichick and other members of the staff watched the performance, which is traditionally part of the initiation process for rookies. For their efforts, they endured some extra running before the start of practice.
Shortly after, it was the entire offense being punished, and there were no smiles involved this time. During a 9-on-7 drill that the offense actually appeared to be faring well in, confusion set in before one play could start and the coaches quickly sent the entire unit around the two practice fields. It appeared as if they lined up one player short and before the error could be corrected all the white shirts were sent running.
When the plays actually went off, the offensive line was impressive. Still working with a makeshift group without injured starts Matt Light and Joe Andruzzi, the front five opened up several nice holes for Kevin Faulk.
Faulk kept the lead back role despite the return of Antowain Smith, who along with Patrick Pass and Greg Robinson-Randall passed the conditioning run Monday morning. All three dressed for practiced and took part on a somewhat limited basis. Smith carried the ball on the third play of the aforementioned drill and bulled his way for a modest gain. Fullback Marc Edwards took a quick hitter on the next play and ripped off big yardage running behind Damien Woody and Grant Williams on the right side.
After some 7-on-7 passing work, a special teams segment and the team period, the players jogged down to the goal line for one of the best parts of camp: the goal line drill. Just four plays on this day but they represented the most competitive action so far.
The results – a draw. The offense got the jump by opening a huge hole off left tackle for Faulk and he barreled into the end zone easily behind Kenyatta Jones and Mike Compton. The defense got revenge on the next two plays stopping Faulk and J.R. Redmond. On the second, young defensive end Radell Lockhart broke free into the backfield and buried Redmond as he took the handoff.
The final play was a bit controversial but the offense came away with the touchdown. Redmond squirted through a small hole off left tackle and squeaked into the end zone. There was some dispute on the field, but Redmond later assured the PFW crew that he indeed got the ball over the goal line.
Belichick said he anticipates the return of defensive end Willie McGinest tomorrow. McGinest has yet to practice as he attends to personal business back home in Los Angeles. …
The linebackers got a leg up on the running backs during a 1-on-1 blocking drill. That's generally the case as the smaller backs try to pick up the pass rushing 'backers, but the drill was particularly one-sided, much to the dismay of running backs coach Ivan Fears. …
Third-string quarterback Rohan Davey executed a perfect screen to Edwards during the team period. He looked to his right and waited for the exact right moment to flip his pass to the left as Edwards moved out behind Woody. The bowling ball fullback then took advantage of Woody's big block on Je'Rod Cherry and raced untouched for about a 20-yard gain. …
The Patriots worked on their nickel package with safety Victor Green joining the four starters in the defensive backfield.