Patritos wide receiver Randy Moss.
For the most part, Thursday afternoon's practice wasn't much different than the 20-some-odd workouts that preceded it. The Patriots worked on some drills at the start, broke into position groups and then did some team work with both offense and defense working off cards in preparation of Sunday's preseason game in Tampa.
But the close to the practice had a bit of a different feel than most. That's when Tom Bradyand his offense went to work in the hurry-up as Bill Belichickbarked out some instructions in the middle. The segment wasn't much different than others the team has done periodically this summer, but some of the situations that were created and the ultimate results made for some of the more entertaining work thus far.
It's no secret that Brady is at home when things appear to be the most frantic. That was again the case Thursday as he dissected the defense with his usual expert decision-making and threw with surgical-precision. When the 12-play drive was complete, it should come as no surprise to learn the ball went from Brady's right hand to Randy Moss' soft hands in the end zone as the defense was powerless to stop it.
Things got started around midfield as Brady hit Kevin Faulkwith a quick screen that didn't fool anyone. After a modest gain, the offense soon faced third down after Brady's next pass was batted down at the line. ButDavid Thomasmade a big play when he squirted free over the middle and made a nice catch to pick up the first down. Belichick called for a measurement on the play, another example of the coach creating a game-like situation, but Thomas picked up the necessary yardage.
Brady then went to his favorite security blanket and found Wes Welkeron consecutive plays across the middle underneath the coverage. The second one picked up a first down at the 32 and led to a timeout for the offense. Brady and Thomas hooked up again on a quick out for 7 yards before Jabar Gaffney followed with another out that was good for 10 more.
Brady spiked the ball to stop the clock this time, setting up second-and-10 from the 15. Working against a secondary that included rookie Terrence Wheatleyat left corner and Ellis Hobbson the right side, Brady seemed to go at the more experienced Hobbs.
Welker shook loose for what might have been a touchdown on the following play but Belichick blew the play dead at the 6, leading to another spike from the offense. But instead of third-and-one, Belichick declared it fourth down and the intensity on both sides was jacked sky high. This time it was the defense that called timeout, and Mike Vrabel returned to the field exhorting his mates to come up with a stop.
Unfortunately, they never had a chance because Ty Warrenwas flagged for a neutral zone infraction on consecutive plays, miscues that cost him a lap when the drill was over. With the ball now just outside the 1, Brady had no trouble finding Moss, again in front of Hobbs, for the touchdown.
It wasn't so much the result that stood out as the seemingly effortless execution. Brady is always in control but at times this summer the passing game has struggled behind a rebuilt offensive line. On Thursday, it might as well have been a mid-October game inside the stadium based on the offensive efficiency on display.
Matt Casselled the second group and didn't fare as well, although he was able to put some points on the board. His first pass was knocked down byShawn Crable and his second fell short ofRay Ventronenear the left sideline. C.J. Jonesthe let a catchable third-down pass bounce off his hands near the right sideline to make it fourth down.
Marcus Pollard came up big with a 20-yard catch down the seam to set up a Stephen Gostkowski field goal, which also put an end to that portion of practice.
Belichick confirmed reports that indicated John Lynchwas in Foxborough on Wednesday and added that the veteran safety underwent a physical. "I can tell you that I met with John yesterday," he said. "He came in, we talked and he took a physical. But right now he is not under contract with the Patriots. Until he is, I won't have any further comment on that. If and when that happens, then we will address it."
There were unconfirmed reports the indicated Lynch had signed with the Patriots but no official word came from the team. NFL.com reported Lynch signed a one-year deal worth $1.5 million.
James Sanders, who recently returned to practice and his starting spot at safety, believes Lynch would make a fine addition to the Patriots secondary.
"I don't know him too well but I know he's a great safety who's played a lot of years in this league," Sanders said. "Whatever move they plan on making it will be best for the team. He's a contact player and you expect him to be a tempo-setter."
Who's hot: Eric Alexander –The linebacker hasn't been the most visible player in camp but he showed up on Thursday playing next to both Tedy Bruschiand Jerod Mayoon the inside with the first group. He showed great range in pass coverage and made a couple of nice plays throughout the afternoon.
Who's not: Matt Gutierrez – The second-year quarterback returned to practice after missing three days of work and showed some rust. During some seven-on-seven work he had consecutive passes picked off, the first by Alexander and the second by rookie Terrence Wheatley.
Play of the day:Alexander's pick was quite an athletic play as he dropped deep into coverage on Marcus Pollardand reached up with one hand to snag Gutierrez' pass down the seam.
Twenty players missed practice with the notables including Rodney Harrison, Adalius Thomas, Matt Lightand Jason Webster. Stephen Nealand Oliver Rossremained on the physically unable to perform list. … The Patriots signed offensive lineman Stephen Sene, a rookie free agent out of Liberty, and released wide receiver Chris Dunlap. Sene, who took reps at right tackle with the second group, spent time in Rams camp earlier this summer but was let go while he was actually on the practice field. … Tight end Jonathan Stuparspent some time practicing long snaps before the session, working with Lonie Paxtonand punter Chris Hanson. … Chad Jacksongot well behind Hobbs and caught Brady's bomb for a touchdown during some team work. … Thursday's practice was originally scheduled to be the team's final workout open to the public but the Patriots will Friday's session open (weather permitting), which is scheduled to run from noon-2 p.m.