There comes a time in virtually every training camp when the players appear to be visibly affected by the grind of daily workouts. The Patriots seem like they are smack dab in the middle of that period right now.
Tom Brady must have noticed it too because the quarterback brought the entire offense together before the start of practice, just after the team warmups, and tried his best to exhort the troops and get the execution at a higher level.
His efforts led to mixed results as the offense had its moments on Friday but overall it was more of what we've seen most of this week – either sloppy offense or spirited defense depending on your point of view.
"Tom is a leader and that's what leaders do," Rob Gronkowski said of his quarterback's early address. "We just have to grind through it. It's another day tomorrow and we just have to come out with some energy and work our way through it."
Part of the reason for the ineffectiveness of the offense is most certainly due to personnel losses, which continue to mount. Scott Chandler was added to that list on Friday as the tight end was not in uniform, leaving Brady without five potential targets – Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell, Aaron Dobson and Brian Tyms all remained out. Making matters worse, LeGarrette Blount appeared to injure his right knee in a running drill and left for the day.
At times Brady was throwing to the likes of Jonathan Krause and Chris Harper, so it's understandable that the offense has lagged behind the defense at this point.
Still the group turned in some quality plays on Friday, most notably a three-play stretch that saw Gronkowski, Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola turn in big plays, the first two from Brady and the final one from Jimmy Garoppolo.
Overall, though, the offense had trouble sustaining much momentum for much of the day.
Elsewhere, here are one man's blogservations of Friday's practice:
-As mentioned earlier, the absentee list continues to grow. There were 21 players not dressed to start practice. That group included the six players on PUP (Matthew Slater, Brandon LaFell, Dane Fletcher, Chris White, Ryan Wendell and Chris Jones) and the three on NFI (Matt Flynn, Caylin Hauptmann and Alan Branch). In addition, Julian Edelman, Aaron Dobson (reported hamstring), Dion Lewis, Tyler Gaffney, Matthew Wells, Eric Martin, Darius Fleming, Marcus Cannon, Joe Vellano, Jimmay Mundine, Brian Tyms and Scott Chandler all missed practice. Dont'a Hightower also remained in his red, non-contact jersey.
-LeGarrette Blount went down in a pile during a half-line running drill early in practice and did not return. Trainers attended to him on the field for several minutes and his running back teammates as well asBill Belichick all checked in on him before he eventually got back on his feet. He appeared to injure his right knee, and after he remained with medical personnel for another 10 minutes or so between the practice fields he walked under his own power to the locker room.
-The Patriots may have suffered a couple of other injuries during the practice as well. When the offense ran against the defense in 11-on-11 work Bryan Stork was not part of the offensive line. Josh Kline replaced him at center while Stork stood without his helmet with offensive line coachDave DeGuglielmo. He did not participate in the remainder of practice. Rookie Malcom Brown appeared to injure his foot late in practice and also didn't return, although he did speak with the media after the workout.
-Gronkowski continues to wear a sleeve over his right elbow in addition to the bulky brace he's worn on his left arm. Gronkowski did take part in some physical play, working in 1-on-1 blocking drills as well as full team offense in the running game.
-Amendola continued his strong camp with some more impressive work both in drills and in team action. He made the play of camp during a 1-on-1 drill against Logan Ryan when he made a tremendous one-handed, diving catch in the end zone behind Ryan. Amendola caught the ball and turned his body as he hit the ground, and before he got back to his feet he flung the ball into the stands.
-The offensive and defensive lines went at it in some 1-on-1 drills as well. The defense seemed to get the better of things, particularly when the rookies were involved. Geneo Grissom's quickness was too much for Shaq Mason on one rep, while Brown got past Tre' Jackson on another. Mason appears susceptible to speed rushers and occasionally loses his leverage in an apparent attempt to compensate.
-The defense was at its best during a 9-on-7 running drill about midway through practice. James White took a handoff up the middle and was stripped of the ball, leading to a defensive recovery. White quickly did a lap after the play. Shortly thereafter, Eric Kettani tried his luck between the tackles and was stripped by Xzavier Dickson for another turnover. The blue shirts were making a lot of noise during the drill.
-Amendola and Harper took reps as punt returners. We haven't seen much of Harper in camp but when he has had opportunities he's shown tremendous quickness and speed. He did mishandle one punt but his explosiveness was evident on several others. Robert McClain served as a short returner on some of the reps.
-Brady and Gronkowski spent time working alone on the opposite field during the special teams work. With Chandler and so many receivers out, it left just the two stars working by themselves.
-The referees were once again on hand to officiate the proceedings. This was helpful on a couple of occasions. The first came when Gronkowski got behind Patrick Chung in a red zone drill and hauled in Brady's pass over his shoulder. But the official ruled that Gronk failed to get his feet in bounds and called it incomplete. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, standing right behind the man in stripes, made the identical call at the same time. Later Jordan Richards corralled a tipped Brady pass intended for Amendola for an interception, but the play was nullified by a defensive holding call.
-White did his best to redeem himself from his earlier fumble when he turned in a terrific one-handed catch on a short pass from Brady. The ball was behind the second-year back but he was able to turn his body and reach back with one hand to haul it in.
-Rookie cornerback Darryl Roberts has been quiet thus far in camp. When he has gotten opportunities he's generally struggled but that wasn't the case on Friday. He made a nice play covering Amendola on an out pattern near the goal line when he dove to deflect Garoppolo's pass away. He was also tight in coverage on Josh Boyce on a couple of deep balls later in practice. Late in practice he worked in a secondary that included Malcolm Butler, Chung, McClain and Richards. An overall strong day for the seventh-round pick out of Marshall.
-Devin McCourty and Tarell Brown were not part of the secondary during some situational work late in practice. Brown was seen stretching his lower right leg early in practice but it was unclear if that was the reason for his inactivity. McCourty did not appear to be injured and was likely being given some rest while the coaches evaluated other players.
-The offense and defense stood on opposite sidelines during team work and substituted each play under game conditions. The presence of the officials to OK the personnel switches added to the game-like feel.
-Sebastian Vollmer took some contact in 11-on-11 work. Lining up at his right tackle spot he struggled with a quick inside move from Jabaal Sheard but it was nice to see Vollmer back in action after being relegated to mostly non-contact work this summer.
-Garoppolo continues to try to do too much at times during camp and once again paid for it. Rolling to his right under heavy pressure from Rufus Johnson after not being able to find a receiver, the young quarterback tried to force one near the goal line and was picked off easily by Duron Harmon. It's hard to tell if Garoppolo is simply trying to make the most of a practice rep rather than tucking the ball to run in that setting or if he has been guilty of repeating errors.
-Several Patriots spoke with the media following practice. That group included Gronkowski, Malcom Brown, James Develin, Gibson, Nate Solder, Trey Flowers, Harper, Kline, Amendola, Zach Moore, Sealver Siliga, White and Harmon.
-The Patriots will be back on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium Saturday morning at 9:15 a.m. As always, please check Patriots.com for the latest training camp updates.