This week's Patriots passing camp was supposed to be a Thursday-Friday affair.
On Friday, the Patriots will still gather as a team. However, they'll be traveling to New Orleans to attend the wake of teammate Marquise Hill, who died over Memorial Day weekend following a jet-ski accident.
After Thursday's practice concluded, defensive linemen Richard Seymour (who did not take part) and Ty Warren, along with running back Kevin Faulk, talked about their departed teammate.
Seymour described feeling a sense of "numbness" when he heard the tragic news.
"When he came (to New England), I was kind of a mentor to him. He was one of my guys," he began. "It was tough coming back here and walking past his locker…I'm kind of at a loss for words."
Running back Kevin Faulk is grateful for the chance to pay his respects to Hill's family with all his teammates.
"I think it's real important to go down there as a whole team. We do everything as a team, and this is no exception."
"That's the best thing, to go down there as a team."
Asked to describe Hill as a person, Faulk replied, "If there was anything you needed, he'd be the guy you'd call."
Fellow defensive lineman Ty Warren seemed to take Hill's death particularly hard.
"There's definitely a void," Warren admitted. "When he was on scout team, I'd line up against him. In meetings, he sat right behind me. It was a friendly competition. Even though he didn't play as much as he'd have liked, he always worked hard."
To a man, they said what they'll remember most about Hill is his abiding good humor.
"He was a fun-loving guy. Whenever he saw that you were down…he was always ready to lift you up," Faulk observed.
"Always full of energy, full of laughter," recalled Seymour.
"No matter what was on his mind, he was one of the funniest guys in the locker room," said Warren.
Seymour also revealed that Patriots players and coaches are planning to honor Hill in some way this season, but they haven't yet decided exactly how.
Passing Camp Notes
· In addition to Seymour, a number of other Patriots were absent from Thursday's practice: running back Laurence Maroney, wide receivers Donté Stallworth and Chad Jackson (recovering from a knee injury), safeties James Sanders and rookie Brandon Meriweather, and tight end David Thomas, who's nursing a broken foot.
· Defensive lineman Jarvis Green and cornerback Randall Gay were also not at practice. They are in New Orleans helping prepare for Hill's funeral services.
· Quarterback Vinny Testaverde, who's still not under contract with the Patriots, was practicing again with the team. He took turns in passing drills with Tom Brady, Matt Cassel, and rookie free agent Matt Gutierrez.
· In between plays, Brady and wide receiver Randy Moss were often seen working on their chemistry. They tossed the football back and forth several times and appear to be getting quite friendly with one another.
· Brady also appeared comfortable with newcomer Kyle Brady, throwing to the tight end frequently during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills.
· Wide receiver Wes Welker showed great hands and quickness and a non-stop motor throughout practice. His performance stood out.
· Welker, along with Faulk, Bam Childress, and Jonathan Smith took turns returning punts.
· Adalius Thomas took a few reps at inside linebacker in some drills.
· Running back Sammy Morris sported a red (no-contact) jersey, but took part in the entire workout.
· At one point, rookie linebacker Oscar Lua manned the inside spot alongside his boyhood hero, Junior Seau.
· Toward the end of the morning, Brady and Moss hooked up on a well-executed, deep touchdown pass. Moss separated nicely from cornerback Tory James when he saw Brady launch the ball in his direction.
· Gutierrez's delivery looked strong and crisp. Nearly every pass he threw was right on target.
· Kicker Stephen Gostkowski made several long field goals (from around 50 yards) with Lonie Paxton snapping and Josh Miller holding. He nailed all his attempts during the team field goal session to end practice. Gostkowski also worked a bit on onside kicks.
· Miller, who's returning from a shoulder injury, drove several perfect punts (tight spirals that turned over in a towering arch). He also focused on his hang time, with special teams coach Brad Seely standing by with a stopwatch.
· Safety Rodney Harrison made an impressive defensive play near the end of practice. Brady lofted what looked like a sure touchdown pass to Morris, but Harrison leapt in the air at the last minute to tip the ball away.
· Sixth-round pick Justise Hairston showed explosiveness whenever he carried the ball.
· DB Chad Scott picked off a Cassel pass during an 11-on-11 play.
· Sixth-rounder Mike Richardson broke up a long pass intended for Moss.
· On two occasions, an offensive lineman was seen taking a lap around the field. Wesley Britt and rookie Clint Oldenburg were the apparently guilty parties.
The players return to the practice field this coming Tuesday for a three-day mini camp.