Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe writes that wide receiver Wes Welker is ready to put his failed contract extension with the Patriots behind him. "I tried, they tried, and it just didn't work out," Welker told Young. "It's in the past, and we've moved on to this season, which we expect to be a good one." The Patriots and Welker had until July 16 to come to terms on an extension but failed to do so, which means the receiver will play out this season under his $9.5 million franchise tag. "I approach it like any other year, going out there and trying to help my team win games. That's the bottom line for me, and that's where my focus is," added Welker.
Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com reports that 12,163 fans were on hand outside Gillette Stadium to watch the Patriots' first practice of training camp on Thursday. The mark is a Patriots single-session training camp record for attendance. "It is amazing to think how far this franchise has come and how much the support for it has grown," owner Robert Kraft told Reiss. "The energy generated by the crowd added a special twist to the first-step-in-a-long-process day," writes Reiss. "[I]t reached a peak when [quarterback Tom] Brady connected with receiver Jabar Gaffney on a long-bomb touchdown pass down the right sideline. The crowd roared."
Mike Reiss also reports that head coach Bill Belichick said he "wasn't surprised" by the absence of offensive lineman Brian Waters on Thursday. Waters was placed on the Did Not Report list on Wednesday and has yet to be seen at Gillette Stadium thus far. "Asked if he expected Waters to ultimately show up for the regular season, Belichick said: 'We'll take it day to day. There is no long-term plan,'" reports Reiss. The thirteenth year veteran right guard started all 16 games for the Patriots last season.
Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe writes that offensive tackle Nate Solder and cornerback Devin McCourty are among the Patriots players who must step up during training camp. Bedard notes that Solder "possesses the talent and smarts to succeed Matt Light as Tom Brady's blind side protector" but must improve on his consistency and have a better training camp than last year. As for McCourty, Bedard writes that the Patriots will "need their cornerbacks to be able to play on an island," and the cornerback must elevate his game to improve on his disappointing 2011 campaign.
Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reports that tight end Rob Gronkowski showed no ill effects from last seaon's ankle injury and looked to be completely healthy during Thursday's practice. "Gronkowski was a full participant yesterday for the opening practice of training camp, spiking an end to any speculation that his surgically repaired ankle wouldn't be ready for the season," writes Howe. Howe writes that Gronkowski did not see much action early in practice but caught a long pass from quarterback Tom Brady later that elicited loud cheers from the crowd on hand.