Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and the bulk of Bill Belichick's Patriots roster took to the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium late Friday morning for the team's third organized team activities (OTA) workout of the week, the first open to the media.
The session, part of the third phase of the offseason program, took place in shorts, shirts and helmets. Players did not wear jerseys or have numbers on their helmets or shorts, a tact the team reportedly uses to improve communication and the bonding between players.
Of course, that makes the task of observing the practice action and figuring out who is doing what at any time rather difficult.
Still, it was back to real football in Foxborough and real football talk. It was a sunny, warm morning with players working hard to get better this day as they do every other day, building toward 2015.
Given the restraints of number-less players taking part in the bulk of the workout a field away, here are one man's blogservations from the OTA practice field:
Check out our favorite photos from the Patriots organized team activity on Friday, May 29, 2015 at Gillette Stadium.
--An unofficial attendance counted 32 players wearing blue shirts indicative of defenders and 42 players in gray shirts as offensive players. That would mean 74 of 90 players were on the field.
--Ryan Wendell, who reportedly underwent offseason surgery, was walking off the practice field just as the media arrived. Other players not seen on the field included Sebastian Vollmer, Brandon LaFell, Dont'a Hightower, Jerod Mayo and Chandler Jones, just to name a few.
--Though he has not yet officially signed with the team, rookie long snapper Joe Cardona was on the field and taking part in special teams drills. Another unknown player was also doing some snapping, but Cardona's impressive accuracy and velocity were noticeably better.
--Scott Chandler is one of the newcomers who stood out, partly because his 6-7 frame sets him apart even alongside Gronkowski. Chandler had an up and down day catching the ball.
--The special teams coaching has a new look. Ray "Bubba" Ventrone is back as an assistant on special teams, where he once made plays in the third phase of the game. He still sports the long hair he had as a player. Joe Judge, formerly the assistant, has taken over as the special teams coach. Judge was rather outspoken on Friday, making his displeasure quite clear when a player was not where he was supposed to be in one team drill.
--The practice included plenty of group and team work. There were red zone segments and down and distance in 11-on-11. Punt and punt return were the focus in the kicking game. Ryan Allen had some really nice booming kicks at times.
--A drone flew over the far practice field for much of the team action and special teams work. Drones have been all the rage to take photos and video in recent months in many walks of life, and the Cowboys used a drone to video practice earlier this month.
--There were two notable but unknown men on the field. One guy wore red shorts and spent a good amount of time chatting with Bill Belichick. He did not appear to interact in the workout in any way. Another short, stocky, bearded man worked with the pass rushers and defensive linemen on hand drills and combat moves. Asked who the man was after practice, Rob Ninkovich wouldn't reveal his name. Told he looked like an MMA guy, Ninkovich smiled and said, "Anything you can do to get better."
--Josh McDaniels wore a communication headset to call plays and interact with his quarterbacks throughout the workout.
--Tom Brady seemed to take the initial reps in most drills and segments, followed by second-year backup Jimmy Garoppolo. Each looked solid. Though it's tough to tell, Garoppolo's arm may be a little stronger than it looked last summer. The second-year backup spoke with the media after practice.
--ESPNBoston.com reported earlier in the day that defensive lineman Jake Bequette had been working at the tight end position. The former third-rounder and 2014 practice squader was wearing a gray shirt indicative of an offensive player and did spend a lot of time with tight ends coach Brian Daboll during this OTA session.
--As is so often the case in the offseason and summer, there were three Belichicks on the field for the OTA session. That included the head coach, his elder son, Patriots assistant Steve Belichick, and his youngest son, Brian. Brian often serves as a scout team quarterback in some drills or helps out in various other ways in the family business.
--The punt returners, including Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and others, caught punts at one point while already holding a second ball in their right hand. The two veterans made it look easy.
--There was plenty of loud music played during team drills. The first song of the day was Cult of Personality by Living Colour. Later there was some Jay-Z. Interesting overall mix throughout.
--Daboll did one of his more fun drills to watch with the tight ends. He stood behind the players back as they squatted down and waited for him to drop a ball over their heads to test their quick reflexes, eye-hand coordination and hands. Chandler didn't seem to love his early experiences in the drill with his new team. Gronkowski, not surprisingly, made it look pretty easy, as did Michael Hoomanawanui.
--Though it's just an OTA workout without jerseys or pads, there was a pretty decent level of spirited competition. Both sides had their ups and downs in the team action. Edelman caught a touchdown in front of a corner and then proceeded to spin the ball at the defenders feet, an act that likely would have drawn a flag in a game.
--The workout concluded with the team retreating to the far sides of the field and the man-made hill that's used for conditioning.
--After the workout those meeting with the media included Belichick, Garoppolo, Ninkovich, Edelman, Brandon Spikes, Stephen Gostkowski and others.