With hearts still heavy after the news of quarterbacks coach Dick Rehbein's death, the Patriots returned to the practice field Tuesday afternoon.
New England coaches and players used much of Monday evening and Tuesday morning to deal with the death of Rehbein. While it was not easy, getting back on the field helped the healing process for the team.
"When you are used to having a guy out there all the time, to come out to the practice field for the first time with him not there, it's hard and it's different," quarterback Drew Bledsoe said. "I think the best way to pay him his respect and to honor him is to respect the game he loved so much and play it at a high level. I'm trying to move forward in a manner that will do him proud, and hopefully the rest of the team will do that as well."
The New York Giants, who are in town this week for three joint practice sessions before the first preseason game for both teams this Friday, joined New England at Bryant College. The teams were not in pads for the workout, which focused mostly on the passing game.
Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick and Giants Head Coach Jim Fassel have discussed joint workouts for a long time. The teams were scheduled for time a year ago, but Belichick was forced to call it off because of a decimated group of offensive lineman.
"We thought today would be a good day to keep the tempo under control," Belichick said. "We started slow in practice, and we weren't quite ready for the Giants tempo, especially offensively. But it got better as we went along, and it's good to get a look at somebody in a different color uniform."
The Patriots offense worked against the Giants defense on one field, and vice versa on the other. After some one-on-one coverage drills for receivers and defensive backs, the teams worked seven-on-seven drills. The Patriots defensive backs struggled, but Kato Serwanga did get his third interception in two days when he picked a Jason Garrett duck intended for Jonathan Carter. Things started slow for the New England offense too, where Drew Bledsoe's throw intended for Walter Williams on a slant was picked off by Kelly Herndon.
"It was good to come out and see some new faces," Bledsoe said. "Offensively we weren't as sharp as we would have liked to have been, but I think this is going to be good for us. First of all, it's good to practice against this level of competition because these guys are coming off a year where they went to the Super Bowl, so you couldn't ask for a better landmark to gauge where we stand right now."
The Patriots improved as the practice moved into the full-offense two-minute drill portion of practice. Bledsoe and the first unit began with a bad shotgun snap by Damien Woody, but everything went smooth from there. Bledsoe hit Troy Brown and David Patten on back-to-back out patterns. Bledsoe hit Patten in stride on a long bomb down the sideline, but the throw was just out of bounds, negating a long gain.
On third down, Bledsoe hit Kevin Faulk on an 8-yard screen play. With the Patriots facing fourth-and-two, a Giants penalty gave New England a first down at the New York 44-yard line. Bledsoe and Patten made the most of the opportunity, again connecting on a bomb. This one stayed in-bounds for a touchdown.
The second offense did not fare as well, stalling at midfield. The biggest action came when New England center Grey Ruegamer and New York defensive tackle Ryan Hale got into a fight. Both players were told to leave the drill immediately after the scuffle was broken up.
New England's first defense bent but didn't break. The Patriots opened strong, forcing an incompletion by Kerry Collins on first down. His throw was intended for Amani Toomer, but Otis Smith had him blanketed. On second down, Collins was forced to scramble for a short gain, and he overthrew Ron Dixon on third down. Terrell Buckley had solid coverage on the play.
On fourth down, Collins hit Toomer on a rollout to get a first down. A couple plays later Thabiti Davis turned a short pass into a long gain to the Patriots 10-yard line by getting away from the defense. After an incomplete pass, Collins fumbled a snap and the ball was recovered by Tedy Bruschi to stop the drive.
Rookie tackle Kenyatta Jones was excused from practice for personal reasons, as was linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer. Both are expected back for Wednesday… Woody, guard Joe Andruzzi and defensive end Anthony Pleasant did not wear the red "no contact" jerseys, though there was not any hitting… Wide receiver/defensive back Sean Morey sat out Tuesday because he was experiencing dizziness. Also out was tight end Chris Eitzmann… Belichick said he has not heard from wide receiver Terry Glenn, who had an unexcused absence for the third straight day.