Sloppy, rainy weather conditions made footing a problem as the Patriots slipped and skidded their way through practice Thursday afternoon.
The team had no morning workout, and the afternoon practice was focused mostly on special teams. Special teams coach Brad Seely ran his players through punt and kick returns, coverages and field goal drills. Everything at the line of scrimmage was live, but the kickers were to be avoided, and the return men were kept on their feet, provided they didn't slip and fall on their own.
The biggest hit during the punt drills was delivered by cornerback Rodney Rideau, who was blocking gunner Antwan Harris. Rideau ran with Harris on the sideline and then knocked his fellow off his feet and into several teammates standing out of bounds.
Place kicker Adam Vinatieri had a strong day in field goal drills. He was perfect kicking with the wind in the rain, as he made attempts from 43 and 47 yards.
Midway through the practice, which lasted just 1 ½ hours, the players removed their shoulder pads and finished practice in helmets and shirts. Quarterbacks Michael Bishop, Tom Brady and Drew Bledsoe rotated with the offense, and all three struggled in the poor conditions.
At one point, Bishop had consecutive passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage. The first was batted down by rookie defensive tackle Jeff Marriott, and the next by veteran defensive end Greg Spires. Marriott also knocked away a pass attempt by Brady.
The quarterbacks weren't the only ones to struggle. Tight end Eric Bjornson has had a solid camp, but two passes went through his hands Thursday. Running back Kevin Faulk had a ball squirt out of his hands on a running play without anyone touching him, marking his fourth fumble in camp.
Cornerback Antonio Langham appeared to be having discomfort in his right shoulder and chest area, but he did not miss any reps on the field. At one point Kelly Malveaux started to run on the field to replace Langham, but the veteran waved Malveaux back off. After practice Langham looked okay as he walked off the field with his shoulder pads under his right arm.
The best news Thursday was the return of offensive lineman Max Lane, who had pads on and ran through some drills with the team. Lane was injured earlier in the week and he didn't appear full strength, but having a potential starter return to action is always a welcome sight for the team. Rookie wide receiver Matt Bumgardner also returned to the field for the first time a in week.
The Patriots also announced a change in their schedule for Friday. They were originally scheduled to have just an afternoon practice, but they will now workout from 9-11 a.m. and again from 3-5 p.m.