The Patriots went inside Gillette Stadium Sunday for an intense full-pads evening workout under the lights as they try to simulate the conditions they will face Friday night when they host the Eagles in the preseason opener.
The team even went so far as to run onto the field in line into their stretching formation just as they do on game day with last year's captains – Tedy Bruschi, Larry Izzo, Rodney Harrison, Ted Johnson, Tom Brady, Troy Brown and Richard Seymour – up front facing the rest of the players. During a typical practice session, the players stretch broken up by offense and defense facing each other.
Following team stretch, the players ran through their pre-game warm-ups on half the field with quarterbacks throwing to all but offensive and defensive linemen and then breaking down into smaller groups just as they do on game day with the linebackers in one group, the defensive backs in another, the quarterbacks, receivers and running backs together and the offensive and defensive linemen separate but off on their own.
The team then went through some special teams situations with Josh Miller booming two punts from the back of his end zone, the second which backed the returner up to his own 37-yard line. Before breaking up into offense and defense for the full team portion of practice, special teams coach Brad Seely worked his players through kickoff return reps with Patrick Pass, Ricky Bryant and Michael Jennings rotating as the returner. Jennings and Bryant also returned punts.
With most of the special team work complete beyond a few Adam Vinatieri field goal attempts, the team split up with the offense on one sideline and the defense on the other as they ran through down and distance situations with non-NFL officials on hand. To make the communication as realistic as possible, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis wore a headset and communicated the plays to the quarterback through the helmet earpiece while also likely speaking to the three coaches set up inside the coach's booth situated at the club level at Gillette Stadium.
Brady and running back Corey Dillon looked sharp early. After moving over midfield to the 39, Brady connected with two-way player Troy Brown over the middle for 20 yards. Dillon made a nifty move on his first carry to sidestep a penetrating defender and break through the line for what looked to be about a 10-yard gain. The offense moved to the 7 in the scripted situations before turning things over to the second offense guided by Rohan Davey for a new set of downs and situations.
Davey looked decent during his turn, but his best play came on a third-and-10 situation from midfield when he rolled away from a blitz and hit a streaking Chas Gessner over the middle with a rifled pass for at least 15 yards and a first down.
Later, with the first units back on the field running the 2:00 drill, the offense hit a snag with three straight dropped passes. First, Brown beat Tyrone Poole, who faked a blitz, down the hash marks and dropped a would-be touchdown pass. One play later, Dillon dropped a dump-down throw and then David Patten couldn't come down with a high, but catch-able throw from Brady.
Rodney Harrison made what could be been considered the defensive play of the night on a blind side blitz that would have resulted in an easy sack and a possible turnover. He came untouched from Davey's backside and sprinted past the quarterback before Davey had a chance to step up and throw. He would have creamed Davey on the play.
All of the injured players who missed the morning workout also sat out the night practice, including Ted Johnson, Richard Seymour, Christian Morton, Tim Provost, Tom Ashworth, David Givens, Lonie Paxton, Bethel Johnson, Randall Gay, Matt Light, Jim Miller, Je'Rod Cherry and Kevin Faulk. … The quarterbacks worked on deep passes with the wide receivers and looked sharp connecting against uncovered wideouts, but on the last rep of the drill, rookie receiver P.K. Sam pulled up lame and stumbled off the field to the sideline before eventually being helped off and limping to the locker room. … Linebacker Rosevelt Colvin was in full pads but did not participate in the team's scrimmage period. … Rookie nose tackle Vince Wilfork rotated with Keith Traylor taking reps with the first unit while Ethan Kelley, who worked ahead of Wilfork during the week, took his reps with the second unit. … Brown took some more defensive snaps as a slot cornerback and even blitzed on one play. Christian Fauria picked up the blitz. … Dan Klecko worked at fullback with the first offense ahead of Fred McCrary who took some snaps with both the ones and twos. Klecko then worked at inside linebacker with the second defense … Patrick Pass worked ahead of Mike Cloud as the second team running back with Cloud eventually subbing in for both Pass and Dillon with both the ones and twos. … Jarvis Green replaced the injured Seymour at end with the first unit while Dana Stubblefield played that spot in the second group. … Guss Scott and Shawn Mayer worked at safety with the second group, but Dexter Reid then subbed in for Eugene Wilson with the ones. … Tully Banta-Cain was a second team outside linebacker, but took some reps opposite Mike Vrabel with the first unit. … The crowd chanted Brady's name after practice even after he had left the field to go to the locker room. After a couple of minutes, Brady emerged in an encore-situation to a loud cheer as he trotted across the field to sign autographs. … Just as they did at the end of the morning workout, the players ran three-quarter speed "sprints" the length of the field after practice.