Those fans who braved rainy, cool conditions at the Patriots first practice of camp were treated to an intense, hard-hitting session.
The weather wasn't as hot as Head Coach Bill Belichick would have liked, but that didn't mean the players had an easier time of it. Belichick did not hold his players back as the team went full-speed for much of the afternoon. Several big hits were delivered, the first one coming courtesy of linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who got the juices flowing early when he brought the wood with a hard shoulder stop of running back J.R. Redmond. Bruschi hooted to the approving cheers of the crowd, and it was obvious all parties were fired up for the start of the season.
The offensive line is going to be watched closely until five players can establish themselves. For Day One, the first group consisted of Adrian Klemm at left tackle, Mike Compton at left guard, Damien Woody at center, Joe Andruzzi at right guard and rookie Matt Light at right tackle. Guard Joe Panos, who is a strong candidate for the right guard job, was given an excused absence for the practice so he could tend to a personal matter. Panos did not have any physical ailment.
Besides Andruzzi, Light was the only lineman who wasn't with the first-string during mini-camp. Greg Robinson-Randall manned the spot then, but he worked with the second group Thursday. Rookie Kenyatta Jones was the left tackle on the second unit.
The push by the line was impressive at times, opening large holes for Redmond. Redmond, Faulk and rookie Walt Williams all got increased reps with the ball because both Antowain Smith and Robert Edwards were out. Smith failed his conditioning run earlier in the day and will not be allowed to practice until he passes. Edwards had a groin pull earlier in the week and stayed in the training room during practice to get treatment. Also missing practice for the offense were tight ends Johnny McWilliams (hamstring), Jabari Holloway (hamstring) and Arther Love (groin), and wide receiver Dane Looker (hamstring).
Quarterback Drew Bledsoe looked pretty comfortable behind the line, completing most of his passes without much pressure. On one play where he was pressured, Bledsoe moved up in the pocket to his right and was able to wait long enough until tight end Rod Rutledge got himself open for a completion in front of Ted Johnson.
On the defensive side of the line, the first unit was Anthony Pleasant, Garrett Johnson, Bobby Hamilton and Antico Dalton up front. Dalton too the spot of Willie McGinest, who is still recovering from back surgery. The linebackers were Bruschi, Johnson and Mike Vrabel, while the secondary consisted of Lawyer Milloy and Tebucky Jones at safety and Ty Law and Otis Smith at the corners.
Other than McGinest, the other defensive player out of action was Brandon Mitchell (leg)
Bledsoe first to the field
Bledsoe was the first Patriot to take the practice field. He walked out by himself and was on the field 10-15 minutes before any other player showed up. There were some fans already at the field, and Bledsoe spent some time signing autographs and talking with them.
-- Wide receiver Terry Glenn made the catch of the day when he went up for a ball from Tom Brady and held on despite being completely parallel to the ground and landing hard on his back. Glenn landed out of bounds, but his effort drew loud praise from offensive coordinator Charlie Weis.
-- Brady was also part of another impressive connection when he hit Bert Emanuel for about 15 yards. The throw was a bit behind the receiver, but Emanuel made the catch despite very tight coverage Shaw.
-- First-round draft pick Richard Seymour, who worked with the second unit on defense, managed to strip quarterback Damon Huard of the football. Huard was looking for a receiver and Seymour went around the right end behind Huard and knocked the ball away as Huard was about to throw it.
-- The special teams units got a bit of work in towards the end of practice. Kickoff coverage was the main focus of the drills, with a little time spent on field goals. The 10 guys on the first coverage unit besides kicker Adam Vinatieri were Dalton, Kato Serwanga, Larry Izzo, Tony George, Matt Stevens, Rob Holmberg, Sean Morey, Je'Rod Cherry (just signed Thursday), David Patten and Ray Hill.
-- Williams, the rookie free agent out of Grambling, had several impressive runs against the backup units. On his longest run, the play started to the left, and after Williams got past the line he made a sharp cut to his right and went for a while before he was brought down.
-- Former New England linebacker Chris Slade has a new team. He signed with the Carolina Panthers Thursday.