There were no changes to Thursday's attendance report, as running back Shane Vereen (left foot) remains the only missing player. As is a Patriots tradition, Friday's practice got started with kickoff return action. Interestingly, cornerback and newly re-named captain Devin McCourty was given the first few reps.
Mood-wise, Friday practices are typically the lightest of the NFL work week, and that was evident today as several members of the coaching staff lined up as the scout kickoff coverage team in pursuit of McCourty.
Prior to practice, right defensive end Rob Ninkovich explained how he and the rest of the front seven study individual offensive linemen of their upcoming opponent in order to try to get an edge in one-on-one battles at the line of scrimmage. "Yeah, definitely, that's part of defensive line's job is to know the guy they're going against. Seeing tape, tendencies, footwork, hand placement. It all works together."
New England's o-line had its well-documented struggles during the preseason, in part because of injuries and players transitioning from one spot to another. Second-year left tackle Nate Solder is one of them. He's taking over for Matt Light at that position and today was asked about the state of the offensive line. "We certainly all have to be working together, see things through the same eyes. A lot of times it comes down to being clear in the way you communicate, knowing what you see, having good film study, understanding what you see, and being able to react to it."
When asked specifically about his inheriting Light's old job, Solder simply replied, "I'm certainly excited to play. Ready to go."
One of the newest Patriots, running back Lex Hilliard, gave reporters a couple of minutes of his time before heading out for a pre-practice meeting. He was signed this week after spending the past four seasons with Miami and part of this year in Minnesota. At his size (5-11, 235), he has the ability and experience to play either tailback or fullback, the latter being the role he'll most likely be asked to perform, at least for now, here in New England. He said today he initially learned how to play fullback while backing up former Patriots and Dolphins fullback Lousaka Polite in Miami.
For those of you keeping track of right guard Brian Waters' situation, the nameplate on his locker was removed today.
The full injury report, including the first game status updates of 2012, will be updated here on the blog later this afternoon. New England will have a walkthrough on Saturday, then fly to Tennessee in the afternoon.
UPDATE… 4:16 PM
Vereen is OUT for this Sunday's game against the Titans. Rookie cornerback Alfonzo Dennard pulled a hamstring today and is now listed as QUESTIONABLE for the season opener.
Tight end Daniel Fells (shin), corner Sterling Moore (knee), right tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back), and o-lineman Nick McDonald (right shoulder) are also QUESTIONABLE after being limited in their practice participation this week. Safety Patrick Chung (shoulder) is PROBABLE. He took part fully all week.
Down in Nashville, starting left defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks (knee) missed practice all week, but is listed only as DOUBTFUL. Backup tackle Mike Otto also missed this week's practices and it officially ruled OUT. Defensive end Scott Solomon (knee) returned to practice today and is QUESTIONABLE, as are defensive tackle Jurrell Casey (elbow) and linebacker Zac Diles (hamstring), who both took part fully all week.
Starting left guard Steve Hutchinson, who missed Thursday's practice for non-injury reasons, has been removed from the report, meaning he is expected to play Sunday.