On Thursday, under yet another cloudless New England sky, the Patriots suited up for their second full-pads practice of 2012. As stipulated in the league's collective bargaining agreement, NFL teams are only allowed 14 padded practices during the regular season, 11 of which must occur within the first 11 weeks. Today's session took place on the team's training camp double fields behind Gillette Stadium.
Great news on the injury front for New England, as offensive lineman Dan Connolly (head) returned after missing yesterday's practice. His presence made for perfect attendance, the first time this season the Patriots have enjoyed that luxury. The full injury report will be updated here on the blog later this afternoon, after the Cardinals have completed their practice in Arizona (shortly after 5 pm Eastern).
The NFL Players Association, the union that represents the players, announced today that Matthew Slater is the team representative for New England. Center Ryan Wendell and kicker Stephen Gostkowski are co-alternate reps.
In the pre-practice locker room, left guard Logan Mankins told reporters he's looking forward to the first game of the season at Gillette this Sunday. "It's always exciting…the fans are always pumped up for the first game. They're always pretty quiet for the preseason, which I don't blame them, but I'm sure they'll be excited for this game, just as excited as we are."
I asked offensive lineman Donald Thomas, a UConn grad, for his reaction today to the news of Jim Calhoun's retirement. Apparently, I took Thomas by surprise, because he hadn't heard that the legendary Huskies men's basketball coach was calling it quits after a career that saw him win three national championships. Calhoun, a Braintree, Mass. native who took over at Connecticut in 1986, had battled cancer in recent years.
"Wow!" said a stunned Thomas, who grew up in New Haven. "As long as I've been a kid growing up in Connecticut, it's been Calhoun and [Geno] Auriemma [the UConn women's hoop coach]. I mean, that's going to be a big blow for UConn, UConn's family, the whole state of Connecticut. You know, he's had a lot of health issues lately. You don't want to see the guy suffer. Every year, it's something new.
"He knows what he's doing. He's going to make the best decision for himself… we'll see what happens with the program, how they rebuild. Whoever steps up has some big shoes to fill."
When told it was reported to be assistant and former player Kevin Ollie, Thomas was less shocked. "Oh, well, I kind of figured that, too, when they brought him in to groom him. So, it shouldn't be too much of a drop-off. He's going to bring some more young energy to it. It might even be a more exciting basketball team to watch. You never know."
More locker room interview updates are available on patriots.com.
UPDATE… 6:28 pm
Connolly was limited in his return to practice. There were no other changes to New England's injury report from yesterday.
Meanwhile, all of Arizona's players listed yesterday were in the same condition today, and the Cards added eight more players to the list. Most notably, cornerback and return specialist Patrick Peterson (groin) was limited. Backup safety Rashad Johnson was also limited (thigh). The other six newcomers to the Arizona report took part fully: starting left guard Daryn Colledge (elbow), starting tight end Jeff King (knee), starting safety Kerry Rhodes (foot), kicker Jay Feely (back), backup running back Ryan Williams (knee), and cornerback Lyle Sendlein (back).