One of the annual traditions of Patriots training camp took place Sunday morning on the far corner of the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium as the rookies on the roster spent some time slipping and sliding in a pre-moistened mud puddle.
Tom Brady led the good-natured rite of passage by holding the hose used to douse the diving players, with Wes Welkerchipping in with pales of water for good measure. All the rookies got a couple chances to dive for a fumble on the wet turf while Brady hit them with a stream of water just as he might a receiver running a quick slant.
"That was great as long as you didn't have to go get in the water," veteran wideout Joey Galloway said. "From where I was standing that was a lot of fun."
While the rookies might have seen things a bit differently, the hosing actually gave the veterans a boost to open the fourth-straight day of doubles to begin camp.
]()"I think it kind of helps you in the mental sense," Sammy Morris said water show. "You wake up and have the same routine every day. For Bill [Belichick] to kind of throw us a bone and kind of break the monotony and kind of get a little taste of real life … I'm just glad it's not me. It's fun to watch."
It's also something that some of the newcomers to New England had heard about even if they weren't quite prepared for it.
"That's the only one of those things I've seen," Galloway said. "And I've heard these guys talk about it. I didn't really know what they were talking about. And then I saw them with the hose over there for like 30 minutes [before practice] and I'm thinking, What in the world is going on here? That was very enjoyable."
Most notable in the activity was the fact that first-year special teams coach Scott O'Brien – whose resume includes 19 NFL seasons as well as NFL Special Teams Coach of the Year honors – took a run through the muck while getting hosed down by Brady.
"It was just fun. Everyone, you consider this to be a family. When you see guys throwing something and a coach jumps out there, you sort of pat him on the back and say, 'We appreciated that,'" Galloway said.
If a two-decade veteran of NFL coaching could join the fun, why wasn't Galloway wet?
"A couple coaches jumped in there. They didn't want any 15-year vets in there," said the graying speedster with a sly grin. "They said 15-year vets, you guys stay out of there."
Not quite Redd-y; Transactions
The Patriots made a trio of transactions Sunday morning, including releasing second-year linebacker Vince Redd. The undrafted rookie played in five games last season after beginning the year on the practice squad. Despite the relative lack of depth at his position and his seemingly prototypical 6-6, 260-pound build, Redd just didn't fit the team's current needs.
"I just think where we are defensively there are probably other teams where he would fit a little bit better schematically in with the skills that he has," Belichick concluded.
New England replaced Redd with defensive end/outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich. The 6-2, 255-pound fourth-year vet is a former fifth-round pick of the Saints out of Purdue in 2006. He played defensive end with the Saints over two stints in New Orleans and also spent parts of the 2007 and 2008 seasons with the Dolphins.
"Rob is a guy we did quite a bit of work on coming out three years ago at Purdue and [Anthony] Spencer was also in that class. When Spencer got hurt then Ninkovich played and he actually had a very good senior year,": Belichick recalled. "He sort of came into the draft pretty much all on his senior year of production. He's an outside linebacker that has some value in the kicking game and some versatility out there in terms of playing the run, pass rushing and that type of thing. When he became available we followed up on it and felt like he'd be competitive here in camp."
The team also re-signed rookie free agent defensive back Jamar Love on Sunday. Love spent the spring and early summer with the Patriots before he was released on July 29.
Kraft SIRIUS about VickPatriots owner Robert Kraftwas a guest on "Movin' The Chains" on SIRIUS NFL Radio on Saturday and, not surprisingly, was asked during the interview about much-hyped free agent quarterback Michael Vick. Host Tim Ryan asked Kraft if signing Vick would be an owner's call or a coach's.
Kraft's answer would seem telling in regards to any rumored future Vick might have had in New England.
"Well, I think each situation would probably be unique and I can't speak about how things work in other areas or [on] other teams," Kraft said. "This is a complicated one. I would think that most owners would want to have some kind of input into the decision, at least, I wouldn't do it from a football end but just understanding everything. But for us, that's an academic problem because we've got the #1 player at that [QB] position in the world as far as I'm concerned and why would we ever want to do anything that would take him off the field for one play?"
Versatile Vollmer in the swing of thingsSecond-round pick Sebastian "Sea Bass" Vollmerspent his entire career at Houston as a left tackle. So far in training camp he's taken nearly all his reps at that spot, including stepping up at various times to fill-in for Matt Light when the former All-Pro has missed workouts.
But according to Belichick the rookie isn't resigned to action on the left side. Vollmer played right tackle in a college all-star game as well as at times in spring workouts in New England. In fact Belichick says the 6-8, 315-pound behemoth has a unique set of physical tools and a mental makeup that make him a more than suitable candidate to play either tackle spot in the NFL. Or, at least early in his career, maybe to back up both spots.
"Sebastian is a very flexible player," Belichick said. "From a talent standpoint, it's rare that you have guys who are big enough and physical enough to play on the right side, that are then athletic enough and can handle some of the pass rushers that are over there on the left side. That eliminates a lot of players, guys who are either one or the other based on their physical assets. Then you have another group of players who might conceptually be able to play both, but maybe their mentality or comfort level of playing one or the other eliminates [them].
"To have a true swing tackle, that's a tough position to find. ... Sebastian seems very good at that to this point. As we go on and keep adding more stuff, we'll see how it goes."
AttendanceThose not on the field for the morning workout included Jonathan Wilhite, Al Johnson, George Bussey, Benjamin Watson, Myron Pryor, Richard Seymour, Ryan O'Callaghanand Tedy Bruschi. Also missing were unsigned, injured rookie Tyrone McKenzie; NFI guy Brandon Tate; and PUPers Rich Ohrnberger, Mark LeVoir, Darryl Richard, Ty Warren and Shawn Crable.
Randy Moss made his first morning appearance of camp after sitting out the first three A.M. practices of the summer.
Vision forceAccording to Galloway, Brady sees everything on the field at all times, even in practice. And that's just one of the quarterback's strengths that the veteran is witnessing first hand in his first season in New England.
"He sees so much," Galloway said, almost in amazement. "I've played with a lot of quarterbacks in my time. And it's very rare to find a guy who sees the entire field like he does. He can throw the ball to the other side and still have a conversation with you about what went on on your side. So it's just a lot of information and it makes it a lot easier to talk to him."
That said, Galloway also joked that his first discussion with Brady when jogging back to the huddle is the same as it is for most receivers.
"I come back and tell him to throw me the ball," he said with a smile.
No snap decisions
In what's one of the tightest but least publicized battles of training camp, Stephen Gostkowskihas a good view of the competition at long snapper between veteran addition Nathan Hodel and rookie sixth-round pick Jake Ingram.
"It's going pretty smooth so far. It's just you have to be patient with it. Not every day is going to be as smooth when you've been working with a guy the three past years. You just have to be patient and take it one day at a time and realize that they're not only getting better but we're getting better as a unit and finding a rhythm.
"Sometimes the toughest thing is going from one right to the other because not everybody throws it the same or the operation is a little bit different. But I'm getting used to both of them. I'm taking it patient. I don't expect as high a success as I would if I came in with if I had Lonie [Paxton] back again. But I expect to be where I was in a couple days or towards the end of training camp."
The most important thing for the All-Pro kicker is to ensure that the battle in front of him and the snaps that come with it don't affect his performance.
"I just can't overreact to one or two misses here or there because they happen anyway," Gostkowski said. "I can't have a built-in excuse in my head that it's because of a new snapper. They are working hard. They are doing good. And I think the more we work on it the better we're going to get. It's a process."
Who's Hot: Sebastian Vollmer. The second-round pick out of Houston has gotten plenty of reps at left tackle early in camp, including filling in for Matt Light at times. Combine that with the praise he received from Belichick in his morning press conference and things are looking up for the supersized German.
Who's Not:Jonathan Wilhite. It's not necessarily his fault, but the sophomore missed four straight practices as of Sunday. He's losing key reps at arguably the most competitive position on the roster. At some point the train might be too far ahead for him to catch up.
Play of the Day: Tyson DeVree hauled in a pass in the back left corner of the end zone, a play in which he had to run under the ball while remaining cognizant of the sideline. He caught the pass and did a good job of tapping his toes down for what would have been a touchdown. There was no coverage on the play, coming in drill work with the quarterbacks, but it was still a pretty catch.
NotesThe Sunday afternoon session is now closed to the public as it will take place inside the Dana-Farber Field House. It is scheduled to be a walk-thru from 4:15-5:30. Media will be in attendance. … Belichick had some extraordinary praise for safety James Sanders in his morning presser. "I think he's very professional and you would like to have 53 players like James on your team in terms of his work ethic, his toughness [and] being a teammate." … Sunday's morning session included a lot of red area work on both sides of the ball. The special teams drills focused on punt return action. … "The Patriots media relations department issued a new schedule pertaining to Belichick's press conferences moving forward in camp. The coach will meet with the media four times a week, with this week's schedule brining him to the dais on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday.