The Patriots basically put the final touches on the offseason program Saturday morning with the completion of the mandatory three-day mini camp at a drizzly Gillette Stadium. Aside from some extra work for the rookies and NFL Europe allocations, the players will essentially be off for the next six weeks or so leading up to the start of training camp in late July. New England Head Coach Bill Belichick has been mostly happy with the work that has been done this offseason, but he doesn't want to see any of those gains erode in the coming weeks.
"We talk to them strongly about [coming back in shape]," Belichick said after the practice. "I think everybody that has been here and hopefully the new guys not only heard what I had to say, but maybe what some of the other players had to say about the importance of conditioning and just being ready to go in the National Football League. It's a long season and the competition is stiff and there are a lot of well-conditioned athletes in the league and you can't afford not to be in that group. So, they have all heard that message."
As for the present, Belichick said while there is a long way to go, he is happy with the progress that the team has made as a group.
"We wrapped it up here today," Belichick said of the team's most comprehensive work to date. "We've been out all week since Monday and we've had eight practices. We've got a long way to go but it is starting to come together. It's good to see everybody working together, visually, just to see the players on the field interacting and running the schemes doing the things we want to see them do. It's been a productive week but there's still a little bit of time left here in terms of training and conditioning and getting ready for training camp. We'll be ready to go in about six weeks."
There were a few notable faces on the sidelines of the practice fields at Gillette Stadium Saturday morning as former Giants, Browns and Eagles tight end Mark Bavaro and Boston College head football coach Tom O'Brien took in the practice session. Bavaro spent some time talking to one of his former coaches with the Giants and Browns, Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick, prior to the start of practice. O'Brien spent a portion of the practice walking the fields the New England boss, observing a number of drills while chatting with the Super Bowl-winning coach.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft and his son, team Vice Chairman Jonathan Kraft, also observed the final practice of the camp.
The first offensive and defensive units faced off in a goal line session that brought about some of the most spirited action of the three-day, non-contact camp. During the segment, Tom Brady hooked up for touchdowns on crossing patterns to two of his tight ends, Christian Fauria and Daniel Graham. The defensive first goal line group consisted of a seven-man front of Willie McGinest, Bobby Hamilton, Ty Warren, Rick Lyle, Richard Seymour, Mike Vrabel and Rosevelt Colvin, backed by a second line of defense consisting of two inside linebackers as well as safeties Lawyer Milloy and Rodney Harrison. During the goal line work new fullback Fred McCrary got into minor, short-lived scuffle with a group of defenders that included Vrabel and Harrison. Rookie quarterback Kliff Kingsbury got a chance to go up against the first defense on the goal line and threw an interception to Colvin while attempting to hit his tight end in the middle of the end zone.
After missing yesterday's morning session and then returning for the afternoon practice, Ty Law was on the field Saturday morning but did not participate in any drills or group work. … During a special teams portion of practice when the first punt team unit got some work in, Troy Brown, Kevin Faulk, Deion Branch, Dedric Ward and Tyrone Poole were the deep men returning the punts of Ken Walter and Daniel Pope. … After alternating with Stephen Neal at right guard on Friday, Russ Hochstein took reps with the first offensive line unit at both guard positions on Saturday. … For more comments from Belichick's post-practice media session look for the entire transcript right here on Patriots.com