Running back Antowain Smith, who is expected to compete for the starting job, was the only player to fail the team's conditioning test Thursday morning.
Veterans had to take the sprint-oriented test after reporting for the start of camp. Head Coach Bill Belichick said Smith did not have an injury, but he did not complete the twenty 60-yard sprints in satisfactory fashion. Smith will not be allowed to take the practice field until he passes the test. No date is set for a second attempt.
Overall, the team reported in much better condition than they did a year ago. Belichick said no more than two players were above their target weights, as opposed to last season when weight problems were a source of irritation for the coach. He said the entire team is much further along as they get set for the first workout.
Besides Smith, two other players will not be on the field for the team's first practice. Running back Robert Edwards felt a pull in his groin, causing another nagging setback in his return to football. Wide receiver Dane Looker has a pulled hamstring and will miss the workout.
The other players out are defensive ends Willie McGinest and Brandon Mitchell and tight ends Jabari Holloway and Arther Love, all of who are on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
Cherry signed, Gatrell let go
Belichick made another change to the roster by signing safety Je'Rod Cherry and waiving first-year offensive lineman Rob Gatrell.
Cherry played four seasons with New Orleans before signing with Oakland during training camp last year. He did not make the Raiders roster and wound up playing 13 games for Philadelphia. At 6-1 and 205 pounds Cherry has decent size and his biggest strength is as a special teams player.
Cherry has never started an NFL game, but he brings a strong work ethic. Belichick said Cherry had a much different personality than his brother J'Juan, who was released by New England last year after a bar fight incident.
Gatrell was on the Patriots practice squad for the entire 2000 season.