While the players were no doubt thrilled with the mild temperatures that accompanied the second day of training camp, it's a safe bet the coaching staff would have preferred to heat things up a little. Still, the Patriots went through a reasonably spirited morning workout in the first session of two-a-days at Bryant College.
The offense remained without the services of starting running back Antowain Smith, who along with tackle Greg Robinson-Randall and fullback Patrick Pass, apparently failed the conditioning run administered Friday morning. Head Coach Bill Belichick wouldn't definitively say which players failed but did admit that some had not completed the test properly when he spoke after practice on Friday.
Smith, Pass and Robinson-Randall were in shorts and spent the first part of practice riding stationary bikes. Then that group, plus injured tight end Cameron Cleeland (Achilles) and cornerback Ben Kelly (leg), joined assistant strength and conditioning coach Markus Paul on an adjacent field where they did some additional running. When they returned, the first three continued running, doing laps around the practice fields.
In the past, the test for running backs has consisted of 20 separate 60-yard sprints with 30-second breaks in between. Each sprint must be completed in less than eight seconds. Smith also failed last year and ended up enjoying a career season with more than 1,100-yards and 13 touchdowns. But he got off to a terribly slow start in 2001 before hitting stride at the halfway point. He then signed a lucrative five-year free agent deal in the offseason to remain in New England, so his absence from the offense leaves a huge void.
Perhaps surprisingly fourth-year man Kevin Faulk took most of Smith's reps with the first unit, showing his trademark elusiveness in the open field. He took a Tom Brady pitch during 9-on-7 drills early in practice and raced around the right end untouched. Faulk also did a nice job of catching the ball out of the backfield, making a nifty grab of a Brady ball thrown behind him later in the same drill.
Faulk may be able to stick with Brady and the rest of the starters for a while. That's because Belichick indicated those who missed the run won't return to the practice field until the coaches deem them ready to retake the test. He added that would not happen over the weekend, meaning Faulk, J.R. Redmond and Walter Williams will carry the load.
On the field, the Patriots made some noise with their pads, banging each other around throughout the morning. Linebacker Ted Johnson lowered the boom on Faulk on one play, inadvertently knocking him to the ground. Faulk was a bit angered with Johnson's exuberance during the drill, which generally prohibits the players from knocking each other off their feet.
The makeshift offensive line – which included Grey Ruegamer at center (for the second straight practice), Damien Woody and Mike Compton at guard and Kenyatta Jones and Grant Williams at tackle – showed a good surge in the running game. Faulk found daylight on several plays early on, and Redmond was equally successful when he got his chances.
During a 7-on-7 passing drill, Brady looked sharp on the short, quick throws he was so efficient at last season but seemed to struggle a bit on deep crossing and sideline routes. He completed a couple to David Patten over the middle but the tiny wideout was likely happy the drill wasn't live because the throws caused him to slow down, making him vulnerable to a would-be head-hunting safety.
When the team period began, Brady picked up the pace a bit. He delivered a perfect strike to Patten on a 20-yard slant in between two defenders. Patten would have had a big play had it been under game conditions. Brady then worked well with Troy Brown and rookie Deion Branch along the sidelines, picking up a couple of would-be first downs.
Brady's only miscue came when he tried to force one to Patten over the middle and was lucky when safety Tebucky Jones couldn't grab a sure interception. Overall, the offense looked much better on Saturday than the previous day.
The Patriots injury list grew by one Saturday morning when free agent wideout Donald Hayes was sidelined with a left leg injury. Hayes, who had an up and down afternoon on Friday, wore shorts and a protective sleeve wrap on the leg while doing some light work on the bikes. Belichick said he'd be day-to-day.
The rest of the walking wounded remained unchanged from yesterday: defensive backsBen Kelly, Leonard Myers and Tommy Knight all have leg injuries, defensive tackle Richard Seymour and tackle Matt Light are both recovering from shoulder surgery and tight end Cam Cleeland (Achilles) and running back Antwoine Womack (knee) also were in shorts.
Belichick said guard Joe Andruzzi is overcoming a virus and he's wearing a protecting stocking on his left leg. Reports indicated that the virus may be affecting his joints. The coach indicated that all of the above will likely be out at least a week.
Willie McGinest remained out of action as he attends to "some personal business" that will keep him away from camp for a couple of days. McGinest was present Friday afternoon when the team had lunch but missed practice and few hours later. Belichick didn't seem overly concerned by his absence. …
The Patriots opened the team period in a two-tight end set with Christian Fauria and rookie Daniel Graham. Incidentally, Graham continues to get open down the middle and should be a huge addition to the offense. … The defense had a new look inside with Seymour out of action. David Nugent was with the first group for the second straight day, but Maurice Anderson joined him in place of Steve Martin, who was alongside Nugent on Friday. Victor Green also worked with the first group at safety in place of Tebucky Jones. Green also switched numbers with cornerback Tony Scott. Green is now wearing No. 27 while Scott has No. 39. … Third-string quarterback Rohan Davey had a tough day. His throws were erratic at times, one turning into an easy pick for Lawyer Milloy and he appeared to have trouble getting his group aligned properly and was quickly replaced by Damon Huard, who ran the play. … Patten spent some time fielding punts while the Patriots got some special teams work in. He handled five or six without incident before giving way to the normally reliable Brown and later Faulk. Brown, who mishandles punts about as often as Dick Vitale has nothing to say, dropped one of his first chances and was forced to do some pushups in the middle of the field.