The Patriots took the operation inside Gillette Stadium for their annual practice in front of season-ticket holders and Foxborough residents Wednesday night as 22,633 were on hand to take in the workout. Other than the venue and time, Bill Belichick indicated it would be business as usual for his team.
"It's really a normal practice for us. It's not really a special situational thing, just something for the season-ticket holders," Belichick said to open his press conference before practice. "So, we just have to keep grinding it out through training camp. It's the dog days of camp."
That was the theme of the evening as the Patriots practiced for the sixth time and fourth straight in full pads. Working through the bumps and bruises at this stage is as much a part of the process as learning the playbook, and Belichick understands that challenge can be mental and physical.
There were some signs of the grind starting to get the most of some of the players as a couple of minor skirmishes broke out. Early in practice linebacker Dane Fletcher got tangled up with a lineman (it appeared to beKyle Hix) before the two were separated. Later during a team period, Dan Koppen and James Ihedigbo did some pushing and shoving while exchanging words.
But things took an ugly turn a short time later. During that same team period, tackle Nate Solder destroyed linebacker Brandon Spikes on an off tackle play. With Spikes on the ground, Solder went back at the linebacker as Spikes was trying to get back to his feet, and soon virtually every member of the team was involved in a fracas. Tom Brady was pullingJerod Mayo out of the pile and was yelling at his fellow captain.
"I'm not John Bones Jones, my name is Chandler," rookie Chandler Jones said after practice, referencing his famous MMA champion brother. "That's how we practice every day. I don't know if you guys think it was different from before, but that's how we practice every day. It's very intense. You know, we treat every day like it's game day."
Unfortunately, there may have been some consequences to the friendly fire. While Solder was taking a lap for his part in the melee, Spikes remained on the field and was escorted through the tunnel back to the locker room byDr. Thomas Gill.
After getting his first physical reps of camp under his belt on Tuesday, Spikes appeared to be limping a bit coming off the practice field following some drills. His presence on the field was a positive sign a day later as he was taking part in the workout fully. His departure put a damper on the evening but he did return roughly 20 minutes later wearing a brace on his right knee and got some work in red area passing drills.
"It's something all of us need to go through," Belichick said of the grind, not the fight. "Mentally you have to be ready to go every day, start all over again, get a good night's rest and have a good day again. It's part of team building, working through it when you're tired. It's one of the many challenges you face."
Vince Wilfork, who along with Donte' Stallworth spoke to reporters on the field before practice, agreed with his coach's assessment. Informed that the preseason opener against the Saints would be just a week away when the practice was complete, the Pro Bowler cracked a smile before answering.
"I learned a long time ago when it's camp time you just put your head and just go," he said. "Don't worry about what's going on outside. Just look at your playbook, go to meetings, learn in your meetings, study and come on the field and perform.
"Over the years I've been doing it and I won't stop now because you can always get ahead of yourself because this is a critical point in everyone's season. You just keep your head down and keep pushing forward and whenever the game comes it comes."
Next in line
Bobby Carpenter has been quite active throughout camp, operating in a variety of roles. With Spikes possibly out of action for the time being, perhaps he'll see even more action in the coming days.
"I think Bobby picks up things well. He's a smart guy with, as we talked about, a lot of experience doing those things," Belichick said. "I'm sure most of the things we've asked him to do he's done before. Maybe it was called differently or the terminology was different but in terms of the techniques and being able to apply what he's learned or what he's done somewhere else to what we're asking him to do, I'm sure that they're fairly closely related. He adjusts easily. I don't think that's going to be a problem with him."
Bank-s on it
Belichick spoke about having his former playerCarl Banks on hand to help out on the practice field for a couple of days. Banks, who played for Belichick in both New York and Cleveland, is good friends with both the coach and linebackers coach Pepper Johnson. While he said it was good to have him in town, he downplayed the benefits Banks could provide in just two days.
Banks' presence in enemy territory caused a bit of a stir in New York, where the former linebacker still works as a radio color man for the Giants, and he took to Twitter to defend himself.
"When they asked me to come to camp to assist with some areas in which I have a particular skill set that can help his players get better during camp I said absolutely. I grew up in (Belichick's) D both with @giants and #Browns and helping with the nuances is a great honor."
Buy: Wes Welker – The slot machine can be easy to take for granted but the ease with which he's beating Kyle Arrington is tough to ignore. Welker is open on just about every play and the ball rarely touches the ground when tossed in his direction.
Sell: Dan Koppen – The center continues to struggle in one-on-one battles and that was the case when Kyle Love stunned him with a right forearm, swim-type move that left the veteran standing in his tracks.
Play of the day: Ryan Mallett and Britt Davis hooked up for an impressive touchdown as the quarterback threaded the needle between Ross Ventrone and Tavon Wilson, allowing the wideout to make a leaping catch in the back of the end zone.
There has been very little change to the team's injury report thus far in camp, at least in terms of players returning. Unfortunately, there have been some additions to the list.
Four more players were not in uniform Wednesday night including cornerback Will Allen, offensive lineman Dan Connolly, wide receiver Brandon Lloyd and defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene. They joined a group that included rookie cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (leg), safety Nate Ebner (unknown), linebacker Tracy White (unknown), offensive linemanJamey Richard (unknown), fullback Tony Fiametta (unknown) and tight endVisanthe Shiancoe (unknown) on the sidelines..
The seven players who opened camp on PUP are still waiting to get on the field. They include center Nick McDonald (failed physical), guardLogan Mankins (knee), tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back), wide receiver Jeremy Ebert (hamstring), tight ends Daniel Fells (shoulder) and Jake Ballard (knee) and defensive lineman Myron Pryor (shoulder). Rookie offensive lineman Markus Zusevics (torn pectoral muscle) remains on NFI while Brian Waters continues to be away from the team while on the reserve/did not report list.
Matthew Slater (shoulder) and James Ihedigbo (shoulder) are still in red, non-contact jerseys. …
Alex Silvestro has spent the entire spring and summer working as a tight end but has continued to be listed as a defensive lineman and worn the number 69. Not anymore. During Wednesday night's practice Silvestro donned No. 49, which is more conducive for an eligible receiver.