Seventeen players began training camp on the sideline and they are slowly but surely starting to trickle back onto the practice field while one player headed in the other direction.
On Sunday afternoon, starting cornerbacks Ty Law and Otis Smith both practiced in full pads on a limited basis while right guard Joe Andruzzi worked back in with the first offensive line. But the day started with Bill Belichick announcing the retirement of veteran offensive lineman Brenden Stai – the third offensive lineman to retire during training camp in the last three years.
Stai's retirement just about coincided Andruzzi's return to a more full-time practice schedule. Stai signed with the club on July 28. With Stai gone, veteran Bill Conaty took the snaps at right guard with the second unit with Dan Koppen at center. Conaty moved to center with the third offensive line.
The passing game and situations ruled the day with the defensive subpackages performing well. Rookie cornerback Asante Samuel snared another interception during the passing work, this one coming on a pass over the middle by Damon Huard.
Overall, the pass defense shined with some timely blitzes and solid coverage that converged quickly on several passes thrown underneath.
The red zone received quite a bit of attention with the offense running several plays off cards, which means they are running an opponent's plays as a scout team for the defense. The play of the day came during this work when Damon Huard scrambled to his left and threw slightly behind Kevin Faulk in the end zone. Faulk reached back with one hand and tipped the ball a couple of times before falling forward. Linebacker Ula Tuitele then dived in to make the interception just before the ball hit the ground.
The pass rush was impressive during this work with Lawyer Milloy timing a blitz perfectly and racing to the quarterback almost untouched. Tedy Bruschi also had a rush off a twist where he would have had an easy sack if hitting the quarterback were permitted.
Camp Notes: Jarvis Green took some snaps at nose tackle with the first unit after Rick Lyle started the preseason opener at that spot. Lyle also worked there, but most of the work focused on nickel and dime situations with the defense not utilizing a true nose tackle. … Wide receivers Chas Gessner, Deion Branch and Kerry Watkins; running backs J.R. Redmond and Antwoine Womack; linebacker Tully Banta-Cain; tackle Kenyatta Jones and offensive lineman Gene Murczkowski all sat out the practice. … Antowain Smith and Kevin Faulk continued taking snaps with the ones although Smith appeared to get more opportunities with the first group. … At the end of practice, the entire team worked on conditioning, running wind sprints across the field several times while some of the players' kids cheered on their dads.