The Patriots resumed practice today in their first action since Friday's 24-6 pre-season opening win over the Philadelphia Eagles, holding a single practice session indoors at the team's practice facility because of rainy conditions. Despite the poor conditions outdoors, one bright spot of the practice was the return of starting offensive tackle Matt Light.
Light made his return after missing the first 18 practices of training camp – and the pre-season opener – following an offseason appendectomy. The Patriots had been without Light and fellow starting tackle Tom Ashworth for the entire camp, relying on fourth-year player Brandon Gorin and fifth-year guy Adrian Klemm in the starting lineup. Light jumped in and immediately began working with the fist offensive line at left tackle, taking most of the reps there opposite Gorin. Light has been spending time with strength & conditioning coach Mike Woicik throughout camp, yet despite his experience and conditioning he expects there will be both physical and mental adjustments to full game speed.
"There is going to be an adjustment period, I knew that coming into it, " Light said. "I knew that we had a program I was on, and once I got to a point where I was healthy enough to come out here and start practicing again, then it would be a matter of doing everything that these guys did in the first couple of days. The first three or four days of camp, guys were sore, and I'm going to have to go through that and get used to the contact part of it. By no means am I probably ready to go out and play a game, but I'm definitely ready to get back out there with the rest of these guys. "
Contrary to the rumors, Light insists that although he lost a substantial amount of weight following the surgery, he's back near his 305-pound playing weight. An integral part of the offensive line since he was drafted in the second round of the 2001 draft, he has started 41 consecutive regular season games dating back to the 10th game of his rookie season. This season marks a contract year for Light, adding to the complexity of missing time during training camp.
"I'm just worried about getting back out there and being part of the lineup again, " Light said. "That stuff will all come. That's not something I even want to talk about. I have a million other things that go through my mind. "
Two other players who did not play Friday – rookie free agent cornerback Randall Gay and veteran running back Kevin Faulk – also returned to practice Sunday.
Len Pasquarelli of ESPN.com is reporting that despite published reports that first-round draft choice Benjamin Watson may be close to an agreement with the Patriots that would end his contract dispute, the two sides are still far apart on a resolution as of Sunday. Agent Pat Dye Jr., who Watson hired on Friday after parting ways with IMG's Tom Condon, told Pasquarelli that he was awaiting the team's response after his initial contract proposal was made earlier this afternoon.
"The priority remains for [Watson] to get into camp as quickly as possible," Dye told Pasquarelli. "But I didn't get the Patriots' past proposals to [former agent] Tom Condon until Friday ... I just sent [the Patriots] my first proposal maybe an hour ago. I'm always optimistic, but unless they make a major move in our direction, we are pretty far apart."
Jennings On The Radar
One player who has had an opportunity to distinguish himself in the mix of players at wide receiver is Michael Jennings. Perhaps overlooked because of the talent and depth at the position, Jennings was able to make some noise on Friday with two receptions against the Eagles, including a five-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter. It wasn't a surprise then that his cell phone of the relative unknown was blowing up with voice mails from everyone he knows in his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida.
"I just remember me catching it and taking the impact of the hit. I'm just happy I held on to it, " Jennings said. "It felt really good. It gave me a little bit more confidence too that I can play and I can catch the ball. It's just one practice at a time. If they call my number when we go to Cincinnati, hopefully I'll do the same thing there. "
This opportunity with the Patriots is especially important for Jennings, who is in his second NFL training camp after signing as an undrafted rookie free agent with the San Francisco 49ers before the 2002 season. A collegiate track star at Florida State, he's out to show playing receiver is also in his repertoire. With David Givens and Bethel Johnson currently sidelined by injuries, he worked with the second group of receivers during practice, and the opening to make an impact isn't something that's lost on him.
"I'm doing the same thing, but I also do know that coach always tells us, that every time we step up is a chance for another opportunity and a chance to show [what we can do], " Jennings said. " Every time I step to the line, I'm just trying to show the coaches I can play football and that I want to make the team."
The Patriots had a large group of players who did not practice Sunday, including: P/K Cody Skates, QB Jim Miller, WRs J.J. Stokes and P.K. Sam, CB Christian Morton, DB Je'Rod Cherry, RB Cedric Cobbs, TE Andy Mignery, LBs Tully Banta-Cain, Ted Johnson and Matt Chatham, and Ashworth. Banta-Cain is the only member of that group who played on Friday. Two other players – Givens and Johnson – worked on individual drills and running routes. Defensive lineman Dana Stubblefield and Dwight Johnson, who also both played Friday, were not present at practice.
The Patriots will hold two practices on Monday, starting at 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. … Sunday's practice was the second of training camp to be held indoors. … WR Troy Brown, who saw action on defense against Philadelphia, again took reps with the nickel defense during practice. … CB Asante Samuel worked with the first team defense in place of CB Tyrone Poole. Poole, who started Friday, did work with the first nickel group as the slot cornerback and had an interception of QB Rohan Davey on a slant pass intended for Jennings. … WR Deion Branch displayed nice hands on several catches over the middle. He also caught a touchdown from QB Tom Brady to end the two-minute drill near the end of practice. … OT David Pruce wore number 68 during practice instead of his usual number 69. That number belongs to the injured Ashworth. … TE Daniel Graham dropped two passes during practice, but also caught two touchdowns during goal line drills, including a diving catch on a pass from Brady. … LB Dan Klecko also made a diving touchdown catch during goal line drills while working with the offense at fullback. … Faulk, Poole, Brown, Branch and CB Tyrone Buckley all fielded punts during special teams drills. … Miller did some light throwing, working with RB Corey Dillon and the offensive linemen on short screen passes.