He didn't exactly guarantee it, but back in the spring during OTAsVince Wilforkstrongly suggested that he would be with his teammates on the field for the start of training camp. Consider him a man of his word.
Wilfork was indeed one of the 70 Patriots in uniform for the official start of training camp. He's still without the contract extension he desires, and it doesn't appear the sides are any closer to a resolution, but he said he wouldn't let those distractions affect him in any way.
The news on the attendance front wasn't all good, however. Randy Moss, Joey Gallowayand Jarvis Greenall were missing from practice. They joined Shawn Crable, Ty Warren, Darryl Richard, Rich Ohrnberger, Mark LeVoir, Shawn Springs and Brandon Tateon the sidelines. Tate and Springs opened camp on the active/non-football injury list while the other five all reside on the active/physically unable to perform list.
Bill Belichick wouldn't specify the reason for any individual player's absence, instead speaking about the group as a whole.
"We have a number of players not out there and they're in different stages," he said. "I'd expect them all to be back out there at some point but each case is taken on an individual basis."
On Thursday, Wilfork took his spot up front in various alignments. He manned his normal nose tackle spot between Richard Seymour and Mike Wright, and he also lined up in four-man looks with rookie Ron Bracenext to him. Some of the four-man fronts appeared to be part of scout team looks.
Unfortunately the heavy rains and lightning interrupted the morning practice and prevented normal media access and Wilfork wasn't one of the handful of players the team made available for comment. Regardless, it doesn't appear as if there's a holdout in the big man's immediate future.
Who likes Mike?
Former Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick's road back to the NFL is obviously a lot shorter now that Commissioner Roger Goodellhas granted him a conditional return. Several national reports have listed the Patriots as a potential landing spot for Vick, and Belichick was asked about the possibility of the former Falcon being back in the NFL.
"Michael's an outstanding player who hasn't played in a couple of years," Belichick said. "Right now my focus is on our team, our players, and trying to get the New England Patriots ready. He's a tremendous athlete, where exactly he is right now, I don't know."
Who's hot: Adalius Thomas –The Patriots may not have opened camp with loads of proven commodities at outside linebacker, but Thomas certainly is one. He was virtually unblockable Thursday morning, coming clean off the edge several times and delivering a big shoulder to Sammy Morris during a 9-on-7 running drill.
Who's not: Shawn Crable – Crable is one of many of the unproven candidates to fill Mike Vrabel's void on the outside and starting camp on the physically unable to perform list can't be a good sign. While it's unclear why Crable is on PUP, the reps he's missing on the field will be tough to replace.
Play of the morning –As the deluge of rain swept through the practice fields, ball security became an issue. But one interception stood out and that was Jonathan Wilhite's diving grab of a Kevin O'Connell pass intended for Ray Ventrone. The ball was slightly underthrown, but Wilhite's diving catch was special.
Quote of the day:"I'm a lot friendlier." – a smiling Belichick, when asked how he'd changed during his 10 years coaching the Patriots.
Belichick commented on the recent passing of Eagles defensive coordinator Jimmy Johnson, who died earlier this week after a battle with cancer.
"Jim's probably as good a defensive coordinator as I've seen in the league," Belichick said. "I respect his philosophy, his schemes and his ability to attack offenses. He's got a real good football mind. I've always had great respect for him. He's a good friend and a real good football coach. Certainly on behalf of our team and football organization, our condolences go out to his family and the Eagles."
Long snapper Jake Ingram signed a four-year deal and hit the practice field with the rest of his teammates for the first official day of training camp. The sixth-round pick did miss four days of work with his fellow rookies, who have been practicing since July 26, but his signing means the Patriots successfully inked deals with 11 of their 12 draft picks. The lone exception is linebacker Tyrone McKenzie, the third-round pick who tore his ACL during rookie mini-camp and is likely lost for the season. Obviously there's no urgency to get his deal done. To make room for Ingram on the roster the team released defensive back Jamar Love.
Terrence Wheatley made a nice pass breakup on a Tom Bradypass intended for Terrence Nunn. Brady's pass was underthrown and Nunn was forced to slow down, but Wheatley closed well and got enough of the ball to prevent the completion. … Ray Ventrone, who is usually busy enough filling his duties as a wide receiver, defensive back and special teams maven, worked out with the running backs during the morning session. …*Five players worked returning kicks with Wes Welker, Kevin Faulk, Laurence Maroney,Greg LewisandTerrence Nunn rotating through. ...Robert andJonathan Kraft *braved the weather and took in part of the morning session from field level. … The team will return to the field for the afternoon practice at 3:45 p.m.