The media's final look at a full practice this summer took place inside the bowl with simulated game conditions permeating Gillette Stadium. Crowd noise was pumped in, referees were on the field, coaches relayed signals in from the sidelines and there was plenty of substituting taking place with both the game and play clocks running as they would for an actual game.
The players (other than rookies) even donned their game uniforms during their warmups before departing for the locker room and returning in their normal practice attire.
There was one major difference between Friday's work and the real thing, however. There were no pads so the plays were run at more of a walkthrough pace and resembled nothing close to anything competitive. Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer were at the helm for the White Team while Cam Newton took the controls for the Blue Team while Brian Lewerke served as his backup but did not see any action.
The teams worked the ball up and down the field, at times advancing even when plays weren't successful. It appeared that all of the down-and-distance situations were predetermined, and even completed passes that seemed to pick up first downs at times created punting situations.
Both sides had "drives" that ended in 50-yard field goals in the first quarter (yes the game clock was in full operation). Nick Folk continued his solid summer by making his into the open end of the stadium while Justin Rohrwasser nailed his in the other direction for the Blue Team. Rohrwasser missed a 51-yarder to close out the first half, pushing one to the right, before the teams went to the locker room for "halftime." Folk later hooked a 48-yarder wide left although the points were added for the respective teams after both kicks.
"Just kind of finishing up the week here," Bill Belichick said before practice. "Just trying to continue to put things together from a team standpoint so that we'll be ready to play a game. This would have been our third preseason game last night, so generally that's the point where things are starting to come together a little bit from an operational standpoint.
"So, we hit some of that yesterday, we'll hit some more of it today and early in the next week before we start turning to more of the regular season preparation. Definitely making progress and moving ahead. I think we can all kind of see how quickly this is all going to pull together here in the next, call it, 10 days or so when we'll be in full regular season preparation mode. So, we've got a lot of work to do, but players have really worked hard and have had a great attitude. We had a great tempo yesterday on the field and we learned a lot from that, and we'll just continue to build on it."
The simulated game ended with Rohrwasser in position to win it with a 49-yard attempt into the closed end on the final play. With the scored tied at 13, the rookie made his first attempt but a timeout called prior to the snap negated the kick. Rohrwasser then pushed his second attempt wide right, leaving the score tied as practice ended.
Here are some observations from the Patriots 15th (and final one open to the media) of training camp.
*One noteworthy aspect of Friday's practice was the presence of Beau Allen. The free agent defensive lineman had yet to make an appearance during the previous 14 practices but was present wearing No. 94 in white with his long, blonde ponytail hanging out the back of his helmet. He did not take any reps during the practice.
*Joe Thuney was in uniform and took his spot at left guard for the Blue Team. His left wrist was heavily wrapped after he appeared to suffer an injury during Thursday's practice. Few Patriots have been more durable than Thuney over the years so it was no surprise to see him in action.
*Belichick has often dismissed the notion of the importance of halftime adjustments, instead explaining how any changes need to be made well before intermission. Perhaps illustrating that point the coach was the first person back on the field, returning with more than six minutes still left before the start of the third quarter. (Yes, I'm joking).
*File this one in the Belichick Prepares for Everything category: Jake Bailey practiced kicking off from the 50-yard line during the break. Bailey chipped his kick high and short, perhaps thinking of an opportunity to pin an opponent deep after a penalty moves the kickoff up 15 yards. After a touchdown to open the second half, Bailey tried his high, short kickoff from the 50, where Jeff Thomas fielded it around the 10 and made his return.
*In addition to the four quarterbacks, the specialists all wore red, non-contact jerseys. Wide receiver Jakobi Meyers also donned red but took part in the walkthrough, catching a few passes during the workout.
*James White, Sony Michael and J.J. Taylor worked as the running backs for the Blue Team while Damien Harris and Rex Burkhead handled things for the White squad. Devin Asiasi, Jake Burt and Paul Butler were the White Team tight ends and Dalton Keene and Ryan Izzo served in that role for the Blue. Thomas, Meyers, Gunner Olszewski and Devin Ross were the wide receivers for the White while Mohamed Sanu, N'Keal Harry, Julian Edelman, Damiere Byrd and Isaiah Zuber worked for the Blue.
*On the coaching side, Jedd Fisch (offense) and Steve Belichick (defense) called the signals for the White while Josh McDaniels (offense) and Jerod Mayo (defense) handled those chores for the Blue.
*After practice several Patriots chatted with the media via video conference. They included Harry, Lewerke, Michel, Taylor, Brandon Copeland, Jakob Johnson, Paul Quessenberry, Anfernee Jennings and Kyle Dugger.
*While the media will no longer be able to attend training camp practices, the Patriots still have two weeks of work before the start of the regular season. The players will be off on Saturday before resuming their preparations.