Training camp officially opened Friday afternoon as the Patriots took the practice fields at Bryant College in full gear for a 3:30 p.m. practice.
When the players first came into view of the estimated 5,000 anxious fans, they were greeted with an ovation that is normally reserved for rock stars and celebrities. In fact, throughout the approximate two-hour practice the crowd eagerly applauded the defending world champions for such minimal feats as running warm-ups and making a catch, uncovered, in a positional drill.
But while the bleachers and roped area surrounding the field were packed, there were a number of significant faces missing from the practice action itself. Second-year players defensive tackle Richard Seymour and tackle Matt Light, worked out together in shorts on the side as both players recover from offseason surgeries. Guard Joe Andruzzi watched much of the practice and rode a stationary bike as he recovers from what Head Coach Bill Belichick termed "a virus" that will keep him out at least a week and he said cornerback Leonard Myers had a "little leg" injury. Cornerback Ben Kelly, tight end Cameron Cleeland, cornerback Tommy Knight and running back Antwoine Womack all attended the practice but were limited to stationary bike and rehabilitation action as Belichick had noted would be the case earlier in the day at his press conference. Belichick commented that they expect each of these players to miss at least a week and to then be evaluated on a daily basis.
Belichick said after practice that absent defensive end Willie McGinest had been excused from the practice for personal reasons, although he would not elaborate. He also said that tackle Greg Robinson-Randall, who was similarly absent from the practice fields, had reported to camp but is day to day with "everything."
The two most notable players that did not participate in practice and who were not listed by Belichick in the injured group, nor excused from practice, were Antowain Smith and Patrick Pass. Both players rode the stationary bike and did some conditioning work on the side, leading many to speculate that the status of the two players was conditioning related. It took Smith two tries to pass Belichick's rigorous conditioning test during last year's training camp and his absence from practice points to similar circumstances this year.
College security was forced to start turning away fans at just around the time of practice as the schools' 1,500 parking spaces had been filled. The Patriots are asking fans wishing to attend a practice to come to a weekday session due to the Bryant College parking limitations and the restrictions it places on the number of fans the facility can accommodate. … Due likely to the absences of Andruzzi, Light and Robinson-Randall, Damien Woody saw the bulk of his action at right guard. Mike Compton and Rich Tylski rotated at left guard and Grey Ruegamer saw significant practice time at center. … Tom Brady and David Patten connected on a long pass down the sideline in a seven-on-seven drill that brought a boisterous ovation from eager crowd. … Patriots ball boys, trainers and staff sported t-shirts with the slogan, "Targeting September." The shirts also sport a bulls-eye that had the logos of the teams' four September opponents—the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New York Jets, the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Diego Chargers. … The team announced the release of the veteran linebacker Marty Moore prior to practice and the signing of defensive lineman Riddick Parker. Parker had left the Patriots to sign with the Jets in the offseason, but was later released. … Today's moves leave the team a total of 83 men on the roster, one less than the NFL maximum of 84.