The Patriots faced their first true weather-related dilemma of training camp on Tuesday after heavy rains in the morning cast some doubt on the location of the team's practice. But with the rain having subsided, and the sun out in full force, Bill Belichick was able to keep the afternoon workout outdoors.
The Patriots practiced helmets, shells and shorts, working on fundamentals, execution and preparation for Saturday's preseason home opener against the Arizona Cardinals. As was the case with Atlanta, Belichick felt the Cardinals represented a good preseason opponent because of the different problems they present that differ from what they normally see.
"I think Arizona is very similar to Atlanta in that it gives us an opportunity to see and experience things that are different than what we've seen," Belichick said. "I think that's a great opportunity for us, the matchups and some of the types of players we'll see. Certainly their skill level at receiver will be a huge challenge for our pass coverage people, our defensive backs, and the quickness of their defensive line as well. It will be great to work against them. Arizona will be a good test for us."
They may have to pass that test despite more uncertainty at inside linebacker. Monty Beisel and Freddie Roach both missed practice, leaving Barry Gardner, Don Davis, Corey Mays, Eric Alexander and Larry Izzo at the position.
As a result,Mike Vrabel once again saw time on the inside, which isn't an ideal scenario given his strengths on the outside. In some formations he broke the huddle inside behind a four-man line that included Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, Richard Seymour and Jarvis Green, but shifted outside while Gardner served as the middle linebacker.
"At this point, anything that we're doing scheme-wise we're going to try to use down the road," Vrabel said. "Whether we use it this week, whether we use it in a month or whether we use it in three months we don't know. That's what training camp is for. You put a lot of different stuff in and see what sticks. We just have to be prepared for stuff we might use down the road.
So far that hasn't included much inside work for Vrabel in a traditional 3-4 set, but with Tedy Bruschi on the shelf for at least the remainder of the preseason, there's always a chance that he's needed to fill the void.
"Every year there's a plan and that plan is to try to execute what we put it each day and each week," Vrabel said. "Whether guys are injured or not, guys step up. They're putting a lot in and we have to try to react to a lot and adjust to a lot because we get a lot of different formations from our offense."
Who's hot: Tom Brady – Count this as my first official copout of camp since Brady could qualify for this honor pretty much every day. But he looked particularly sharp on Tuesday afternoon, hitting several impressive passes – most notably on a pair of deep crossing routes to Benjamin Watson and a bomb to Reche Caldwell.
Who's not: Erik Davis – The rookie receiver struggled catching the ball during some drills on Tuesday. He dropped several passes from receivers coach Brian Daboll, and then seemed to drop his head and lose confidence as a result.
Play of the day: Brady and Corey Dillon hooked up for the most memorable moment of the afternoon, but not in conventional fashion. Brady tossed a short swing pass to Dillon during a drill but the running back dropped it. Dillon then picked it up and kicked it away in frustration. The ball wound up in the stands where a young boy wearing a Brady jersey retrieved it. At Dillon's urging, the boy ran onto the field to give return the ball before slapping five with Dillon and drawing a nice applause.
On the same page
Belichick was asked several questions about the frequency of gaining access to another team's playbook. In the free agency era and player movement at an all-time high, such occurrences are not all that uncommon. However, Belichick feels the information in a team's playbook in and of itself is not all that beneficial.
"The idea of that is overrated. Our playbook has so much in it we couldn't use it all. If someone wanted to go over the whole thing when we only use about one-third of it then that would be a lot of wasted time. Do you think Cleveland doesn't have our playbook? Do you think New York [Jets] doesn't have our playbook? Those guys wrote our playbook."
The obvious reference there is toRomeo Crennel and Eric Mangini, who went from their posts as Patriots defensive coordinators to head coach with the Browns and Jets, respectively.
Belichick was asked about the status of receiver Chad Jackson, who has missed all but three of the team's 20 public practices this summer, but stuck to his normal procedure regarding injuries: "He's day-to-day. He's getting better." … Rookie guard Dan Stevenson, who missed practice Monday morning, returned.Kevin Faulk, who donned a red non-contact jersey on Monday, was back in his familiar white No. 33. … In addition to Jackson, Bruschi, Beisel and Roach, linebacker Chad Brown, wide receiver John Stone and defensive end Marquise Hill all missed practice. Nick Kaczur andPatrick Pass remained on PUP whileDeion Branch's holdout reach Day 13. … Matt Light and Logan Mankins were sent on a lap after Johnathan Sullivan caused them to commit a false start with a hard first move. …Rodney Harrison lined up with Artrell Hawkins at safety with the first group during a team period against a scout offense. … As has been the normal custom, the Patriots ended practice with some field goal work withMartin Gramatica andStephen Gostkowski each taking four reps. Gostkowski made two each from 32 and 42 yards with all of the kicks coming from the left hashmark. Kicking from the right hash, Gramatica made both from 27 yards and appeared to make both from 37 although it was tough to tell if the second kick squeaked its way inside the left upright. Holder Josh Miller's reaction seemed to indicate that the kick was good. … The Patriots have just two days of open practices remaining with two sessions scheduled for Wednesday (8:45 a.m.-10:45 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.) and one to close out camp on Thursday from 2:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m.