One of the running stories of the first week-plus of training camp in New England this summer has been the team's bad luck in the health department.
Seemingly every practice one or more players leave the field early as the Patriots list of guys missing key August reps continues to grow.
Bill Belichick's team hit the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium Saturday morning for a full-pads session with 23 members of the 90-man roster missing from action, including recent additions of center Bryan Stork, running back LeGarrette Blount and first-round defensive tackle Malcom Brown, each of whom left Friday afternoon's practice early.
Another potentially key name was added to the list of the wounded Saturday morning when pass-catching running Travaris Cadet walked gingerly off the field midway through the workout and did not return. It appeared the free-agent addition from the Saints may have suffered a lower-body injury, leading to his slow journey down the far exit of the practice fields and back to the locker room with a member of the team's training staff.
Check out our favorite photos from Patriots Training Camp on Saturday, August 8, 2015 at Gillette Stadium.
The rest of the session that Cadet missed was clearly not one of New England's better workouts of the summer. Belichick called his full team together for a talking-to at one point and then his entire offense for the same purpose a short time later.
At the conclusion of the somewhat lackluster workout, Belichick had his entire team doing conditioning running on the hill used for such purposes on the far end of the field. That may or may not have been coincidence given the way the practice unfolded.
Of course the practice action is clearly being affected by the ever-growing number of injured absentees, including many veterans and top-line players at key spots like the offensive line, running back, wide receiver and the defensive line.
Beyond the growing health concerns in Foxborough, here are one man's blogservations of another sunny, warm day on the practice field:
--Twenty three players were absent to begin the workout. Six players remain on PUP (Matthew Slater, Brandon LaFell, Dane Fletcher, Chris White, Ryan Wendell and Chris Jones). Three guys remain on NFI (Matt Flynn, Caylin Hauptmann and Alan Branch).
The non-list players missing from the beginning of the workout included Julian Edelman, Aaron Dobson, Blount, Dion Lewis, Tyler Gaffney, Matthew Wells, Eric Martin, Darius Fleming, Marcus Cannon, Stork, Joe Vellano, Brian Tyms, Scott Chandler and Brown.
Jimmay Mundine returned to practice after limping off two days earlier.
Tyms was on the field wearing a helmet, shorts and shoulder pads, but without a jersey or practice pants.
--There was a humorous moment in pre-practice team work. During the segment players line up and jog through various plays. During one rep, Jimmy Garoppolo looked to his right for Chris Harper, who took a few steps and turned back the quarterback. Garoppolo's throw literally bounced right of Harper's chest, as the young receiver clearly was not looking for the ball to be thrown. The snafu drew clearly audible laughter from throughout the practice fields and stands.
--During form running and stretching, Tom Brady, Stephen Gostkowski and Rob Ninkovich chatted together with a group of assistants. Interesting grouping of team leaders.
--May or may not be a result of the recent rash of injuries, but Belichick urged his players to take full advantage of the stretching and warmups to get ready for the workout.
--Belichick had a long discussion with the crew of officials during stretching and then through positional drills.
--Wendell was on the stepper or elliptical on the far end of the field early in practice. (Hard to tell without borrowing Bob Socci's binoculars.)
--Garoppolo nearly threw a bad interception early in the drill that involves two receivers battling three defensive backs on one half of the field in the end zone. The back was looking for Brandon Gibson but pretty much hit Robert McClain in stride cutting in front of the receiver, only to drop the ball.
--The safeties worked on deep pass drops and high-pointing the ball in position drills. They didn't catch the ball overly well in the drill, with Nate Ebner, Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon all putting literally the drop in pass drops.
--New tight end signee Mason Brodine was college defensive end who's transitioned to offense in the NFL. It's that very road that Jake Bequette has been traveling this spring and summer. Wonder if his new veteran teammate might be able to help guide the way for the former third-round pick and practice squader.
--Speaking of Bequette, he had a pair of notable pass-catching attempts early in practice in 7-on-7. First, he made a nice catch on a Garoppolo throw while going to the ground. Then, though, he had a bad drop on ball that zipped right through his non-fast-enough hands. Still clearly a work in progress as a pass catcher, any chance he has to make the team as a tight end will likely lie with his ability as a blocker once preseason games roll around.
--Gibson almost had the play of the day when he jumped and tried to haul in a Garoppolo pass with one hand down the right sideline in 7-on-7. But the veteran was not quite able to complete the catch.
--Harper showed some speed and quickness in reps as a punt returner. Recent injuries have given Harper a few more chances and he's take advantage of some of those.
--After the punt work in the special teams segment was when Belichick called the entire team together for a somewhat extended talking-to.
--Flynn rode the stationary bike for a while. Martin was seen in a helmet and sweats running by himself on the far conditioning hill.
--Brady didn't take a ton of reps with the offense on Saturday, but he did have maybe the play of the day. Surprisingly, that play came with his legs. Brady ran a naked boot around right end and took the play down the sideline with some pretty impressive success. He certainly runs better at the age of 38 than he did in his 20s. He's worked hard on his mobility and running in recent years and it's clearly paying off.
--A young fan on the hill in front of the media tent wore a Sebastian Vollmer jersey. Not something you every day as offensive linemen are not common targets for fan jersey purchases. After the practice the Patriots right tackle made his way over to the sideline to meet the young boy, sign his jersey and take photos. Come to find out, the boy's name is Austin McCarthy. He's a 10-year-old from South Walpole, MA. Vollmer is not only his favorite player, but Austin plays right tackle for his fifth grade Walpole Youth Football team and wears No. 76 every year.
--Belichick seemed to do a lot of talking to Garoppolo throughout the backup's many reps. That's not surprising to see the coach take such a hands-on approach with a player, of any position, but still worth noting as the young No. 2 works through what has been a bit of a struggle to date this summer.
--Branch worked on the elliptical on the far end of the field for a time.
--With Stork out of action, Josh Kline took a lot of the reps with the offensive line that included Nate Solder at left tackle. With Vollmer still limited and Cannon out, Cameron Fleming continues to take right tackle reps with that group, while rookies Tre' Jackson and Shaq Mason work at guard.
--David Andrews also took plenty of reps at center, most coming with the second line group to go through drills.
--The most unique play of the day came when a Garoppolo throw was deflected at the line, then bobbled and batted in the air at the goal line by receiver Jonathan Krause before being caught and returned down the left sideline for an interception by Logan Ryan.
--While not taking reps Brady had some interesting chats on the morning. He spent some time with Mike Lombardi and defensive back Tarell Brown.
--Andrews and James Morris did a little pushing and shoving after one running play in team action. Maybe the closest thing to a scuffle or chippiness yet in camp.
--Mundine had a doubly bad play in the end zone late in practice. Not only did a drop the throw from Garoppolo, but he was also flagged for offensive pass interference.
--Morris was late on the field for a FG block rep for the scout team, drawing the ire of Belichick.
--The practice not only included punt work, but also kickoff and kickoff return work as well as some onside action.
--Rufus Johnson also batted down a Garoppolo throw in team action, but the backup quarterback actually caught the ball and ran for a slight gain. Still, probably not what the coaches are looking for.
--Linebackers coach Patrick Graham was also quite upset at his troops at one point for a substitution issue. Graham yelled, threw something to the ground, squatted down in disgust and then walked away.
--At one point the offensive lineup in a team drill included, in order, wide receivers on the right side of Harper, Zach D'Orazio and Krause. That's No. 14, 15 and 16 on your roster.
--Gostkowski missed one 40-something-yard field goal wide left late in the session, but bounced back to hit one from 46 yards a short time later.
--One funny observation, Brady was making a throwing motion at one point off to the side while looking down at the ground at his shadow to see what it looked like. Not exactly the same as watching film, but No. 12 is always looking to get better, even using his shadow.
--After practice and the team conditioning work, Brady worked with strength coach Harold Nash on the Revs practice field. The coach had an elastic harness around Brady's waist as they went through the work, something seen on the sidelines at times on game day last season.
--Vollmer worked out late after practice in 1-on-1 drills with Zach Moore under the watchful eye of defensive line coach Brendan Daly. Vollmer has been doing a little bit more hitting and banging in recent days, though he's not yet taking part fully in team action.
--Garoppolo was once again one of the last players on the field, walking off with his shoulder and arm wrapped in ice.
--Players talking to the media after practice included Gibson, Vollmer, Andrews, Chandler Jones, Gostkowski, Ryan Allen and others.
--The Patriots will have a day off on Sunday but will return to the practice field on Monday afternoon at 1:45 p.m. As always, though, be sure to check Patriots.com for any last minute schedule changes.