]()There was nothing special about the Patriots final public practice of 2005 training camp, but there was plenty of attention paid to special teams.
Bill Belichick brought the team inside Gillette Stadium for the workout and spent some time focusing on all aspects of the kicking game. The coach explained in his press conference that the New Orleans Saints, the Patriots opponent in Thursday night's home opener, are among the league's best when it comes to special teams play. That, coupled with New England's poor showing in that department last season, put Brad Seely's troops in the spotlight Tuesday afternoon.
"Of all the challenges we have Thursday night, the biggest is in the kicking game," Belichick said. "These guys are very strong on special teams. They have excellent specialists – their kicker, their snapper, their returners – they have a lot of really good cover people who have been productive for them in recent seasons. Statistically they have been at the top of the league since [Jim] Haslett's been there."
The Saints do indeed pose problems in the kicking game. Belichick pointed out that a New Orleans player won the special teams player of the week award four times last season. He also pointed out how poorly his club performed in virtually all aspects of special teams in 2005.
"Based on where we were last year, and where New Orleans is, this will be a good matchup for us, Belichick said. "This should be a good indication of whether or not we've made any progress in that phase of the game. We were pretty much at the bottom of the league in punt coverage, kickoff coverage and punt return – they were all pretty bad."
The team spent the early part of practice working on kick returns with Bam Childress and Ellis Hobbs rotating with Patrick Pass and Tim Dwight as the return men.
]()The Patriots announced in conjunction with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute that the team's indoor practice facility will be known as the Dana-Farber Field House. But there was a twist to the deal as businessmanJack Blais, a long-time Patriots season-ticket holder, put up more than $15 million and donated the naming rights to the institute.
"This is the chance to connect two entities that are very important to the Kraft family," Chairman and CEO Robert Kraftsaid. "We've been privileged to be involved with the Dana-Farber for a couple of decades. As we've developed this project we've tries to find a way to connect two brands that we're very proud of. And thanks to the generosity of a very special season-ticker holder and suite holder we had a unique situation come up where we decided to name the field house."
Offensive linemen Matt Light and Dan Koppen paid homage to quarterback Tom Brady with a slight change to their uniforms yesterday. Brady will appear in an upcoming issue of GQ with a photo spread showing the quarterback's "softer side" complete with cowboy hat and several animals. Light and Koppen photocopied the pictures, which ran in Tuesday's edition of the Boston Herald's "Inside Track," and taped them to the back of their uniforms.
"That was just us trying to support our guys," Light said. "When they have articles in the paper we like to support them. The camaraderie in our locker room is pretty deep and we like to have fun and laugh at one another."
"[The photo shoot] was interesting," Light continued with tongue firmly planted in cheek. "It was unique. I wish I had thought of doing that but now it's too late."
Brady took the ribbing in stride, understanding that even a modest protest would likely have made the situation worse. "They've been following me around all day, talking to me in their 'Silence of the Lambs' voice," he said, referring to one shot that had him holding a baby goat.
]()One of the rituals of camp each year is the rookie hazing, which ranges from the carrying of equipment to the performing of skits to Monday's roll in the rain after practice. But the worst came Monday evening when the veterans administered the annual haircuts. Let's just say many of the youngsters looked like they cut their own hair without the benefit of a mirror.
According to Brady, Light was the ringleader and creative force behind many of the 'dos, or in this case, don'ts. Raymond Ventrone appeared to be victimized the most. The safety out of Villanova normally sports a healthy head of curly hair, but had most of it chopped off. Making matters worse was the fact that what was left remained at normal length, meaning he had sporadic spots of curly locks throughout his head.
"I guess you could call it the 'Zoolander' look," Ventrone said sheepishly after being prodded to remove his helmet.
While Ventrone garnered the most attention, Light said his fellow linemen Logan Mankins and Nick Kaczur were the worst. "There were some really good creations but I'd have to say the reverse yarmulke was my favorite. I'm not sure if you guys caught Kaczur, but his reverse yarmulke was the best."
]()There were no additions to the list of players missing practice. Safety Guss Scott was out of uniform for the second straight day after missing Monday's evening session. Mike Vrabel once again was out of action but Belichick continued to put him in the day-to-day category with the remainder of the injured players. David Terrell, Brandon Gorin, Jed Weaver,Ty Warren, Randall Gay, Duane Starks, P.K. Sam, Chad Morton, Bethel Johnson, Andre Torrey andSantonio Thomas. …
With Thursday's game set to be televised nationally on Fox, the broadcast crew of Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Pam Oliver were on hand for practice. Aikman signed numerous autographs for the fans. … The offense worked on the two-minute drill and enjoyed success for one of the rare times this summer. Brady was sharp in hittingBenjamin Watson and Tim Dwight twice before benefiting from a terrific run after the catch by Kevin Faulk. Faulk took a short dump off down to the 1-yard line before the offense struggled to punch it in. Faulk was ruled down for no gain after a handoff on first down, then Brady and Deion Branch had their timing off on a second down quick out. But on third down Brady hit Troy Brown, who had beaten Dexter Reid badly on the play, for the touchdown. "I was glad we finally scored on a two-minute drill and I didn't throw an interception," Brady said later. … The Patriots did some late-game situational work to close practice. Belichick set up several scenarios and the offense had to work the ball into field goal range depending on the situation. The first one had the ball at the Patriots 45 with 20 seconds left with the offense trailing by one point and no timeouts remaining. Brady hit Branch for 20 yards over the middle and the entire unit had to hurry into position so it could line up for Brady to stop the clock with a spike. With just three ticks left on the clock, Adam Vinatieri nailed a 38-yard field goal. Vinatieri also converted on field goals of 47 and 40 but missed from 43. All the attempts came following one-play "drives" by the offense as time ran down.