With the trip to Philadelphia just hours away, the Patriots dialed things back a bit on Monday morning and went through an abbreviated practice in helmets, shells and shorts in what amounted to a glorified walk-through. Bill Belichick explained before the workout that the team was hoping to "pull everything together" in preparation of their work with the Eagles, and the team handled a variety of situational work in the hour and 45 minute practice.
We're starting to really pull together our team football – offense, defense, special teams, all the things that we've kind of worked on up to this point – it's going to hopefully come together here, even tighter in anticipation of the week against Philadelphia and the game on Friday, which we'll incorporate obviously some, but not all of the situations we're working on."
On Monday that work included a number of areas. The team practiced onside kicks, free kicks, punting from deep in its own end zone, specific late-game scenarios such as Hail Marys, rushing the field goal unit onto the field, hurrying to get a final play off near the goal line and even multiple lateral plays in desperate situations. Overall the pace was a bit slower than what has been the case but Tom Brady, who ran the offense against the top defense for most of the morning, and his group got some solid work in.
After practice several players discussed the excitement that comes with going against a different team, which will be the case for the Patriots starting Tuesday in Philadelphia.
"It will be nice to see a different jersey," Danny Amendola admitted. "It's always nice to go against different people so you can gauge your progress against someone else."
One part of that process that might not be so desirable for Vince Wilfork is going against Chip Kelly's high-tempo offense. Wilfork, who also expressed his enthusiasm for the Philly trip, smiled when asked about the challenges of defending such a fast attack.
"We get out and work against a good football team, a young team, a head coach coming in with a little bit of swagger that he brings from college," Wilfork said. "I'm sure [the offense] will be impressive, and we'll be doing plenty of running."
On the defensive
As the topic eventually switched from the upcoming days in Philly to the task at hand, Wilfork expressed plenty of enthusiasm for what's been taking place on the Patriots own practice fields. With a healthy mix of veterans and youngsters with varying levels of experience, the New England defense is starting to come together and the captain likes what he's seen.
"I feel very confident with where we're at as a defense at this point in camp," Wilfork said. "I'm not saying we have all the answers. I'm not saying we are where we need to be. But at this point in camp, to be where we're at defensively, I'm very, very happy with that.
"The only thing it does is speed up the process now. There are things we can do now that we don't have to wait two weeks to do, or wait another week to do, because we have guys that have been around and been in the league that understand this defense or understand football in general. So you can do things a little bit more. We have some positions out there that are like that. I'm just very happy with where we're at as a defense ... but we're far from where we need to be."
Cornerback Ras-I Dowling and defensive end Jermaine Cunningham missed practice for the third straight time. Neither was seen on the fields on Monday. Wide receiver Mark Harrison (NFL/foot), offensive lineman Marcus Cannon, tight end Rob Gronkowski (PUP/arm, back) and defensive lineman Armond Armstead (NFI/infection) also missed practice. Harrison appears to be getting closer and he caught some passes from Tim Tebow after the workout.
Wide receivers Michael Jenkins and Matthew Slater rode stationery bikes during practice and offensive linemen Tyronne Green, Markus Zusevics and Kevin Haslam, safety Nate Ebner and running back Shave Vereen were in uniform but spent time with the strength and conditioning coaches.
With Cannon out and Zusevics limited, Monday's right guard was Will Svitek. He's at least the fifth right guard we've seen working with the first group during camp.
After releasing offensive lineman Elvis Fisher and wide receiver Lavasier Tuinei on Sunday, the team brought back a pair of recently released players. Rookies Matt Stankiewitch and Mike Zupancic returned to the fold after brief absences. Stankiewitch, an offensive lineman out of Penn State, was released July 25 while Zupancic, a long snapper, was out of work for just three days before re-signing.
According to reports, Fisher and Tuinei cleared waivers and were placed on injured reserve.
Buy – Will Svitek – The veteran offensive lineman already appeared to be in good shape in terms of earning a roster spot as a swing tackle but on Monday he added right guard duties to his resume. Svitek filled in at guard after a rash of injuries at the position left the spot thin. With the versatility to play inside and out, Svitek appears to be a frontrunner for one of the reserve offensive line spots.
Sell – Michael Jenkins – The veteran wideout has been the least impressive of the pass catchers thus far and now is nursing an apparent hamstring injury that caused him to miss the last two days of practice. Jenkins has the experience but has yet to showcase the quickness or hands necessary to emerge as one of Tom Brady's targets.
Play of the Day – During one of the countless situations created in practice, Bill Belichick called for a bad snap on a field goal and holder Ryan Allen made the most of it. The rookie rolled to his left and threw a short pass to rookie offensive lineman R.J. Mattes, who made an impressive catch while reaching down in the end zone.
Belichick was asked about his experiences at the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Canton, Ohio, over the weekend, where he was part of the crowd for Bill Parcells and the rest of the class.
"This is the first time I've ever been through that, and it's an amazing collection of all the icons from professional football -- players, coaches; not just the people there in the gold jackets but also many of the other people that come for the event," Belichick said. "So it was a great experience. Awesome. Impressive. It was great to see a lot of people that I haven't seen for a while, going back to Bill's Giants days but also many other people came to be there for Coach Parcells, players that I have coached along the way too. It was a great night for Bill."
Former Patriots offensive lineman Joe Andruzzi was on the field for practice. Andruzzi works with strength and conditioning coaches Harold Nash and Moses Cabrera. … Aaron Dobson and Zach Sudfeld were among those who stood out during the practice. Even though much of the day's work was based on situations in a walk-through setting, the pair of rookies made some impressive catches in traffic. … Jake Ballard was back on the field after missing Saturday's practice. The tight end continues to work his way back to full strength after microfracture surgery on his knee. … The Patriots will practice in Philadelphia at the NovaCare Complex from 12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday's schedule is yet to be determined.