WR Wes Welker
What appeared to be just another Saturday afternoon during camp turned out to be one of the more eventful days of the summer thus far. That's because the Patriots had three fresh faces among their ranks inside the Dana-Farber Field House as Wes Welker, Ellis Hobbs and rookie linebacker Bo Ruudall were removed from the physically unable to perform list.
Welker and Hobbs obviously were the headliners. Hobbs began camp on PUP because he was recovering from offseason surgeries to his labrum and groin while Welker had a reported groin issue of his own that he was dealing with. Both were predictably happy to get back on the field.
"I feel like a kid on Christmas Day," Welker said after the two-hour workout. "I was up early and we didn't have practice until later. But it felt good to get out here and mix it up a little bit.
"It's not as much practicing as participating," Hobbs added. "I'm just getting in the swing of things. I'm not necessarily going full bore. I feel good. I feel well enough to get back out here."
Both players took regular reps throughout the afternoon. Hobbs worked with Mike Richardsonand Lewis Sandersat cornerback with the second group while Fernando Bryantand rookie Terrence Wheatleyheld down the top spots.
Welker appeared in a variety of groups in the slot, working in the red area, on the goal line and countless situations that Bill Belichickcalled out. He appeared to be his normal self, darting over the middle and working himself into the clear consistently. But there was one major difference: his hands.
Last year in camp there was barely a pass intended for Welker that wasn't caught. He continued that right on through the regular season when he grabbed 112 balls to set a team record. On Saturday, that wasn't the case, and no one was more upset about it than the wideout, whose verbal self-scoldings were at times vulgar in nature.
"I think you just heard me wrong. I normally don't do that," said Welker, able to smile about it afterward "I was [a little rusty]. Catching the ball, the ones on a line, you just have to get used to those. That's why I got on the JUGS machine after practice to work on that."
Indeed Welker spent close to 30 minutes after practice working on the machine from in close, trying to prevent a repeat of plays like the one that glanced off his hands in the end zone after a quick-strike laser from Tom Bradyfell incomplete.
Rust or no rust Rodney Harrisonisn't one to make life easier on anyone. Welker tried to catch a pass near the sideline early in practice but was met by Harrison's shoulder and landed out of bounds. The play was actually a textbook example of the new force out rule that will be in effect in 2008 as Welker leaped for the pass but never got the opportunity to get his feet down because Harrison didn't let him.
Hobbs looked a bit sluggish, especially early when C.J. Jonesgot behind him during seven-on-seven drills. He even took a knee periodically after his reps were completed and appeared winded. That was understandable when he explained what he'd been doing since the season ended after practice.
"I sat down the whole offseason and made a promise to myself after last year, as soon as we got those surgeries taken care of I wouldn't move a muscle until I was full go," Hobbs said. When I got healthy enough to start participating, it's just been to the wall. I'm not quite there yet."
Who's hot: Terrence Wheatley –The rookie continues to impress. First he took on the unenviable task of running deep with Randy Moss and came away the winner. Brady appeared to have his favorite target for a touchdown but Wheatley stuck with him, leaped and knocked the ball away at the last second. Later he made a terrific diving deflection on an out pattern intended for Chris Dunlap.
Who's not: Chad Jackson – If this camp is indeed make or break for Jackson, things aren't looking good for the third-year wideout. He continues to struggle catching the ball, dropping a perfect pass during a situational drill at the end of practice, and later dropping another while running with it as a kick returner. He also seems to be out of position at times while running his routes.
Play of the day: The biggest hit of camp came late in the day during a live goal line drill when rookie Jerod Mayolit up Laurence Maroney at the 1. Mayo, who spent the day working with Tedy Bruschiin the first group, shot through a gap, took on his block and buried Maroney with a shoulder that could be heard through the field house. Maroney didn't get close to the end zone.
Kaczur checks in
Tackle Nick Kaczurspoke with the media for the first time since his April arrest but chose to keep most of the details between himself and the team. Kaczur was asked several questions regarding the legal process, conversations with the team and any pending NFL suspensions but answered them all the same way, saying he wasn't going to comment and he was focusing on the season.
He did express gratitude toward both the organization and his teammates for their support.
"How can you not be?" Kaczur said. "I'm definitely very thankful for that.
"I definitely didn't want to bring anything like that to the [organization]. I'd say yeah in a way definitely I'd be embarrassed of the things you do. But you have to take what you did wrong, move past it and step up and that's what I'm doing now."
There was a minor scare early in practice when Brady winced in pain just as he released a pass. The quarterback immediately bent at the waist and held his lower left leg, favoring it noticeably for a moment while returning to the huddle. He hooked up with Jackson on the next play but seemed to be in more pain and removed himself from the action while trainer Jim Whalenattended to him. Whalen worked on his left calf/ankle and Brady walked slowly downfield to join his teammates for the next period.
He did not take part in any snaps during the next portion of practice but jogged with the team when the horn sounded and the location changed once again. This time, Brady joined the huddle and returned to work. He took part in the remainder of practice and did not exhibit any apparent lingering effects.
The Patriots placed right tackle Anthony Clementon injured reserve with knee injury. They immediately filled the roster spot with another veteran offensive lineman, Barry Stokes. Stokes, 34, has spent time with Miami (1997-98), Green Bay (1999-01), Cleveland (2002-03), the Giants (2004), Atlanta (2005) and Detroit (2007), starting 44 of his 83 career games played. He'll wear No. 75. ... While Welker, Hobbs and Ruud returned, there were a few additions to the list of the missing. Tackle Ryan O'Callaghanand running back Kyle Eckeljoined Matt Light, Jason Webster, James Sandersand David Thomasout of uniform. Linebacker Vince Redd, who's been out of practice since July 29, returned but wore a red, non-contact jersey. … The execution of the passing was lacking pretty much throughout, although it had very little to do with the play of the quarterbacks. The receivers had their worst day of the summer, dropping at least a dozen passes during the workout. Benjamin Watson, C.J. Jones, Chad Jacksonand even Randy Mosswere among the offenders. … Despite the heavy dose of contact work, camp has thus far been remarkable free of altercations. That came to an end Saturday when rookie Shawn Crableand tight end Stephen Spachlocked up and wrestled briefly after a running play. No punches were thrown but the skirmish was likely the most significant of camp. … Brady made a Brett Favreimpersonation on a goal line play when he tried a little push pass by flicking his wrist with a backhand pass toward Moss. The "pass" fell well behind its target and harmlessly incomplete. … Mayo's play on the goal line was the highlight but as usual that drill offered some of the most spirited moments of the summer. Sammy Morristurned in a tough run by nosing the ball just past the goal line over the left tackle after Brady and Matt Casseltossed touchdowns to Watson and Kelley Washington, respectively. … Practice ended on a down note as Belichick ordered the offense to take the field, instructing the unit that 45 seconds remained and it needed a field goal with no timeouts at its disposal. Brady tried to hit Watson deep down the seam on first down but Tank Williamsmade a nice deflection and prevented the completion. That was as close as the offense would come to moving the ball. Brady tried to hitJabar Gaffneytwice on out patterns near the left sideline but the first was underthrown and Bryant nearly picked off the second. On fourth down, the defense would have sacked Brady but even when they let him throw he had nowhere to turn and heaved one about 40 yards to no one in particular. … Sunday's practice is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and is open to the public.