- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Cleaning out the notebook from the Patriots’ ninth organized team activity:
1. High praise for second-year linebacker Jamie Collins from Dont’a Hightower: “I feel like he’s blossomed a lot sooner than anybody [thought]. I feel like he was a lot more mature in his first year than some people are in their third year. Him coming in and learning the way he did his first year, you couldn’t tell he wasn’t a three- or four-year player. He’s helping out a lot, getting the younger guys in there and watching film and getting everything situated with them. Just like [Jerod] Mayo said, ‘we have old souls.’ We mature faster.”
2. Hightower was asked if the defense was ahead of schedule, and while he wouldn’t say that was the case, he acknowledged that the players are having a lot of fun because of their experience in the system and understanding the various checks within the scheme. Hightower felt his own play elevated late last season when he got to that point himself.
3. This was a practice in which the Patriots mixed up their offensive line combinations quite a bit, particularly on the interior. This is commonplace as the coaching staff builds versatility, and at center, we saw incumbent starter Ryan Wendell, 2011 starter Dan Connolly and rookie Bryan Stork all taking reps. At one point, Stork took a “penalty” lap when it appeared Tom Brady was calling for a snap but the ball didn’t come.
4. Rookie Cameron Fleming, the team’s fourth-round pick out of Stanford, worked exclusively at right tackle. Both he and fellow rookie Zach Moore, the defensive end from Concordia-St. Paul, have been assigned jersey No. 71. If the two 71s collide when the pads come on, look out -- Fleming is 6-foot-5 and 323 pounds, while Moore is 6-6 and 285 pounds.
5a. Offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer turned to humor when asked if it’s taken some getting used to having a different voice, first-year offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo, yelling at him: “I have a lot of voices yelling at me.”
5b. On a more serious note, Vollmer said the team’s system hasn’t changed in the transition from retired offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia to DeGuglielmo.
6. One fundamental that was part of the practice had cornerbacks coming on a blindside blitz and focusing on knocking the ball out of the quarterback’s grasp (coach Steve Belichick was the QB) at half speed. These are the little things that these practices are filled with.
7. Nice to see Brian Belichick, the youngest son of Bill Belichick, taking in the practice.
8. Harry Kraft, the grandson of owner Robert Kraft and son of team president Jonathan Kraft, also took in the practice. A quarterback for the future?
9. The Patriots conclude their OTA today with their 10th session. Then comes next week's mandatory minicamp Tuesday-Thursday.