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Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Leftovers from Patriots practice

By Mike Reiss

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Some leftovers from Patriots practice:

1. Fletcher appreciates football more than ever. Fourth-year linebacker Dane Fletcher, who projects to No. 5 on the depth chart and is a core special teamer, had missed all of 2012 with a torn ACL. "I forgot how much I loved the game, really," Fletcher told reporters. "All that work goes into it in the offseason, and a long year last year and everything, and it just gets demanding and stressful. Just to step on the game field again, it was just so much fun. Now I'm having fun with it again. For a minute there, it was more of a job. Now I'm taking away what it was back in high school, back in the old days, just getting back on the field with my buddies." Fletcher, who said a big milestone for him was the 2013 preseason opener, earned praise from Bill Belichick on Monday.

2. McCourty sheds non-contact jersey. Safety Devin McCourty, who underwent offseason shoulder surgery, hasn't played in the preseason while wearing a red non-contact jersey in practice. On Monday, he shed the non-contact jersey. That sets him up to possibly play Thursday in Detroit. "It's all how it feels and talking to Coach. Coach has a master plan and we'll see how it goes from there," he said.

3. Kickoff coverage unit strives to improve. One of the downers for the Patriots in Friday's preseason win over the Buccaneers was the team's kickoff coverage. The top unit included cornerback Kyle Arrrington; running back Brandon Bolden; linebackers Dane Fletcher, Jamie Collins and Jeff Tarpinian; safeties Duron Harmon, Adrian Wilson and Tavon Wilson; defensive end Marcus Benard, captain Matthew Slater and kicker Stephen Gostkowski. Said Slater: "We can't give up big plays like that. It kills the field-position battle and puts our defense in a tough situation. There are some things we need to clean up. Just across the board, I think everybody can do their job a little better and there's a lot of room for improvement."

4. Changing routine in new part of training camp. In his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI, Bill Belichick explained how the routine is now different for players. "We've moved out of the hotel. We're not in that training camp mode now. We're in a different type of daily routine and set-up. There's a little bit of a transition there."