Prior to the change, a player who earned one or more accrued seasons would not be eligible for the practice squad unless the player spent fewer than nine games on a club's 46-man game-day roster in each of his accrued seasons.
From a Patriots perspective, that opens the possibility that some players who previously wouldn't be eligible for the practice squad and might be perceived to be on the roster bubble -- such as defensive linemen Jerel Worthy and Joe Vellano -- could still stick with the team if there isn't a spot for them on the 53-man roster.
This rule should help prolong some careers of players, and help avoid situations like what unfolded with Stoughton (Mass.) High graduate Ryan LaCasse in 2007.
LaCasse, who played at Syracuse, appeared in 12 games as a rookie with the Colts in 2006. He was a fringe roster player contributing mostly on special teams, and when he didn't make the roster in 2007, he wasn't eligible for the practice squad because he had played in 12 games in '06. LaCasse, a defensive end, didn't play another regular-season game in the NFL.
Under the new rules, a player like LaCasse would be eligible for the practice squad once again, giving him more time to develop.
Who’s drawing big crowds: Cornerback Darrelle Revis, safeties Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon, receiver Brandon LaFell, linebacker Jerod Mayo and undrafted free-agent tight end Justin Jones drew the largest media crowds.
Revis talks new points of emphasis. The NFL’s point of emphasis on defensive holding and illegal contact remains a hot topic among players, with Revis and McCourty both touching on it when asked. “It’s tough. It’s tough,” Revis said. “I think we just have to work through it. Teams have been working through it during this preseason. I think it’s a learning situation for everybody. It’s a new rule. The refs are trying to do best they can. As players, we’re trying to do the best we can by keeping our hands off the receivers down the field. That’s a learning process. Maybe in the regular season, things might change. You never know. At this moment, everybody is just trying to make sure they’re doing the right thing by following the rule.”
McCourty’s take. Count McCourty among those who would like to see fewer penalty flags on the ground. “Hopefully they just reduce the flags and we get to play a little bit,” he said. “Even last night, watching the [Cleveland-Washington] game, it just seems like every couple plays there is another flag. It will be tough for the people trying to watch the game who have work in the morning.”
Left side? Right side? Doesn’t matter to Revis. One indication that Revis' transition to New England is now complete came with his response to a question about him playing exclusively on the left side to this point. Revis' answer: “It is what it is.” Revis then went on to say he’s happy to play anywhere that makes the defense successful. We haven’t read too much into this area because the Patriots aren’t going to tip their hand at this point in the preseason.
Mayo doesn’t disclose reason for absence. Why was Mayo missing from practice all last week? He wouldn’t divulge, saying only, “I feel good. I went out there yesterday, ran around a little bit and feel pretty good.” Mayo wouldn’t specify if his absence was more injury-related or something more personal in nature. Asked if he will play Friday against the Panthers, Mayo deferred to coach Bill Belichick.
Harmon’s areas of improvement. When it comes to areas in which he feels he’s made strides since training camp began, Harmon pinpointed patience, man-to-man coverage and tackling.
Jones stuck around the area. Jones, who was released for a week before he was re-signed on Sunday, said he stayed in the area for the week he was unemployed. Fellow tight end D.J. Williams gets the assist for letting him stay at his place. “Coach told me I was making improvements; maybe it needed to happen a little quicker for him,” he said. “This is the time of year that a lot of guys are getting shuffled around.” Jones added that the speed of the game, specifically in the preseason opener against the Redskins, has been his biggest adjustment.
In Vollmer's absence, the Patriots would most likely insert four-year veteran Marcus Cannon into that spot. But with Cannon also working at left tackle at times in training camp, the club could always keep him there and play Nate Solder on the right side as well.
Elsewhere on the injury front, tight end D.J. Williams and defensive linemen Chris Jones and Sealver Siliga were absent Tuesday.
Meanwhile, tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, linebacker Cameron Gordon and offensive lineman Chris Martin worked on the lower field with members of the athletic training staff.
“From OTA to now, if I had to put it on a scale from zero to 10, I would say like an 8 now,” LaFell said Tuesday. “OTAs I was shell-shocked, didn’t know what to expect. It was all new to me."
“I’m blessed going from Cam doing his things up-and-coming, real good quarterback and then I come up here with Brady. It’s great” LaFell said.
"Everybody always says a football play is about 8 seconds, but with Cam, he is a big body, he can move, he can stiff-arm a defensive end and 8 seconds can turn to 12 seconds. Brady, he’s not the fastest guy out there, but he [has] a little loose enough in him to make plays.”
The 6-foot-3 LaFell said Brady’s attention to detail, and perfecting the quarterback-to-wide-receiver connection, is one of his main challenges in coming to New England.
“He expects you to be exactly where he wants you to be when running a route,” LaFell said. “Not a yard off, not a yard too deep, not a yard too short. He expects you to be exactly where he wants you to be because he’s going to put the ball placement exactly right.
"The more and more reps I get with this guy, getting our timing better and also he’s trying to find me more."
Coach Bill Belichick sees it too.
"He’s been very diligent in trying to learn his assignments, learn the plays," Belichick said. "He’s a tough kid. He’s played for us in the kicking game, he’s given us some plays there, which at that position it’s always good to get those [plays] out of those receivers. Those are kind of like bonus plays. I think he’s been very competitive. Obviously he’s a big target. Again, he’s gotten better at the routes that we’ve run. I thought the deep out route that he ran in the game was good. He created a lot of separation on that. He’s got a good skill set; a little different than some of our other guys, but good and he’s tough."
Belichick added another compliment that might bode well for LaFell's first season in New England:
"Whatever we’ve asked him to do, he’s done it and done it well. He’s gotten better at it. I think he’ll be able to carve out a role for himself here. It might be a big one, I don’t know, we’ll see."
After spending his previous four seasons with Carolina, LaFell is one of the more experienced pass-catchers on the Patriots' roster. That has helped him build a rapport with Brady.
“I’ve learned in this game that when you go out there and force, force, force every time, something bad happens,” LaFell said. “When you go out there and do your job, be patient, things are going to happen for you.”
On Friday night, LaFell has the opportunity to put his progress on display against his former team in the Patriots’ third preseason game.
“It’s going to be a little weird, just going out there and seeing some of my old teammates, looking at those jerseys knowing I was just in those jerseys last year,” LaFell said. “But I got to do my job.”
After filing the weekly Patriots mailbag, which included a question on whether it was smart for Brady to attempt to tackle Eagles cornerback Cary Williams on Williams' pick-six in Friday's preseason game, there was an opening to say a quick hello to Brady in the team's locker room today.
So I asked him the question from "Matt/Chapel Hill, N.C." about why he attempted to make the tackle and risk injury in a preseason game.
"I didn't even think about it," Brady answered, adding that his instincts simply took over. "The thing I was bummed about was that I didn't get him down."
In the end, this is just the way Brady plays the game. It's similar to what we saw from rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the preseason opener when he jumped into the scrum in an attempt to recover a Stephen Houston fourth-quarter fumble.
In both cases, not much good could result from the quarterbacks throwing themselves into harm's way.
But when teammates watch the plays over on tape, they'll see a player doing whatever it takes, which is an endearing trait and creates a dynamic where others might be more inclined to follow their lead.
1. Undrafted cornerback Malcolm Butler and his sudden emergence.
2. Receiver Josh Boyce and if he's done enough to earn a roster spot.
3. Rookie running back Roy Finch and his chances of sticking on the roster.
4. Sealver Siliga, Joe Vellano and how things might shake out on the defensive line.
5. Examining the Patriots' linebacker depth.
6. Prepping for the season opener Sept. 7 in Miami.
The Patriots' top draft choice from 2012 checks in at No. 85.
The arrow has been pointing up on Jones, who totaled six quarterback sacks as a rookie and followed up with 11.5 last season while playing a team-high 98 percent of the snaps. With cornerback Darrelle Revis joining the Patriots in a revamped secondary that has been clinging to receivers in training camp, one thought is that the player who could benefit most is Jones.
With a little extra time to get to the quarterback, could 15 or more sacks be in his future?
The personable Syracuse alum almost always deflects such a focus on personal statistics, but he has detailed how he tailored his offseason training to building more lower-body strength. The 6-foot-5 and long-armed Jones, who recently said that he's closer to 266 pounds than his listed 260, wanted to make his body more proportional to aid his pass-rushing and run-stopping skills.
"Without your legs, you're not anything," he said. "Stronger legs definitely generates more power and more speed."
That speed has actually shown up in a different area in training camp, as Jones has been dropping a bit more in coverage as part of outside linebacker responsibilities in the 3-4 alignment. On one play in joint practices last week against the Eagles, for example, Jones was chasing a running back down the left sideline.
"I really enjoy it. It shows a little versatility," Jones said of his coverage duties, while adding that playing 3-4 outside linebacker is similar to 4-3 defensive end, which has been his primary role in his first two NFL seasons.
But make no mistake, it's the pass rush where Jones' greatest value lies with the Patriots, and that isn't changing. Jones recently said that he feels he's grown in that area to the point that he now reacts to the way an offensive tackle blocks him and adjusts accordingly, instead of picking a move pre-snap and sticking with it.
We should get a chance to see a few more of those moves this season. As Jones moves up the NFL ranks, garnering more recognition, the trickle-down effect of Revis' arrival in New England could help him enter the ranks of the NFL's top pass-rushers.
Checkmark reached and Belichick pleased. With Monday marking the final open practice of training camp, it had Bill Belichick a bit reflective. "The additions that Robert and the Kraft family have made in the offices, meeting rooms, the training room, the weight room, all those things have really been good, have helped the flow go smoothly," Bill Belichick said. "I feel like it’s been a good start to the season. Obviously we have a long way to go, we haven’t done anything yet, but I think we’re making progress."
Easley wants a spot on the bus. First-round draft choice Dominique Easley caught the eye with some strong rushes in Monday's practice. He said afterwards that he never had doubts that he'd be ready to practice in training camp as he recovered from a torn ACL. He comes across humble, saying the following when asked about the rookie class: "We all really have one role -- to get a spot on the bus."
Devey draws a crowd. First-year offensive lineman Jordan Devey drew a large media crowd after Monday's practice, in part because he's played every snap this preseason. Devey, who played in college at Memphis, spent last year on the practice squad. "I feel like I still have a long way to go. There's always techniques I can always improve on, but I feel like I've improved a lot from last year," he said, adding that he can now sit lower in his stance and generate more power. Devey also pointed out that Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell took a similar path as he has, starting their careers on the practice squad.
Hoomanawanui braces for questions. Returning to practice for the first time since July 27, tight end Michael Hoomanawanui deflected a question about wearing a knee brace, which appeared to be tied to his extended absence. "It's obviously disappointing. You never want to be hurt or watching from the sidelines, or inside," Hoomanawanui said. "Watching film is hard when you're not out there. There is competitive spirit in all of us and you never want to be out. So it's unfortunate, but I'll be back and I'll be fine." Hoomanawanui was limited upon his return to practice.
A week to acclimate to regular-season routine. Belichick relayed that this week is a good one for players to get a feel for what things will be like during the regular season, and part of that showed itself on the practice field Monday as there was scout-team work. "Part of that whole process of learning how to practice, learning how to prepare ourselves for our opponents, giving our other offense, defense or special teams unit a good look from the other side of the ball is going to be an important thing for us to accomplish this week in practice and make that efficient," Belichick said.
Worthy just looking to earn spot. Defensive tackle Jerel Worthy spoke with reporters Monday and was ready to leave his time in Green Bay behind. “You always have a chip on your shoulder and you should every day – always have to improve. It’s a new chapter in my life and I’m just excited to be a part of this great organization. Work hard and give it my best.”
Easley's quickness catches the eye: Rookie defensive lineman Dominique Easley's short-area quickness and explosion showed up in one-on-one and 2-on-2 pass-rush drills. He really turned it on, appearing to catch center Ryan Wendell off guard on his first rep. Easley lined up shaded over Wendell's left shoulder, crossed his face, and surged to the orange cone that would have been the quarterback. It all happened in a flash. The 6-foot-2, 290-pound Easley then teamed with Marcus Forston in 2-on-2 drills and penetrated off the outside shoulder of veteran Dan Connolly with some success. Finally, Easley finished with a flourish, with a dynamic spin move to shake free.
Autograph signing to signal end of camp: At the end of practice, coach Bill Belichick called all the players together and instructed all of them to sign autographs to signal the official end of open public practices. It was a nice touch.
Finch possibly hobbled: We'll keep an eye on rookie running back Roy Finch, who walked off at the end of practice with no shoe on his right foot and had a slight limp.
Big gains on the health front: Linebacker Jerod Mayo who missed the previous three practices and game against the Eagles was a full participant in practice. Rookie center Bryan Stork returned to practice and also suited up in full pads, although he spent most of his time working on his conditioning on the elliptical. Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui who suffered an injury July 27 when linebacker Taylor McCuller tossed him to the ground on a late hit, also returned. Hoomanawanui also spent a lot of his time working on conditioning. Wide receiver Jeremy Gallon joined the team for the first time and saw some action in positional drills before heading to the second field for rehab work.
Dobson participates in 11-on-11s: Second-year wide receiver Aaron Dobson, who has spent the offseason recovering from surgery for a stress fracture in his left foot, took part in 11-on-11 drills for the first time at training camp (one play we saw him collide with linebacker James Anderson). He also made a nice one-handed catch in a light drill against defensive backs and showed a strong effort on a sliding catch on a pass from quarterback Ryan Mallett.
Butler keeps making plays: Cornerback Malcolm Butler has become one of the surprise stories at Patriots camp and he carried the momentum into Monday’s practice. In a drill with eight defenders, Butler matched up with tight end Rob Gronkowski on the outside. Gronkowski had separation to make the catch, but Butler closed in quickly to strip the ball from Gronkowski. A few plays later in a different drill on a pass thrown by quarterback Tom Brady deep down the right sideline to Brian Tyms, Butler stuck with the bigger Tyms and showed impressive body control to turn in the air and haul in the interception.
Cleaning out the notebook: Tight end Rob Gronkowski keeps progressing as he participated in 11-on-11 team drills for the first time at training camp. ... Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo dropped a lob pass in down the sideline to fullback James Develin on a route that Garoppolo looks particularly comfortable with. ... Brady looked off the defense as he stared down Gronkowski over the middle and then delivered a beautiful pass deep on the right sidelines to running back Shane Vereen, who beat linebacker Chris White. ... Two strong rushes off the right defensive edge by linebacker Jamie Collins in 1-on-1 drills. ... Linebacker James Anderson showed his coverage skills as he picked up wide receiver Danny Amendola in the slot and stepped in front to make an interception on Brady. Collins hurried the pass with a strong pass rush. ... After Ryan Allen had a punt blocked during the Philadelphia Eagles game, the Patriots spent a lot of time on punt protection. ... Running back James White missed an assignment on one punt, which drew the wrath of special teams coach Scott O’Brien. ... Newly-acquired defensive tackles Ben Bass and Jerel Worthy participated in their first practices with the Patriots and worked separately on conditioning and technique. ... Tommy Kelly missed the start of practice and came running onto the field about halfway through. ... Offensive lineman Marcus Cannon would have drawn a holding call on defensive end Will Smith, who made a great move on Cannon’s inside shoulder. ... Quarterback Ryan Mallett underthrew a pass in half-speed 11-on-11s and cornerback Brandon Browner turned to make the pick. ... Cornerback Darrelle Revis shut down wide receiver Brandon LaFell on a fade route in the right corner of the end zone. ... Wide receivers Kenbrell Thompkins, Josh Boyce, Tyms and Derrick Johnson, tight end Steve Maneri and Vereen all had drops. ... Rookie offensive tackle Cameron Fleming took some reps at right guard. ... The ball was on the ground on a play in which Ryan Mallett was handing off to rookie James White. ... With rookie snapper Tyler Ott released on Sunday, the Patriots had Rob Ninkovich taking a few snaps behind Danny Aiken.
Who else returned: Safety Kanorris Davis, defensive back Tavon Wilson, and linebackers James Anderson and Ja'Gared Davis returned to full pads and full participation.
New absences: Offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer.
Who else didn’t practice: Offensive tackle Chris Martin (non-football-injury list), tight end D.J. Williams (right leg), linebacker Cameron Gordon (unknown, participated in first six practices), and defensive linemen Chris Jones and Sealver Siliga.
Who’s talking with the media: Tight end Rob Gronkowski; running backs Stevan Ridley and Jonas Gray; defensive tackles Ben Bass, Jerel Worthy and Dominique Easley; safety Patrick Chung; punter Ryan Allen; kicker Stephen Gostkowski; offensive lineman Jordan Devey; fullback James Develin and Hoomanawanui.
Ridley's final play in Friday's preseason victory over the Philadelphia Eagles was ruled a fumble. The Patriots recovered, but Ridley didn't play again, which was a déjà vu of sorts to last December when he was a healthy scratch for a game against the Houston Texans after multiple fumbles.
"When I go back and watch the play, and the ball is out again, Week 2, it kind of sucks,' he admitted. "But it's football, man, and I can't get down about it. I can't harp about it. That's why you have preseason. I'm just going to keep on working and keep on pushing.'
That's always been Ridley's approach, and while he might take some solace in the fact he might have been ruled down had the Patriots challenged the fumble, it's not something he simply dismisses.
"It's too close to call, man. Either way, I need to avoid those plays in general," he said. "There's nothing really else to be said about it. ... I hated it. It was a sick feeling for a second. We looked at the play, it is what it is, but either way one out is too many. But I'm not going to harp on that. I'm going to learn from it."
Asked what he could have done differently on the second-quarter play in which safety Earl Wolff ripped the ball out of his grasp, Ridley smiled.
"That's what I'm still trying to figure out," he acknowledged. "Getting tackled by a few defenders, it's football, they're taught to go after the ball and attack it. It's just staying alert, being conscious of that, and trying to get two hands on it. That's really all you can do."
Ridley wasn't sure if he was removed from the game for the fumble, or it was simply a case of him having taken his expected workload (16 snaps).
"It was what it was. We had a first half of football to play. That was the time that we got," he said of the team's starting unit. "Either way, that really wasn't my call. I didn't know how much longer I'd be in there or not.
"I had a nice little workload early on, and I think the coaches saw what they wanted to see. For me, I came on out when they told me to come out. Like I said, we're moving on. This week's Carolina. There wasn't too much said about it -- just get back to work, learn from your mistakes just like everybody else and keep on pushing."
As for the questions from reporters, Ridley said he understands that comes with the territory.
"That's part of your job. I know it's coming, you all have to write articles and do what you all do. It's part of it. You take the good with the bad, every time,' he said.
"I'm just thankful it's preseason. It was a close call and the ball was out, but it could have been down, could not have been down. Guess what? If it's in my hands, you don't have to answer that question.
"Either way, I'm man enough and am going to stand up here and do what I do. Like I say, it's another Monday that I'm out here and I'm in pads and I'm back to work today. So I just have to learn from it and keep it moving and not sulk on that.
"I will try not to have the issue and this be the topic the whole year this year because I think I can do a few other things that you all can write about, and hopefully have some good things to say. Either way, I have to own up to it and that's what it was."
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It was a familiar sight on the New England Patriots practice field on Monday afternoon -- quarterback Tom Brady once again connecting with tight end Rob Gronkowski in full-team drills. In fact, with Gronkowski graduating to full-team drills for the first time since undergoing surgery on his torn right ACL Jan. 9, it took Brady all of one play to find Gronkowski for the first time.
"It's definitely huge to get it going again," Gronkowski said of his connection with Brady. "I've been working with Tom since I've been out here, but we haven't been doing it vs. the defense or anything. So it was good to be out there and 'Boom!' it was just like it was never missed before. He hit me."
Brady and Gronkowski had two connections in the drill, which Gronkowski has been working towards participating in since the start of training camp July 24.
"You just can't jump right into 11-on-11 action," he said. "You have to do 1-on-1s, getting your body [in form], getting your legs underneath you all before that. So that's why it was good to do everything I was leading up to it, so when I went out there today, I felt like I was prepared and ready to go."
Gronkowski pointed out that he didn't absorb full contact in the practice, but there was some minor hitting, including one play in which he had the football stripped from him by rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler. Gronkowski's next challenge is to take more repetitions in practice and shift into a higher gear with blocking.
Mayo's return for a full-pads practice isn't the only good news for the Patriots on the health front, as rookie center Bryan Stork (out since July 29) and tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (out since July 27) are back on the field after being sidelined by undisclosed injuries.
Meanwhile, as previously noted, rookie receiver Jeremy Gallon (off physically unable to perform list) and defensive linemen Jerel Worthy and Ben Bass are practicing for the first time.
In his Monday afternoon news conference, Bill Belichick was asked about the 6-foot-2, 308-pound Worthy, a 2012 second-round draft pick of the Packers.
"He didn't play very much last year [but] played quite a bit his rookie year. He was a good player coming out of Michigan State, played well in a good conference against good people," Belichick said. "He has some athleticism and he has some size. We'll see how it all fits together for us. I'm happy to be working with him and we'll see how it goes."
While the returns of Mayo, Stork, Hoomanawanui and Gallon, as well as the additions of Worthy and Bass to bolster numbers, two notable absences at practice are starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and starting defensive tackle/end Tommy Kelly.
1. Of the 11 players on the field for the four-play goal-line stand that turned the ball back over to the offense, only one projects to be a lock for the 53-man roster: safety/special-teams ace Nate Ebner. But that group still deserves credit for an excellent stand, and it consisted of the following players:
DL: Zach Moore, L.T. Tuipulotu, Eathyn Manumaleuna, Marcus Forston
OLB: Darius Fleming, Jake Bequette
ILB: James Morris
CB: Travis Hawkins, Daxton Swanson
S: Ebner, Shamiel Gary
It was strong work up front, as those on the line made a sturdy wall on four runs by receiver Damaris Johnson (5-8, 175). Fleming showed up on first and second down, Tuipulotu flashed by playing with good power and leverage, and Gary shot through the line on fourth down and made a solid tackle. Overall, it was good, solid fundamental football to win the line of scrimmage on four straight plays -- starting at the 2, and then three plays from the 1.
2. The 17-yard run by Jonas Gray that helped the Patriots gain some breathing room after the goal-line stand was created by solid blocks from Cameron Fleming and Josh Kline. Fleming comes from a pro-style offense at Stanford, and it shows. He looks like an NFL-ready run-blocker, as it’s the pass-blocking area that appears to need more refinement. One of the most impressive parts about Fleming’s block on the play? He did it with Frances Mays putting his hand right up in his facemask, which drew a penalty.
3. Last week, receiver Josh Boyce's half effort as a run-blocker down the field on one play was pointed out. To balance the ledger, credit to him for throwing his body around on running back Roy Finch’s 19-yard catch-and-run, surging toward the sideline to do his part.
4. Finch is fun to watch with the ball in his hands. His playing time split reflects that he’s still facing an uphill climb -- no snaps in the first half, 16 in the second half.
5. Have to correct one miscue from our defensive snaps breakdown -- Jake Bequette registered with a pass defended, tipping a pass at the line.
6. The shuffling along the offensive line continued with a combination of (left to right) Chris Barker, Jon Halapio, Braxston Cave, Jordan Devey and Cameron Fleming. On a sack of Ryan Mallett that ended the team’s first drive of the quarter, Barker and Halapio struggled to hold their blocks, leading to the pressure and sack.
In addition, defensive lineman Jerel Worthy has officially passed his physical. Worthy was acquired in a trade with the Packers that was officially announced by the Patriots on Friday.
The 5-foot-8, 185-pound Gallon, who has spent time watching tape of Julian Edelman and Wes Welker, holds the Michigan single-season record for receiving yardage with 1,373 yards. A seventh-round draft choice of the Patriots, he also factors into the punt return mix.