- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBORO -- Observations from Patriots rookie minicamp at Gillette Stadium:
Attendance report. The Patriots had 26 players on hand. The breakdown looked like this: 11 defensive players, 12 offensive players, two punters, and one snapper in on a tryout. There were 12 draft picks, eight rookie free agents, five players in on a tryout, and free-agent signee David King (punter). The tryout players were at receiver (2), tight end, snapper and outside linebacker.
Jermaine Cunningham at right outside linebacker. Second-round draft choice Jermaine Cunningham, who played defensive end in Florida's 4-3 defense, spent the workout at right outside linebacker. This will be an important transition to monitor, as Cunningham could help the team in a top area of need, the pass rush. After the practice, Cunningham said he dropped into coverage about 50 percent of the time while at Florida, which seems like an unusually high number. While no definitive judgment can be made at this point, Cunningham looked comfortable playing in a two-point stance. He said this was the first practice he's spent that much time in a two-point stance.
No doubt about who's running the offense. While the Patriots don't have an official offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach Bill O'Brien was clearly in charge of the session. For the second year in a row, it seems as if O'Brien is the offensive coordinator without the title.
Brandon Spikes' presence is apparent. Inside linebacker Brandon Spikes drew a large media crowd after practice and it was easy to feel his presence. While most of the rookies seemed nervous or reluctant to say the wrong thing, Spikes appeared most comfortable in his new environment. It is easy to see how Spikes potentially could emerge as a leader of this rookie group. On the field, he took charge from the inside linebacker spot.
Some players off limits for interviews. Tight end Aaron Hernandez, defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick and punter Zoltan Mesko were not made available for interviews after practice. Every other player was available to be interviewed.
Scouts on hand. As has been the case in recent years, most of the team's scouting and personnel staff was on hand to watch the practice. From a scouting perspective, there is often excitement at seeing the players who were evaluated on the scouting trail in a pro setting for the first time.
Media overload. When including reporters, newspaper photographers and television camera operators, a total of 41 media members was counted on the sideline as players exited the field. This is an indication of the growing interest in all-things Patriots.