Patriots practice 14 observations


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Observations from Tuesday afternoon's practice, the Patriots' fourteenth of training camp, which was held in shorts and shells and in intermittent rain:

Haynesworth, Gronkowski among missing. Tight end Rob Gronkowski was not spotted at Tuesday afternoon's practice after leaving Monday's session early with an undisclosed injury. Also not seen were defensive linemen Albert Haynesworth and Mike Wright, who have both missed their fourth straight practices, as well as offensive lineman Ryan Wendell and running back Eric Kettani.

New additions to the players spotted in t-shirts and shorts were offensive linemen Dan Connolly (right arm) and Chris Morris (left leg), who each suffered injuries in Monday's session. Linebacker Brandon Spikes, who was not seen at the previous three practices, was not in uniform but was seen on the field working with the strength & conditioning staff. The rest of this group remained unchanged from Monday: running backs Kevin Faulk (active/PUP) and Shane Vereen; wide receiver Brandon Tate; offensive linemen Matt Light (active/PUP) and Marcus Cannon (active/NFI); defensive linemen Ron Brace, Shaun Ellis, and Brandon Deaderick (all active/PUP); linebacker/safety Josh Barrett; cornerback Ras-I Dowling; and safeties James Sanders and Ross Ventrone.

Hernandez, Smith shine in Gronkowski's absence. With tight end Rob Gronkowski missing his first practice of training camp, Aaron Hernandez and rookie Lee Smith both saw increased reps on offense. During red-zone work, both tight ends took over Gronkowski's role, with Hernandez making two touchdown grabs, while Smith had an impressive catch over two defenders in the end zone. Meanwhile, wide receiver Chad Ochocinco had a touchdown reception but also dropped a pass on a quick slant during red zone work.

Carter eased into action. Defensive lineman Andre Carter has seen few if any reps in full-team (11-on-11) work in practice, but has been one of the first players on the field for his initial practices in New England, working with linebackers coach Patrick Graham on his pass rush moves. Jermaine Cunningham, Eric Moore, and Mark Anderson continue to see the bulk of the work at defensive end in full-team work. On a related note, defensive tackle Landon Cohen has recently been one of the first players on the field, working on his own with the blocking sled before practice.

A day for special teams. The Patriots' special teams continued to see heavy action in practice on Tuesday, especially for the punt unit. Wide receiver Taylor Price had a dropped punt, but punter Zoltan Mesko and returners Julian Edelman and Wes Welker looked strong. On the field goal side, rookie Chris Keopplin had a better day after some inconsistency early in camp, but after head coach Bill Belichick watered down the ball, Koepplin's kick was blocked; it was unclear whether the gaffe fell on the snapper, holder, or kicker on the play.

Annual rookie tradition. An annual tradition in Foxboro, quarterback Tom Brady took control of a hose and sprayed down the Patriots' rookies as they slid through a wet part of the field early in practice. "Rookie" offensive assistant coach George Godsey also took part in the activity. Brady seemed to have the most fun watering down quarterback Ryan Mallett, but later in practice, Mallett got revenge on his veteran counterpart in a quarterback drill. With one quarterback at a time dropping back, the other two quarterbacks used blocking pads to hit their teammate in the helmet as a distraction. Brady and Mallett seemed to enjoy what became a good-natured pillowfight.

Buddy Farnham in focus. Second-year receiver Buddy Farnham, who spent training camp and ended last season on the Patriots' practice squad, donned a blue (defensive) pinny on Tuesday and took reps on defense. Farnham first watched the full-team drill from behind with defensive backs coach Josh Boyer before stepping in at cornerback. It's one way for a longshot like Farnham to make the roster; he also saw defensive reps in the preseason finale last September against the Giants.