- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Wrapping up the 18th day of training camp and the key storylines:
Mankins removed from PUP list. The return of four-time Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins was the big story of the day. The Patriots' offensive line has been short on personnel for most of camp and Mankins naturally provides a big boost. He won't be able to practice in full pads for two more days.
Burress workout; signing not imminent. The Patriots worked out free-agent receiver Plaxico Burress, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. The team is not planning to sign him at this time, Schefter said. Coach Bill Belichick wouldn't confirm the workout, saying that the club works out a lot of players to stay aware of all the available options.
Spikes returns. Linebacker Brandon Spikes, who didn't practice last week and also didn't appear in the preseason opener against the Saints, was back on the field. That was another important development for the Patriots, especially with Dane Fletcher reportedly tearing his ACL in the preseason opener.
Gronkowski doesn't practice. Given Rob Gronkowski's offseason ankle surgery and the physical prowess of his play, his health figures to be watched closely this season. Along those lines, Gronkowski did not practice Sunday, although it doesn't appear to be anything serious. He worked alongside other injured players and was on the sideline at the end of practice, spending time at the friends and family tent. Safety James Ihedigbo and fullback Eric Kettani were other new additions held out of practice.
Brace & Waldron also return. Fourth-year defensive lineman Ron Brace, who was sidelined the last week and didn't play in the preseason opener, was back on the field. Brace got off to a strong start in camp, but the week-long absence stunted his momentum. Also, rookie offensive guard Dustin Waldron returned to action.
Branch increases workload. Receiver Deion Branch, who has been limited in practice over the last week and didn't play in the preseason opener, saw his workload increase. He participated in team drills as well.
1-on-1 work between receivers and D-backs a highlight. Defensive backs were tested in a 1-on-1 drill against receivers, with every pass coming on the perimeter. Cornerback Devin McCourty flashed some of his 2010 form, playing excellent technique against receiver Matthew Slater on a go route down the right side, intercepting a long pass from Ryan Mallett.
Quote of the day. Belichick, when asked his assessment of the receiving corps: "I’d pretty much say the same thing about them as the whole rest of the offense -- when you have 10 punts and two turnovers, we have a long way to go."
Star performer of the day. Tight end Aaron Hernandez. His strong camp continues as he dazzles in 1-on-1 work.
Tough day at the office. Cornerback Ras-I Dowling. Couldn't hang with Hernandez in 1-on-1 drills.
Storyline to monitor. How much ground has Shane Vereen made up in the running back competition?
Rookie watch. Defensive end Jake Bequette spoke with reporters after practice, with Belichick saying of Bequette: "Long way to go, like all the rookies, but he’s done some good things. And some of the responsibilities that we have are a little bit different than what he had in college, but he’s a smart guy and he works hard, he’s tried to adapt to those. He’s getting better." ... Linebacker Dont'a Hightower had two interceptions. ... Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard remains out since injuring his hamstring on the second day of camp.