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Thursday, July 29, 2010
Rookie TEs in middle of the action

By Mike Reiss

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- While ESPNBoston.com intern Mike Rodak puts together some of his observations from the Patriots' second training camp practice Thursday, I will focus on two rookies who stood out to me from the session: tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

The Patriots worked an 11-on-11 drill in which it looked like the ball was spotted around the 2-yard line. With quarterback Tom Brady under center, both rookie tight ends were on the field.

On one play, Gronkowski ran to the left side and with his size (6-foot-6, 265 pounds) easily shaded a defender for a touchdown catch. Not long after that, Hernandez came down with a difficult touchdown grab on the right side, leaping into the air and wrestling the ball away from a defender as both were in position to make the play.

Those two plays, which were sandwiched around a Gary Guyton interception of a Brady pass, offered a snapshot of what could be.

The Patriots' red zone offense in 2009 was not as efficient as desired, and the potential roles of Gronkowski and Hernandez in that area has already been well-dissected.

After their segment working with Brady, both rookie tight ends found themselves working with rookie Zac Robinson in an 11-on-11 drill with more of the team's lesser experienced players.

On the first day of training camp, they are getting a lot of work.