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Sunday, July 31, 2011
Patriots practice 7 observations

By Mike Rodak

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Observations from Sunday afternoon's practice, the Patriots' seventh of training camp, which was held in full pads and in warm and sunny conditions.

Haynesworth the story. In his first full pads practice with the team, newly-acquired defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth stole the show. Upon arriving on the practice fields, Haynesworth was greeted with, and acknowledged, cheers from the crowd. During the first 11-on-11 work of the session, Haynesworth lined up alongside Vince Wilfork on the inside of a four-man line and wowed the capacity crowd by mauling through guard Rich Ohrnberger and center Ryan Wendell to crash the backfield. His presence was felt. However, Haynesworth had little if any participation in the remaining drills of practice, and was seen doing stretching work with the team's training staff instead of running end-of-practice sprints. While clearly a dominating force when in action, Haynesworth's health is something that bears watching.

Defense dominates. This was not a practice the Patriots offense would like to remember. The defense's intensity was evident throughout the practice, while the offense stumbled its way through 11-on-11 work. Rookie quarterback Ryan Mallett and center Dan Koppen ran a lap after a botched snap exchange, while running back Danny Woodhead had a penalty lap for a fumble of his own. In the passing game, wide receiver Chad Ochocinco had two dropped passes, one of which may have been broken up by safety Patrick Chung, who got a chest bump from linebacker Brandon Spikes after the play. Running back Thomas Clayton and wide receiver Julian Edelman both dropped screen passes, while cornerback Leigh Bodden wrestled away a pass from tight end Rob Gronkowski in an extended tussle on the ground.

The session was easily the most spirited of camp so far, with safety Bret Lockett and rookie receiver Jeremy Ross (at 'gunner') getting into it during punt team work.

Attendance report. The following players were in shorts and t-shirts and did not participate in the practice: offensive linemen Mike Berry and Marcus Cannon (both active/NFI); defensive linemen Kyle Love, Ron Brace, Brandon Deaderick, and Myron Pryor (all but Love on active/PUP), linebacker/safety Josh Barrett; safety James Sanders (active/NFI); and long snapper Matt Katula. It was Love's first time not practicing this training camp. It was also Pryor's first time seen doing strength and conditioning work on the sidelines.

Running back Eric Kettani was not seen at practice for the second straight day. The following players are signed but were out of practice because of CBA transition rules: running backs Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris; offensive lineman Logan Mankins; defensive lineman Steve Williams; linebacker Tracy White; cornerback Kyle Arrington; and safety Brandon McGowan. Both White and Mankins took in parts of practice from the sidelines in t-shirts and shorts. Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis has yet to sign his restricted free agent tender and is out of practice. Offensive lineman Nate Solder, cornerback Ras-I Dowling, and running back Shane Vereen remain as unsigned rookies and out of action.

Depth at running back. With only three running backs in practice, safety Ross Ventrone took a handoff during 11-on-11 work. While the position will be re-stocked with veterans Faulk and Morris soon, Ventrone is following of the footsteps of his older brother, Ray Ventrone, who worked at both wide receiver and safety for the Patriots.

Rookie kicker struggles. Undrafted rookie kicker Chris Koepplin had some early struggles during field goal work, missing his first attempt wide right and then having his next attempt blocked. It should be noted that linebacker Rob Ninkovich continues to handle long snapping duties with veteran snapper Matt Katula sidelined. It appears that Stephen Gostkowski, who is coming off quad surgery last season, is still being eased back into action, with Kroepplin getting much of the kicking work in camp.