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Thursday, August 4, 2011
Patriots practice 10 observations

By Mike Rodak

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Observations from Thursday evening's practice, the Patriots' tenth of training camp, which was held in full pads and in mild conditions:

Debut of veteran signings. With the collective bargaining agreement having been ratified by the NFLPA and the 2011 NFL League Year having begun, veteran Patriots players who have re-signed with the team over the previous week were able to practice on Thursday evening. Players returning in uniform were running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Sammy Morris, guard Logan Mankins, defensive lineman Steve Williams, linebacker Tracy White, cornerback Kyle Arrington, and safety Brandon McGowan. Offensive lineman Matt Light and running back Kevin Faulk watched the practice in t-shirts and shorts.

Meanwhile, long snapper Matt Katula was in full pads for the first time this camp, while cornerback Darius Butler and defensive end Alex Silvestro returned to action after missing Wednesday evening's session.

Vereen, Wendell remain out. Rookie running back Shane Vereen was not spotted for the second straight day of practice, after having practiced on Tuesday following the signing of his rookie contract. In addition, center/guard Ryan Wendell was not spotted for the third straight practice session. The health situation of both players remains unclear. Running back Eric Kettani also remains out of action.

Players working with the strength and conditioning staff on the sidelines were rookie cornerback Ras-I Dowling, who missed his second straight day of practice, as well as linebacker/safety Josh Barrett, offensive lineman Kyle Hix, offensive lineman Marcus Cannon (active/NFI), and defensive linemen Ron Brace, Myron Pryor, and Brandon Deaderick (all active/PUP).

Solder makes debut. A few hours after signing his rookie contract, first-round draft pick Nate Solder made his practice debut on Thursday evening. Despite having missed all offseason camps due to the NFL labor dispute, as well as the first week of training camp, Solder was inserted at left tackle with the top offensive unit, with usual starter Matt Light present but not in uniform for the session. Solder appeared to hold his own, making a solid second-level block on rookie linebacker Jeff Tarpinian in a running game drill.

Bad day for Ochocinco, pass catchers. Wide receiver Chad Ochocinco had a practice he'd rather forget on Thursday evening, dropping about a half-dozen passes in three different drills. One drop came after Ochocinco beat safety Brandon McGowan on a deep route, only to have quarterback Tom Brady's well-placed pass bounce off the receiver's hands. Ochocinco later dropped two passes from Brady during 7-on-7 work. Receivers Julian Edelman and Darnell Jenkins also dropped passes of their own, while tight end Aaron Hernandez couldn't corral two separate passes that came his way earlier in practice.

On the flip side, tight end Rob Gronkowski continued to have a strong camp, making a catch over linebacker Gary Guyton in 11-on-11 work, while also beating Guyton on a seam pattern during a 1-on-1 drill. Rookie tight end Lee Smith had his own impressive reception over Guyton in a 7-on-7 drill.

Mallett reps in focus. With the number of padded training camp practices limited with new CBA rules, rookie quarterback Ryan Mallett's most extensive action of camp has come during the "opportunity session" for less-experienced players at the end of practice. Mallett's offensive unit drew the ire of Belichick by not lining up correctly for one play during this session, while Mallett one-hopped a pass attempt to receiver Jeremy Ross later in the 11-on-11 drill.

Haynesworth health in focus. Defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth continued to have his reps limited in practice. When he was on the field, Haynesworth had a couple of well-fought blocking battles against guard Logan Mankins. However, Haynesworth joined a small group of rehabbing players in a stretching group after practice. He also had an extended chat with head coach Bill Belichick immediately after the session ended and before slowly walking back to the defensive line post-practice huddle, accompanied by assistant trainer Joe Van Allen.