Print and Go Back ESPN.com: New England Patriots [Print without images]

Monday, July 30, 2012
Early look at special teams 'core four'

By Mike Rodak

The Patriots have concluded their first four days of training camp, giving the team one session each to work on its 'core' special teams units: kickoff, kickoff return, punt, and punt return.

Players who are a part of each of these four units often have an inside track to a roster spot, making this one area to keep an eye on throughout training camp and the preseason.

Here's how things have shaped up thus far:

All four units:
S Josh Barrett
LB Dane Fletcher
LB Niko Koutouvides

Three units:
WR Matthew Slater (kickoff, punt, punt return)
LB Tracy White* (kickoff, kickoff return, punt)

Two units:
CB Kyle Arrington (kickoff, punt return)
S Patrick Chung (punt, punt return)
CB Devin McCourty (kickoff, punt return)
RB Shane Vereen (kickoff return, punt)
CB Malcolm Williams (kickoff, kickoff return; also second-team punt)
RB Danny Woodhead (kickoff return, punt return; also second-team kickoff and punt return)

*White missed Sunday's practice, the first time the punt return unit was showcased.

During training camp, the Patriots use two groups of players for each special teams unit. For context, the following players are part of multiple second-team units:

Four units: FB Spencer Larsen, LB Jeff Tarpinian
Three units: RB Brandon Bolden*, S Sergio Brown, LB Bobby Carpenter, CB Marquice Cole, S James Ihedigbo, DE Trevor Scott, S Tavon Wilson*

*is on first team for fourth unit (Bolden: kickoff; Wilson: punt)

EXTRA POINT: Defensive back Ross Ventrone has yet to practice with any of the 'core four' special teams units, first- or second-team. His action has come on defense (at cornerback), as well as in the receiver vs. defensive back blocking drill (as a stand-in running back).