Friday, July 26, 2013
Bed check: A rain-filled beginning
By Mike Reiss
(Every day at training camp, we'll recap the day with a final blog post.)
Top storyline: The team held its first full-team practice in a heavy rainstorm, with an announced crowd of 6,390. The session was an extension of what the Patriots did in spring minicamp, as players were in light shoulder pads and there was no contact. There will be a similar style of practice Saturday. On Sunday, players will wear full pads for the first time and there will be full contact.
Context on team's health: The first practice provided a feel for where some of the team's rehabbing players stand in their recoveries. Tight end Jake Ballard, who had serious knee surgery in 2012 and missed all of last season, said, "I have no restrictions." Safety Devin McCourty (shoulder surgery in offseason) wore a red non-contact jersey. Defensive lineman Armond Armstead (non-football injury list) didn't practice, while starting right guard Dan Connolly (offseason shoulder surgery) and starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer (knee) were on the field after missing all spring.
Behind-the-scenes nugget: Former Patriots fullback Heath Evans was on assignment for NFL Network and he stood with reporters as players and coaches walked off the field following practice. It turns out the Patriots were studying film on Evans, as part of two-back sets, on Thursday night. Some of those plays showed up on the practice field.
Rookie report: Receivers Aaron Dobson (second round) and Josh Boyce (fourth round) received plenty of reps, which is critical for them when it comes to developing a rapport with Tom Brady. ... Linebacker Jamie Collins (second round) was one of the top players to rotate in with the top defense in 11-on-11 drills. ... Safety Duron Harmon (third round) practiced after missing spring camps.
Tebow's running skills tapped: Quarterback Tim Tebow's role generated some attention, as Bill Belichick wouldn't commit when asked if his plan is to work Tebow exclusively at quarterback. It could have been a case of Belichick not wanting to box himself into a corner should there be a change in course at some point, but when Tebow caught some short passes as part of a run-after-catch/tackling fundamentals drill with running backs, receivers and tight ends, it led some to believe Tebow might be more than a quarterback. In the end, it's probably nothing more than the fact he's a quarterback who has excellent running ability.
Quote of note: "We're young, we're hungry, we're ready to play. For us, we learned from some of the best. Kevin Faulk. You look at BenJarvus Green-Ellis. You look at Danny Woodhead. They paved the way for us. They showed us how to do it the Patriots Way." -- Stevan Ridley, on the running back corps
Belichick's subtle boost to team doctor: It might have been a coincidence, or perhaps it was calculated, but Belichick made mention of team doctor Thomas Gill in his opening remarks. The NFL Players Association has filed a grievance against the Patriots, asking for the team to have Gill step down. Said Belichick: "We had a number of guys that were working through various injuries and situations in the spring and I think Dr. Gill and [head athletic trainer] Jim Whalen and their respective staffs have done an excellent job bringing those guys around."
Summing it up: This was a transition day as it related to a shift from an Aaron Hernandez-based focus to more of a football focus. Tebow and linebacker Brandon Spikes were asked about Hernandez based on their ties with him from the University of Florida, but followed team instructions not to talk about it. Similarly, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard said he wouldn't address his arrest for suspicion of driving under the influence. Thus, most of the spotlight was shined on what was taking place on the field.