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Monday, August 5, 2013
Observations from Day 9

By Field Yates

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots dialed back the tempo for Monday’s practice, opting to work in just helmets and shells, while conducting several walk-through periods.

Passing along a handful of leftover notes/observations from the session.

1. A handful of players spent time on a separate field with members of the Patriots’ strength and conditioning staff, presumably as a measure of rehabilitation for various dings, bruises and injuries. Among them were running back Shane Vereen, safety Nate Ebner, wide receiver Matt Slater and offensive linemen Marcus Zusevics and Kevin Haslam.

2. Right guard has become a revolving-door position for the Patriots in training camp. Dan Connolly, the starter in 2012, has been limited as he returns from offseason shoulder surgery, while the player with the first shot at replacing him, Marcus Cannon, has been absent in recent days. Same goes for Tyronne Green, who has been on the field but limited in what he can do. Ditto for Marcus Zusevics, who spent much of Monday’s practice working with the team’s training staff.

3. That opened the door for veteran Will Svitek, believed to be a candidate to serve as the team's top swing tackle, to take reps at right guard. Svitek was called upon to replace Sam Baker as the left tackle in Atlanta during the 2011 season, but missed all of 2012 due to an injury. Will be interesting to see him work in game action this preseason.

4. More focus on special situations today. As they've done at times during camp, the quarterbacks emphasized hard counts (attempting to draw defenders offsides). This is an area of strength for Tom Brady, who has successfully lured defenders into the neutral zone throughout his career.

5. The offense also spent some time working on end-of-game/end-of-half offensive plays, specifically throws to the end zone. The points of emphasis in "Hail Mary" situations is getting the receivers aligned in a configuration to get them in the best position to catch a tipped ball. Most offenses will call for four receivers to one side, with a designated jumper (a player with good length). The other three players, ideally, will compete for a ball if it is tipped. Zach Sudfeld is an example of a leaper. Defenses will do the same thing (many recall Randy Moss playing as a defensive back to be the player to leap and deflect a Hail Mary throw).

6. More special situations work included: onside kicks, punts following a safety, and punts from deep in their own end zone.

7. Even with just one kicker on the roster, Stephen Gostkowski remains in a competition (teams are constantly keeping tabs on players around the league and on the street), and we've been monitoring his performance. He came up several yards short on an attempt from 50 yards today, though he's been striking the ball well throughout camp.

8. Jake Ballard was back on the field today after sitting out Saturday's scrimmage. No official word on the reason behind the absence, but given the nature of his major knee injury in February of 2012, it's possible the team is building in some maintenance days for him during camp.