The third open practice of the 2013 Patriots Training Camp was the first in which the players were in full pads. A fairly packed house for a Sunday morning with traffic backed up on Route 1 to get into the stadium.
Gloomy and misty as practice began a little before 9 a.m. A little British Open feel to it. Brightened as 10 a.m. approached and got good and hot with some heavy humidity.
WHAT THEY WORE
Full pads. Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett and Tim Tebow were in red non-contact jerseys as was corner Devin McCourty, who otherwise participated fully. The same fellas down on Saturday were down on Sunday: Armond Armstead, Corey Grissom, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Mark Harrison and Nick McDonald.
WHAT THEY DID
* Practice opened with half-speed 11-on-11, non-contact work. That was followed by 10 minutes of stationary and dynamic stretching. That was followed by positional groupings working out on some fundamental skills before practice began in earnest at about 9:35.
* Some drills are more fun to watch than others. Wide receivers running shallow outs toward the sideline with a coach throwing a quick timing pass to them while a tennis racket is waved in their vision is particularly fun. That happened early.
* Special teams coverage guys did shed drills for kickoff coverage using a rip move on the run.
* At 10:05, the offense did some work on one field while the defense prepped on the other. The whole team came together around 10:20 for most of the remainder of practice. The first hour had contact but not much hitting.
* There was no-huddle offense work in two different sessions. Quick subs from base to nickel on incompletions. A lot of these reps are important also for the new players to get used to the machinations of personnel groupings and subs.
* Goal line sessions with full contact (but not tackling to the ground) were conducted late in practice.
* Field goals came after goal line followed by a final session of 11-on-11 in which Tom Brady led the offense first then Tim Tebow. For this practice, Ryan Mallett worked with the 2s at the end of practice.
Logan Mankins: Stoned Vince Wilfork twice in 1-on-1s and seems to be at the top of his game in most every rep he takes.
Kenbrell Thompkins: Running quite a bit with the first-teamers, the rookie from Cincinnati has fit right in during the early going and made a terrific catch to end practice.
LeGarrette Blount: Scored twice during goal line drills. Shows the acceleration through the hole that makes him dangerous to safeties.
Stevan Ridley: Two fumbles for the incumbent starter at running back.
Ryan Mallett: Not a very accurate day for the Patriots backup.
Lavelle Hawkins: Fumbled a kickoff return and got rag-dolled in 1-on-1s.
WHAT WE SAW
* I thought it was a very flat practice for the first day in pads. Very little energy on the field. Most of the enthusiasm was provided by the fans. Even during goal-line work -- which is usually the height of intensity -- it was quiet except when Ridley was stripped (for the second time in about 15 minutes) by Wilfork. On consecutive plays, Blount got into the end zone. The first time he beat a 1-on-1 tackle, the second time he walked in.
* Aaron Dobson had his second consecutive practice that looked pretty good.
* Michael Jenkins did not with waaaayyyy too many drops and bobbles.
* There was a deep throw down the left sideline on which Kyle Arrington was able to ride Dobson to the boundary and take to the air to pick off Brady.
* Much less Adrian Wilson on Sunday. Much more Steve Gregory. My guess is they are giving Gregory a fair look and Wilson some veteran rep-reduction.
* Rookie wideout Kenbrell Thompkins seems to be carving a niche. He got a lot of run with the 1s on Sunday and made a terrific diving catch of a Tebow bomb on the final play of practice over corner Stephon Morris.
* Tebow had a better practice than Friday. He still threatened some ankles with throws and was glacial in is decision-making, but he made at least a handful of accurate throws as well.
* There was a drill in which wideouts had to run a short dig and work directly back to the line between two cones and make a catch. Rookie Josh Boyce was just outside the cones as he worked back and was made to redo the rep.
* Actor Robert Duvall was at practice and spent some time with owner Robert Kraft.
* Former Patriots great Troy Brown and SIRIUS NFL Radio good guys Tim Green and Pat Kirwan were there for the workouts. Bill Belichick spent a few minutes during practice with Green and Kirwan.
* The day’s most entertaining action was one in which a corner got in press coverage on an outside receiver. The receiver had to work out of the jam on some reps. On others, a coaching assistant executed an outside run while the receiver had to block the corner. It was a play on which the corner had to do an excellent job of reading and shows why that position is so difficult to play. Wideout Kamar Aiken works his posterior off on every rep and was a very determined, effective blocker. He discarded Alfonzo Dennard -- who is much smaller -- with ease during a downfield release.
* Dobson and Ras-I Dowling got into it pretty good during that drill.
* LaVelle Hawkins got worked over and lost his helmet locking up with rookie Logan Ryan.
* Danny Amendola continues to be an extremely difficult cover underneath, as one would expect.
The following are observations from the 1-on-1 work by your boy Mike Giardi. (Thanks, Mikey!) I’ll give ‘em to you as he wrote ‘em up:
* Nink blows by Vollmer
* Cannon overpowers Kelly
* Mankins beats wilfork
* Jones initiates contact then pushes by Solder
* Cunningham gets 74 (Will Svitek) easy
* 66 (Markus Zusevics) holds off 64 (Joe Vellano)
* 71 (R.J. Mattes) dominates 99 (Michael Buchanan
* 93 (Tommy Kelly) tools on 64 (Chris McDonald)
* 62 (Ryan Wendell) doesn’t let 64 (Joe Vellano) do jack
* Mankins again holds off Wilfork
* 58 (Marcus Benard) chews up 71 (R.J. Mattes)
* Cannon wins
* 98 (Marcus Fortson) wins off corner
* 68 (Tyronne Greene) strong on 94 (Justin Francis)
* Chandler spins Solder like a top
* Marcus Cannon continues to get most of the reps over Dan Connolly who may still be coming back from a ding.
* Jamie Collins stripped Daniel Fells during a 1-on-1 tackling drill and Steve Beauharnais stood up Jake Ballard during the same session.
* The 12 (one back, two tight end) skill personnel for several reps was Thompkins and Amendola at the wideouts with Ballard and Michael Hoomanawanui at tight end.
* At this point, Fells has looked like the smoothest route-runner and pass-catcher of the tight ends.
WHAT THEY SAID
“Good job Tebow!” -- some leather-lunged fan after the first handoff of practice.