Postcard from Patriots camp: Day 1

Postcard from Patriots camp: Day 1
July 26, 2013, 4:00 pm
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The first practice of the 2013 Patriots Training Camp was long and wet. Well-attended given the weather, the Patriots hit the grass at just about 9 a.m. and wrapped at 11:15 a.m.
 

WEATHER

A steady - at times, heavy - rain fell throughout with temperatures in the 60s and very light wind.

WHAT THEY WORE
 
* Shorts and shell shoulder pads. Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett and Tim Tebow were in red non-contact jerseys as was corner Devin McCourty who otherwise participated fully.
 
WHO MISSED
 
* Rob Gronkowski, Armond Armstead and Corey Grissom were not seen. Julian Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins, Mark Harrison and Nick McDonald were about but not on the field. McDonald did some sprint work late in the session under the eye of the training staff.
 
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 9:30.

* Safeties spent time working on reads and drops based on motion and hand signals put up by a coach.
 
* Special teams work consisted of kickoff coverage and return. Practice closed with field goals – as usual.
 
* Linebackers worked on getting pursuit angles on backs and receivers who make catches in checkdown positions just over the line.
 
* Tom Brady, Tim Tebow and Ryan Mallett threw timing fades down the right hash to Josh Boyce, Danny Amendola and Michael Jenkins.  
 
* Quarterbacks and running back worked on handoffs and red zone reads.

WHO'S HOT

* Kamar Aiken. The 6-2, 215-pound fringe player made two outstanding catches during the session. The first came in 7-on-7 when he got a half-step down the right sideline and made a diving, one-armed, cradling catch despite nice coverage from Alfonzo Dennard. The other came in traffic during 11-on-11 when he was again heavily covered.
 
* Jamie Collins. The rookie second-round pick saw a lot of time at the OLB position with Dont'a Hightower moving to the middle and Brandon Spikes taking a seat. Collins had a very nice breakup on a throw to Michael Hoomanawanui during 7-on-7.
 
 
* Michael Jenkins. The veteran wide receiver is smooth and sure-handed and seems to be earning the trust of Tom Brady early.

WHO’S NOT

* Tim Tebow. Other than accuracy and decision-making, the Icon With the Awful Aim had a nice start.
 
* Jake Ballard. The big tight end really lumbered. Just didn’t seem very smooth for much of the practice although he changed the tenor of his day somewhat with an outstanding sideline catch on a long throw from Ryan Mallett that was absolutely lasered in.
 
* Given the tempo of the practice, it was hard to find anybody else who was plain awful. As my buddy Nick Underhill said, “Nobody looked like ass completely out there.”
 

WHAT WE SAW
 
* Leon Washington returning kicks next to Shane Vereen in the first grouping. Matt Slater and LeGarrette Blount in the second grouping.

* The size of the Patriots receiving corps right now is noteworthy. A bunch of guys who could have fit in a fiat to a bunch of long striders.

* The padded tennis rackets designed to force quarterbacks to throw around and through small windows were back in play.
 
* Tom Brady was more vocally involved and supportive than any other offensive player. When veteran Michael Jenkins made a terrific diving catch, Brady yelled, “Good catch Mike!” A pedestrian play by Ballard elicited, “That's it Ballard, that’s the way to start!” and a nice route and reception by Aaron Dobson brought a loud, “Way to be, AD!”
 
* Tebow's brain melted in a 7-on-7 rep and he he had to scramble to the hoots of the defense.
 
* Jamie Collins, a rookie, was in at OLB while Dont’a Hightower slid inside with the first unit for a few reps. It’s usually Hightower, Spikes and Mayo.

* Spikes is an effective player but he makes it obvious he’s going to do what he wants when he wants to do it. If the rest of the team is stretching, Spikes may stretch or he may wander around. If everyone is sprinting, he may keep up or may walk the final 10 yards. If it were four or five players doing it, it wouldn’t be worth mentioning. But it’s not.

* Marcus Cannon got first-team reps at right guard in place of Dan Connolly.
 
* Kyle Arrington and Devin McCourty had a near-pick of Tom Brady on a ball they volleyed a few times before it hit the turf.
 
* Danny Amendola, wearing No. 80, made a Troy Brown-type catch fully laid out just inches from the ground and bringing the ball in on his fingertips.
 
 WHAT THEY SAID

* "I can't even comment. I want to but I can't." – Brandon Spikes on Aaron Hernandez Case.
 
* “It was heartbreaking and it was sad. We’ve been advised a couple of times not to comment on ongoing legal investigations. I’m not going to comment further but all my thoughts and prayers go out to all the families that were involved.” – Tim Tebow on the Aaron Hernandez Case.
 
* The treadmill is moving, we’re going to jump on, start running. It’s going to be moving fast, we have a lot of ground to cover. I’ve already emphasized to the players how important it is that we keep up, not fall behind but keep up. We have a lot of work to do here; a short amount of time to get ready for our competitive practices and preseason games that are coming up.” – Bill Belichick on the start of camp