FOXBORO -- If you were a Patriots defensive player during Thursday's training camp practice, chances are you busted a celebratory dance move or two at some point.
New England's defense continues to have strong periods of 11-on-11 work against its offensive counterpart, taking advantage of the physical play by its new defensive backs (as well as the fact that there are no referees present).
There was one particular stretch of the team's seventh summer practice in which the defense showed that it can get fired up even in the dog days of camp.
With the offense pinned up against its own goal line, Tom Brady threw a pass over the middle that was tipped and then intercepted by Darrelle Revis, who ran in from about 10 yards out for a touchdown. The celebration that followed would have made Chad Ochocinco blush.
Revis and Devin McCourty partied in the end zone while Sealver Siliga and Chandler Jones got in on the mosh pit. Vince Wilford chirped at Brady for a second before getting into the mix with his defensive teammates.
After practice, Brady explained the difficulty of going up against both Revis and Brandon Browner.
"They’re both great players, so when you make a mistake, they make you pay, and I think that’s the mark of a really good corner," he said. "As a quarterback, you’re always trying to find the weak link in the defense, and neither of those guys are weak links. Sometimes, we’ve got to go after them, [and] we’ve got to try to see if we can make a play. But like I said, if you miss a little bit, they end making the play. It’s great work for us, and you understand what you’re up against."
Soon after Revis' pick, Rob Ninkovich, Devn McCourty and Tommy Kelly helped to snuff out a goal-line run by Stevan Ridley, forcing the back behind the line of scrimmage and taking him down in a swarm. That prompted more celebrating and the entire defense unit beating its chest as one by chanting loudly in unison.
Brady explained just how competitive camp has been thus far, one week in.
"There are a lot of competitions out there, so every drill, a coach pits the offense against the defense, and when we review the film at night there’s one side that’s getting praise and the other side is getting the opposite.
"You want to be the one who gets praised all the time, but in situations like this, it all kind of balances out. The defense makes a lot of good plays out there and we make our fair share. Hopefully when we play a different opponent, both of us are clicking the way we need to."
At the center of the defense, linebacker Jerod Mayo would much rather see over-the-top reactions after good plays -- like the ones he saw Thursday -- than not.
"Obviously, we enjoy working," Mayo said. "Any time you have a group of guys that love the game of football, it's always going to be fun. We're surrounded by guys that love to play the game. We go in installation in the morning, then it's time to go to work in the evening. Guys know that and we have a great game."
Mayo came into the league in 2008, and a year later it was clear the Patriots locker room was in need of an overhaul. The result was a 10-6 season in 2009 that ended with an embarrassing 33-14 loss in the Wild Card round to the Ravens at home.
Mayo knows what it's like to have a locker room full of guys who aren't all-in -- guys who don't have fun on the job -- and guys who are.
"I've been around both sets of players, players that don't enjoy the game and look at it as work," Mayo said. "And players that we have now that enjoy to come out here and compete. This isn't a place for people who don't love the game of football. We put a lot of hours in, and we enjoy being here, espcially on our side of the ball."
The mantra in the Patriots locker room has long been to "do your job." But there's nothing that says you can't have some fun while you're doing it. That's the oft-unspoken part of the Patriots Way that other members of the team's defense have raised throughout camp.
"It's all about having fun," Dont'a Hightower said. "When you have fun, you can go out there and fly around, and something's gonna happen. You never know. You might be in that cut-back lane to make that ball pop out. You might be around for a tip pass to intercept it. You never know. It's just more about having fun, not just letting this be all about work. Whenever you're out there and you have fun and there's enthusiasm. It's contagious."