Patriots training camp notes: Day 6

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Patriots training camp notes: Day 6

FOXBORO -- Night practice: A training camp highlight for Patriots season ticket holders. Or, as it was this Wednesday, a chance for the team to pop the top on some serious aggression.
There was a fracas. Dust-up. Kerfuffle. Whatever you want to call it, Brandon Spikes got dinged up and Nate Solder had to run a lap. Look for a story on that.
On to the notes!
Several guys were out for this session. Expected: Logan Mankins, Alfonzo Dennard, Daniel Fells, Tony Fiammetta, Nick McDonald, Jake Ballard, Myron Pryor, Visanthe Shiancoe, Markus Zusevics, Jonathan Fanene, Jeremy Ebert, Nate Ebner, Brian Waters, Tracy White, Sebastian Vollmer, Jamey Richard. Not expected: Brandon Lloyd, Will Allen, Dan Connolly.
James Ihedigbo and Matthew Slater still wear those red jerseys.
The offensive line did a little shuffling in Connolly's absence and Donald Thomas got more reps out of it. As Bill Belichick would say, there are some things he did well and some things he needs to improve on. Isn't that helpful?
Speaking of the O-line, veteran Dan Koppen looks to be struggling. Not only was he working with the second team but has been losing 1-on-1 battles. His frustration was obvious when he got in the faces of both Dane Fletcher and Ihedigbo.
Matt Kopa left the session early.
Alex Silvestro is now wearing No. 49 and listed at tight end. I don't see this as a good thing for him.
I know fans were really looking forward to seeing Lloyd, or rather, Lloyd working with Tom Brady. I'm told he was kept out for precautionary reasons and the issue is nothing serious. Other than that, I'm not sure what the injury is.
The offense looked sloppy. Several guys had drops: Donte' Stallworth had at least two in 1-on-1s and another in 11-on-11, Edelman had two, and Welker had a ball bounce out of his hands and off his chest. Rob Gronkowski and Jabar Gaffney dropped touchdown balls.
Gaffney was also targeted for a ball by Brian Hoyer that Kyle Arrington intercepted.
But you know who had soft hands? Britt Davis. One catch was a sweet little grab over Ross Ventrone and Tavon Wilson in the corner of the end zone.
The sloppiness continued elsewhere. False starts and offsides penalty lead to laps run by Marcus Cannon, Dane Fletcher, Marcus Forston, Thomas, Jermaine Cunningham, Solder, and Justin Francis. Doing the Run of Shame in front of 22,633 fans had to nick the pride.
Toward the end of practice, Brady lead a 2-minute drill walk-through. Not as exciting as it is when full speed. When they amped it up a little, the offense stalled. Brian Hoyer had a more successful drive, setting up a Stephen Gostkowski field goal.

Aaron Hernandez and Hoyer hooked up beautifully on a crossing route on the drive with Hernandez reaching up between two defenders to make a grab.

Ryan Mallett continues to struggle. His accuracy was shaky during a red zone drill and the final rep ended with him not getting a throw off before Belichick blew the play dead.

During 1-on-1 tackling drills, Aaron Lavarias ran clean out of his cleat when he started.

Shane Vereen put a ridiculous juke on Spencer Larsen during the tackling drill.

The team gets back to its normal 1:30 to 4 p.m. practice schedule on Thursday and Friday.

Patriots DT Branch wins appeal of four-game suspension

Patriots DT Branch wins appeal of four-game suspension

FOXBORO -- Alan Branch knew he had a good case, otherwise he wouldn't have appealed. It was just a question of when that appeal might be heard. 

As of Wednesday, the Patriots defensive tackle hadnt heard anything as it related to the appeal of his four-game suspension. But by Saturday morning, according to Field Yates of ESPN, Branch had won the appeal and been cleared of the league's ban. 

Branch's agent later confirmed the news on Twitter.

Word of Branch's punishment, which stemmed from what was reported as a positive marijuana test, became public when reported by ESPN on Nov. 21. Per the league's substance abuse policy, appeal hearings are typically scheduled for the fourth Tuesday after a player has been informed of his penalty. The policy notes that it is possible for appeals to be heard on another date should the two sides be able to work out different schedule, but Branch was not optimistic that would be the case earlier this week. 

Good news came quickly, though. 

Had Branch been forced to miss any time, it would have docked the Patriots arguably their top interior defensive lineman. Branch has started every game, and he leads all Patriots defensive tackles with 457 snaps played. 

The Patriots recently waived running back DJ Foster and signed defensive tackle Darius Kilgo, seemingly as a way to build some depth on the roster if Branch had been suspended. 

By having his four-game suspension wiped away not only are the Patriots saved from having to deal without one of their top players in the trenches, but Branch saved himself a relatively hefty financial penalty.

A four-game ban would have cost him nearly $300,000 in base salary as well as four game-day bonuses adding to $100,000. He also stood to lose as much as $750,000 in season-long playing-time incentives. In all, had the suspension stood, it could have cost him about $1.1 million. Patriots salary-cap expert Miguel Benzan goes into more detail about the potential financial impact of Branch's suspension here

Thankfully for Branch, he doesn't have to worry about that any longer. With this situation in the rear view, he can now focus on helping the Patriots win games during the stretch run of the regular season and into the playoffs.