Patriots training camp notes: Day 7

833583.jpg

Patriots training camp notes: Day 7

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick said he wanted to slow things down Thursday and that's exactly what the Patriots did. Perhaps because of the quick turnaround from the previous night's practice, combined with the sweltering heat, made it the smartest choice. Either way, it was a low-key day at Gillette.
Did not practice: Tony Fiammetta,Tracy White, Nick McDonald, Jake Bequette, Matt Kopa, Logan Mankins, Jamey Richard, Sebastian Vollmer, Brandon Lloyd, Jeremy Ebert, Visanthe Shiancoe, Daniel Fells, Jake Ballard, Myron Pryor, Jonathan Fanene. Spencer Larsen also missed practice for the first time this camp. And no, Brian Waters has still not reported.
Brady worked 1-on-1 with Aaron Hernandez after the official end of practice for about 15 minutes. Among other things, the pair worked on handoffs out of the backfield.
Matt Slater racked up the receiver reps with Lloyd, Branch and Gaffney unavailable. He did a solid job with the opportunity, showing some good speed and soft hands.
Britt Davis had another strong showing. He made a tough catch in back corner of the end zone on a pass from Ryan Mallett that drew some cheers from the crowd.
James Ihedigbo still can't get a handle in coverage. Rob Gronkowski shook the safety off easily on one play. Yes, it was against tremendous tight end Gronkowski, but Ihedigbo should not be looking as bad as he did.
One step down further: Ross Ventrone. Nobody expects first-string safety stylings out of Ventrone, but he was in position when Brady threw a deep ball to Donte' Stallworth and still couldn't make a play.
Jermaine Cunningham had an OK day. He showed some speed and elusiveness getting off the line in 11-on-11s and did a decent job sticking with running backs in coverage.
One of those backs, Shane Vereen, stood out for showing good quickness in making moves immediately after catches.
Rob Gronkowski was targeted often in goal line and red zone drills and did a good job of securing the ball in heavy traffic. Two balls thrown his way weren't reeled in: One was an overthrow by Tom Brady, the other was knocked away on an impressive play by Dont'a Hightower who sprinted to the sideline and deflected the ball out of bounds just before it landed in Gronk's mitts.

CSNNE.com writers Mary Paoletti and Phil Perry both contributed to this report.

Patriots get roster exemption for Ebner, add TE Pascoe and OL Halapio

ebner_slide.jpg

Patriots get roster exemption for Ebner, add TE Pascoe and OL Halapio

FOXBORO -- The Patriots, as expected, have been given a roster exemption for safety Nate Ebner. Therefore, while Ebner is playing for the USA Rugby Men's Sevens team in the Rio Olympics, his spot will not count against New England's 90-man roster. 

"I’ve talked to Nate several times," coach Bill Belichick said on Wednesday. "Wish him well in his endeavor. It’s a great opportunity for him to follow his passion, participate in the Olympic Games. We’re pulling for him to bring back something around his neck."

With the roster exemption, the Patriots found themselves at 88 players on their roster. In order to fill their last two openings, they signed offensive lineman Jon Halapio and tight end Bear Pascoe, Belichick announced. 

Halapio, a product of the University of Florida, was a sixth-round selection by the Patriots in 2014. He was released at the end of training camp that year, and he later landed on the Broncos practice squad in December of 2014. Before the start of last season, Halapio signed with the Cardinals. He was released on Sept. 5. 

In between NFL gigs, Halapio has spent time with the Boston Brawlers and the Brooklyn Bolts, both of the Fall Experimental Football League. 

Pascoe, 30, is in his eighth NFL season. He has spent time with the Giants, Falcons and Lions, primarily as a blocking tight end. In his career, the 6-foot-5, 257-pounder has caught 40 passes for 336 yards and two touchdowns in 85 career games. 

Ebner will participate in the Olympic rugby competition with Team USA beginning on Aug. 6, and fellow Patriots special teams ace Mathew Slater will be paying attention.

"I’m just so happy for him," Slater said. "And I know why rugby means so much to him, and many of us are familiar with the situation with his father, and his father obviously introduced him to the game of [rugby]. So, that connection with father and son is bigger than sport itself.

"I know this means a great deal to him and we’re all excited for him. I’m just trying to figure out where I can get my Ebner rugby jersey. I’ll be supporting him and watching him along the way."