Postcard from Patriots Camp: Day 23

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Postcard from Patriots Camp: Day 23

FOXBORO -- A select group ran an interesting drill Friday.

Tom Brady, Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, and Rob Gronkowski occupied an otherwise empty field three different times. With either Lloyd or Gaffney at center, Brady and Gronkowski practice some routes on air (if Gaffney was at center, Lloyd would receive).

Considering Lloyd and Gronkowski missed time at the beginning of the week, it's not surprising Brady might want to get in some extra time with each. But it looked like they might be simulating, conditioning for a two-minute drill. Interesting.

Two more notes out of that:

Gronkowski had at least two drops. Against no defense.

At one point Gaffney acted as running back in the drill. He moved with apparent ease, the right quadriceps he tweaked Wednesday not appearing to give him trouble.

WEATHER
Hot, but not unbearably so. There was a nice breeze whirling around all day.

WHAT THEY WORE
Full pads.

WHAT THEY DID
1:39-1:51: This was different: The team split, offense and defense on separate fields, and worked on some basics. Defense worked on its base formation -- kn'aw mean?

1:51-2:00: Running.

2:00-2:26: Drills.

2:26-2:44: 11-on-11.

2:44-2:49: Punt! Aaron Hernandez and Jeremy Ebert got more reps returning. Ebert is still inconsistent in receiving back there.

Speaking of, Edelman had a weird Ebert moment during punt return. A ball hit him in the chest right at his hands, bounced off his shoulder, and was gone. Muffed.

2:49-3:11: 7-on-7.

3:11-3:17: Punt!

3:17: 11-on-11. This round saw an interesting look from the defense. The line was made 1s, the backers were 2s, and the secondary 3s.

3:36: A big huddle and some self-congratulatory applause.

And later Rookie DE Chandler Jones got a chance to field a punt from Zoltan Mesko. If he made it the team would have the night off from meetings. Sho'nuff, Jones secured the ball. The team went absolutely bananas. "I'm taking him out to dinner!" crowed Kyle Arrington.

WHAT WE SAW
Literally the first thing I saw was DB Malcolm Williams on the field in uniform. RB Eric Kettani was the other notable return. Otherwise, Stevan Ridley was in shorts and Tavon Wilson was a no-show after both got dinged up Thursday. Also in shorts: Jabar Gaffney, Alfonzo Dennard, Spencer Larsen, James Ihedigbo, Tracy White, Kyle Hix, Markus Zusevics, Sebastian Vollmer, and Myron Pryor. Absent: Jake Ballard, Visanthe Shiancoe, Jonathan Fanene, Gerard Warren, and Matt Kopa.

Guys seemed loose from the get-go. Brandon Spikes was doing pushups, on his own urging, during the first 10 minutes of practice. He's got a lot of energy, that one.

Wes Welker left the session early, at around 2:59. Couldn't tell you why; I didn't see any injury.

During 11-on-11, Julian Edelman had a nice catch over Ross Ventrone for a touchdown. The receiver then tried to dunk the ball over the goal post. I'll let you guess whether the 5-9 Edelman was successful or not.

Here's one to keep an eye on The tight ends worked on coming out of chutes -- metal cage looking things -- to practice staying low and bending their knees coming out of blocks. On one rep, Aaron Hernandez turned, planted his foot, and slipped. He sat on the side for a few moments, testing the range of his left ankle. But he didn't appear bothered for the rest of the day.

While special teamers practiced punt and the lines did 1-on-1s, Brandon Spikes stepped off to the side with linebackers coach Pepper Johnson. The pair worked on pass rushing, Spikes practiced his punch and rip.

Former Patriots Ty Law visited camp today. He reconnected with Brady for a few moments when the quarterback had time before 7-on-7. Highlight of seeing Law? He had five kids in tow -- five kids who got very thirsty under the sun. Law trotted off at one point and came back with a green Gatorade water bottle. He went down the line and squirted water into each kid's mouth for him. You can take the man out of football.

Toward the end of practice, 11-on-11 was run using the scout team offense. The team was running Eagles plays in advance of Monday's preseason matchup.

Odd: When the lines went 1-on-1, Logan Mankins was jogging some pass patterns. He even made a one-handed grab. Why? I don't know.

WHO'S HOT
Nate Ebner had a nice little day for himself. The DB had two picks, and nearly two more, on tipped balls. I do believe this is his fourth practice in a row with at least one interception.

Ryan Mallett had a decent day for Ryan Mallett. During the day's final run of 11-on-11, he hit Aaron Hernandez with a very well-placed pass, over the outstretched fingers of Derek Martin, in the end zone.

WHO'S NOT
Danny Woodhead. In the day's first round of 11-on-11, the running back missed two straight passes from Tom Brady. Brady was visibly frustrated and had some words for Woodhead.

Brandon Bolden. He didn't look bad all day, but did fumble a ball which was recovered by the defense. You can bet he ran a lap for that one.

WHAT THEY SAID
"Last day of school -- I'm on the first thing smoking" (i.e. creating exhaust). -- Ty Law on what the end of camp feels like.

Wednesday's Pats-Bills practice report: Jimmy G., Brissett both 'limited'

Wednesday's Pats-Bills practice report: Jimmy G., Brissett both 'limited'

FOXBORO -- The highly-anticipated first Patriots injury report of the week was released on Wednesday afternoon, and it was fairly predictable. 

Both injured quarterbacks were active but limited in their practice participation, the report indicated. That comes as little surprise as both Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder) and Jacoby Brissett (thumb) were spotted throwing passes early in Wednesday's practice. Neither appeared to be experiencing any significant discomfort as they made their warm-up throws. 

Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower (knee) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (hamstring) were also limited. Gronkowski admitted that the team was taking it slow with him in his first game back on the field last week -- he played just 14 snaps in New England's win over Houston -- but he said on Wednesday that he hoped to go "freakin' crazy" on the field soon.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
QB Jacoby Brissett (right thumb)
OT Marcus Cannon (calf)
G Jonathan Cooper (foot)
LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder)
TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring)
LB Dont'a Hightower (knee)
CB Eric Rowe (ankle)

BUFFALO BILLS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
TE Charles Clay (knee)
OL Cyrus Kouandjio (ankle)
OL Patrick Lewis (knee)
WR Sammy Watkins (foot)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
DB Colt Anderson (foot)
DB Ronald Darby (hamstring)
QB Cardale Jones (right shoulder)
DB Jonathan Meeks (foot)
WR Greg Salas (groin)
DB Aaron Williams (ankle)
OL Cordy Glenn (ankle)

Garoppolo: Not pressured by Patriots to return last Thursday

Garoppolo: Not pressured by Patriots to return last Thursday

FOXBORO -- Jimmy Garoppolo spoke Wednesday for the first time since getting his shoulder separated by the Dolphins’ Kiko Alonso. Standing by his locker, Garoppolo was predictably vague about the status of his arm, unless you consider, “Getting better day by day,” as being insightful. 

The only two responses offered that were worth a damn came when asked if he could have done anything different when he got squished by Alonso while retreating and buying time.  

“Just have to be smart I guess,” said Garoppolo. “I mean, it’s football and stuff’s gonna happen like that, but have to be smart in those situations.”

Asked if he regretted holding the ball as long as he did on a third-down play with the Patriots up 21-0, Garoppolo replied, “After it’s all said and done it’s easy to say that, but it’s one of those things, you’re in the heat of the game. But bottom line I have to be smarter than that.”

Agreed.  

Meanwhile, as he worked last week to get back for Thursday night’s game against Houston, The Boston Herald reported that the Patriots were “putting pressure” on Garoppolo to be ready for the game. Working hard to get key players ready for upcoming games is standard operating procedure for a medical staff. Trying to force a player to perform is not. 

I asked Garoppolo if he felt unduly pressured. He replied, “No.”