By Mary Paoletti and Danny Picard
Saturday marked the first Patriots training camp session in full pads, so you know there's a lot to talk about. Let's dive right in.
Today's attendance looked a lot like Friday's. The only discrepancies to note are Myron Pryor and Alfonzo Dennard wearing shorts instead of pads for today's first full contact session. You'll remember (I hope), Dennard appeared to tweak a hammy on Thursday. Not that Nick Caserio would enlighten reporters on his status: "We'll take it day by day." Right-o. Dennard was
Rob Gronkowski met with a trainer after completing a play during 11-on-11. The trainer put gloves on and gave attention to Gronkowski's face for a few minutes before another trainer was called over. Eventually, the tight end ran off the field holding a swath of cotton to his chin. When he came back out 20 minutes later he had a bandage on the exact spot. Gronkowski hopped right back into the action.
Brandon Spikes, who's been rehabbing since February knee surgery, participated in position drills under the watchful eye of Pepper Johnson. The linebackers coach even trailed behind Spikes when the team ran. It looked like a progression for No. 55 because he did get in on half-line drills. Still not ready for team drills yet, though.
Justin Francis suffered a leg injury during practice and had to be carted off the field. The undrafted D-lineman just passed his physical and was removed from the activenon-football injury list one week ago.
Linebacker Tracy White walked off the field around 3:19 PM and didn't return. No news of his injury yet.
Signs of the first full-pads practice: Dont'a Hightower getting both wrists taped, Patrick Chung running a lap for tackling Stevan Ridley to the ground, and more competitiveness in general. During 11-on-11, Vince Wilfork and Stevan Ridley got the football tied up between them -- neither surrendered even after the whistle was blown.
Laps, laps, laps. Jermaine Cunningham took a lap, Ron Brace ran one, Marcus Forston took a trip around the goalpost. Expect to see more of that as practices get more involved.
The top O-line unit had Nate Solder at LT, Robert Gallery at LG, Dan Koppen taking most of the snaps at center, Dan Connolly at RG, and Marcus Cannon at RT.
The second offensive-line unit had Kyle Hix at LT, Donald Thomas at LG, Ryan Wendell at C, Jamey Richard at RG, and Matt Kopa at RT.
Jerod Mayo and Devin McCourty each made huge plays during 7-on-7 that set the tone of the drills. On the first play, Mayo batted a ball out of Aaron Hernandez' hands after Hernandez seemingly made the catch on a quick out. When the TE turned up field and went to tuck the ball away, Mayo stripped it away from him.
On the very next play, Brady attempted to go deep down the right sideline to Brandon Lloyd, but McCourty stayed right with him, turned at the last second, and got his hands on the ball to break up what would have been a touchdown.
As for Brady's receptions, Wes Welker made one of the more notable catches of the day, laying out for and catching a ball down the left sideline.
Welker also unleashed an audible groan after missing a pass from Brady during the same receiver drills.
Ras-I Dowling laid a thunderous hit on an unsuspecting Ridley that sent the running back to the ground. It was a good hit; the takedown was accidental.
Aaron Hernandez used a gorgeous cutback against Tavon Wilson, leaving skid marks on the stunned rookie.
Chandler Jones looked good when the offensive and defensive linemen went 1-on-1. But you can tell he's still adjusting -- the DE looked especially gassed toward the end of practice. You know the look: hands on the hips at every chance.