Postcards from Patriots Camp: Day 18

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Postcards from Patriots Camp: Day 18

FOXBORO -- Logan Mankins is back.

Amazing to consider what kind of guy can miss so much time and jump back in with the first team offensive line. Mankins did that on Sunday.

Not that the pace was impressive...

The first practice after New England's 7-6 win over New Orleans on Thursday night was breezy. Not unusual after the first preseason tilt. To paraphrase Bill Belichick, the team will go hard for the next eight days -- a brutal stretch between now and the next game (Philadelphia on August 20) -- because it won't have much time to get things right after that.

The calm before the storm, as they say.
WEATHER A gorgeous night: By 5 PM the temp just began to dip under 80 degrees and fall with the sun. Throw in a sweet little breeze and it was a perfect evening.
WHAT THEY WORE
Shorts and shells.

WHAT THEY DID
5:00-5:30: Typical walkthrough things. Brian Hoyer got significant time under center.

5:30-5:40: Running the width of the field. Same ol', same ol'. The biggest difference was probably seeing Gronkowski on an elliptical machine with all the other rehabbing players. More on that in a minute.

5:40-5:44: Positional warm-up drills and dynamic stretching.

5:44-5:48: The key special teams unit worked on kickoff blocking assignments. Elsewhere on the field, guys split off and did positional drills. Kind of funny -- while the offensive line was going through the motions with tackling dummies, Justin Francis stuck Tim Bulman with one of the big blue pads and pancaked his teammate. Oops. Bulman had a chance to retaliate when they swapped positions, but didn't.

Over in the secondary, cornerbacks practiced their backpedal and getting their hands on a pass. Will Allen missed badly on one chance and dropped down to do some push-ups. Not sure if that was a self-imposed punishment or not.

6:02: 7-on-7. Nothing major to report here as Brady looked decent, getting receptions from Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead, Brandon Lloyd, and Julian Edelman. Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett also got reps.

6:08: Kickoff return

6:something (sorry): 11-on-11

6:26: Kickoff return

6:32: 11-on-11

6:50: Huddle up.

WHAT WE SAWBrandon Spikes re-returned to action. He wore a soft knee brace but mixed in to most all the drills.

DNP: Rob Gronkowski (in head-to-toe sweats and a backwards hat), James Ihedigbo, Britt Davis (injured his shoulder against the Saints), Spencer Larsen, Tracy White, Dane Fletcher (ACL injury; out for season), Matt Kopa, Visanthe Shiancoe, Daniel Fells, Jake Ballard, Myron Pryor, Gerard Warren, Jonathan Fanene, Eric Kettani, Markus Zusevics, Kyle Hix, Sebastian Vollmer, Alfonzo Dennard, Ron Brace, and Malcolm Williams.

Worried about Gronkowski? Don't -- not yet, anyway. The tight end likely got an extra day off before Belichick takes New England to the wall. No need to push too hard too early.

No word on why Ihedigbo didn't participate. He did wear a red no-contact jersey for the first two weeks of camp.

WHO'S HOT
Dont'a Hightower. Though he didn't do anything remarkable during Thursday's game, the rookie linebacker had two picks -- one against Brady, the other against Mallett) during 11-on-11.

I'm putting Jerod Mayo in this category, but not because of his play. Sure, he was solid as usual. The thing that got my attention, though, was how vocal he was. You could hear Mayo guiding the defense on every snap he played.

WHO'S NOT
The offense. Really. To Hightower's interceptions, add two more for the defense. Devin McCourty snatched a Mallett ball intended for Matt Slater. Marquice Cole got his hands on a Hoyer pass that targeted Jeremy Ebert.

I lost track of how many passes went off fingertips (Julian Edelman, Donte' Stallworth), through hands (Brandon Bolden, Wes Welker), got thrown away, or missed the mark completely. Not pretty.

Sergio Brown. During positional drills he wasn't even in the neighborhood on one ball that was thrown his way. Just one example of how his coverage is generally awful.

Kyle Hill. The new tackle ran the only lap of the day after he got a penalty during 11-on-11. (Remember, the postcard judges on one day's effort. Harsh, but true.)

WHAT THEY SAID
"Put a brace on, tape an aspirin to it and go.'' -- Logan Mankins on how he played through the pain of a torn ACL.

Belichick: Patriots have caught up after starting offseason 'five weeks behind'

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Belichick: Patriots have caught up after starting offseason 'five weeks behind'

FOXBORO -- After starting the offseason "five weeks behind," as Bill Belichick put it, the Patriots have caught up. 

"I think we’re probably caught up to where we are now," he said before Thursday's OTA practice at Gillette Stadium. "I think it’s being behind in draft, free agency and that type of thing.

"I think at this point, we’re ready for OTAs. We’ll be ready for training camp. I think that part of it we’ll be on schedule on. It’s the catching up on all the spring projects, draft and free agency. It’s the initial part of it."

Belichick made headlines on the morning after winning his fifth Lombardi Trophy with the Patriots when he said, "As of today, and as great as today feels and as great as today is, in all honesty we're five weeks behind in the 2017 season to most teams in the league. Fortunately we have a great personnel staff

"Look, in a couple weeks we're going to be looking at the combine, obviously the draft, all-star games have already occurred, and in a month we're into free agency, not to mention all the internal Patriots players (whose) contracts are up and we're going to have to work with in some form or fashion like every team in the league does."

Leaning on evaluations of players that began in the build-up to previous drafts, Belichick and his staff opted to trade away some of this year's draft capital for veterans like Brandin Cooks, Kony Ealy and Dwayne Allen. They also gave up their fifth-rounder to sign restricted free agent Mike Gillislee.

Before heading out to the team's third practice of the week -- the first week the Patriots were allowed to introduce helmets and run offense versus defense periods -- Belichick said that part of his focus will be spent on finding out how those players he picked up this offseason are progressing.

"Yeah, that’s definitely part of it," he said. "Seeing the new players, how they’re doing and also how they’re doing relevant to the rest of the other players that I’m a little more familiar with. Again, each year is a new year, so even though we’ve seen some of these guys multiple years, it’s still starting all over again, seeing where they are, how they’re progressing in their training and preparation for the season."