Best and worst from Patriots practice

Best and worst from Patriots practice
August 4, 2011, 12:41 am
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By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - Wednesday night's practice inside Gillette Stadium was reserved for Patriots' season ticket holders. Boxed out? Fear not. Some Best, Worsts and OthersBEST SALUTE TO THE MASSESAt about the midpoint of the session, Patriots' president Jonathan Kraft addressed fans, thanking them for their loyalty and patience during the lockout. He told fans that, even though head coach Bill Belichick might not like early appraisals, Kraft believed the team had a "great" draft and had made "great" pickups in free agency. He predicted a "special" season. Special in a good way. BEST "MOE & CURLY" IMITATION (OR LOVE HURTS)The defensive linemen did a drill in which one player put his hands toward the other and tried to get them on his jersey. The player whose space was being violated needed to slap the hands away before they got contact. Kyle Love and Mike Wright were matched up for the drill and somehow when Love went to put his hands on Wright, Wright slapped them aside and went upside Love's head. And they laughed. My, how they laughed. BEST IMITATION OF CHAD JOHNSONHave I watched every rep of every practice? Noooo. Have I seen enough occasions where Chad Ochocinco had balls ricochet off his hands or shoulder pads to conclude that he hasn't been at peak performance level? Yesssss. But Wednesday night, Ocho had a very good practice, especially in red zone drills working with Tom Brady and in 1-on-1s with a defensive back. The way Ocho gets out of breaks low and fast is very impressive. As opposed to Deion Branch, whose route-running is subtle and economic, Ocho covers a lot of ground fast and seems to work on explosion rather than disguise to get separation. It's also interesting to watch the interplay between Brady and Ocho. During the 1-on-1s, Ocho perfectly set up rookie defensive back Malcolm Williams with a little slant-and-go move off the left. When Ocho turned to look for the ball, Brady had thrown it to the outside. Ocho was looking inside. Ocho turned and looked back at Brady, aghast. Brady pressed his thumb against his chest to indicate it was his mistake, not Ocho's. BEST ABILITY TO CHEW UP SPACEDuring a red zone passing drill, the potency of Rob Gronkowski's size-speed combo was on display. Running 1-on-1s, the offense should always win in a drill like this. But to see Gronkowski start on the right, run directly at safety Sergio Brown, shake left then step through to the right and leave Brown standing there was alarming on two counts. First, it shows how much space the 6-7 Gronk can cover with each stride. Second, it was disturbing to see Gronk walk past an NFL safety like that. He also posted up Patrick Chung at the goal line on a route where Chung had otherwise outstanding coverage for the better part of three seconds. Gronk's a tough, tough cover. WORST DISGUISING OF GIDDINESSPatriots' offensive tackle Matt Light spoke to the media during the early part of practice. He said there's "never been a time in my life when I've been more ready to play football." Light added that, for the rookies, "It's going to be a little bit of a challenge. It's gonna be uphill for them for a while."As the days fall off the calendar and first-round pick Nate Solder's holdout continues, the hill's incline grows steeper. ODDS AND ENDS Yahoo! Sports.com writer Jason Cole was at the stadium Wednesday night. He's got a good relationship with Bill Belichick among national writers and says he'll be popping out a story on Albert Haynesworth's addition to the team. Darius Butler was not seen at practice Wednesday night. Players are supposed to give their final approval of the newly-hatched collective bargaining agreement on Thursday. But the CBA isn't done yet. At issue? Drug testing and the appeals process for personal conduct fines and suspensions. The league is pushing for HGH testing. It's not been agreed to yet. The players want there to be an arbitrator to rule on appeals of punishment handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (Goodell currently reviews all appeals). As a practical matter, until the CBA is completed and approved, no players working under newly-signed contracts (except rookies) can practice.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran.