Notes: Ochocinco tries to roll with the drops

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Notes: Ochocinco tries to roll with the drops

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - Since arriving in "heaven" Chad Ochocinco has had a devil of a time doing what he came to New England for: Catch the football. Balls were ricocheting off of the newly acquired wideout's hands and shoulder pads at a good clip last weekend. This week, he was getting better. Until Thursday. Ocho dropped passes in both drills against air and with coverage. By my count, there were five of them. One came on a bomb during an 11-on-11 drill when he broke behind the secondary and then had a Tom Brady throw pass directly through his hands. Another two came on a 7-on-7 drill (one may have been tipped by Leigh Bodden). Two others came with the offense running through drills. I asked Ocho what was up with the drops. "That's life, always," he said earnestly. "It happens. Just one of those days. It's part of football. Dropping the ball. That's why we're out here practicing, catching. Continue to get better each day. We drop balls. That's why we practice to get better. That's life."Ocho said he would "ride the wave" in New England. Figure this for being an ebb.

Running back Shane Vereen isn't expected to miss too much time. He left practice Wednesday night with what appeared to be a tweaked hamstring. The Patriots worked out former Jet Shaun Ellis on Thursday. The defensive lineman joins the crowd along with Raheem Brock and Matt Roth as free agents the Patriots have hosted but haven't pullled the trigger on. Receivers coach Chad O'Shea spent a good chunk of time huddled up with receivers Ochocinco, Wes Welker and Deion Branch during a drill when the second and third-teams were taking their reps. As smart and polished as Brian Hoyer is, the athletic ability, frame and technique of Ryan Mallett may be hard for the incumbent Patriots backup to hold off for too long. Ochocinco had a sketchy day with the hands that was nearly matched by tight end Aaron Hernandez who had a spate of drops in the middle of practice. There were three of them by my count. Early on, two players who have been outstanding on either side of the ball? Patrick Chung and Rob Gronkowski. After a couple of Ocho drops, Brady overshot Gronkowski downfield during a 7-on-7 drill and the pass was nearly picked. Brady followed that with a double expletive that echoed off the pines. It will be fascinating to watch Albert Haynesworth and Logan Mankins lock horns throughout camp. Speaking on that, Mankins said, "He's a good player. Big, strong guy . . . it's gonna go back and forth. It's good to have him." Mankins added, "I remember my first few years here I got to practice against Richard Seymour all the time so it only made me better and if Albert practices hard, that will make me better too."Haynesworth didn't take part in practice-concluding sprints and looked pretty winded when the team went 11-on-11.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran.

Tom Brady will play Friday night vs. Panthers

Tom Brady will play Friday night vs. Panthers

CHARLOTTE - Tom Brady didn't merely fly to Carolina because he likes having his ears pop. 

The Patriots quarterback will indeed play Friday night against the Carolina Panthers. Given Bill Belichick's stated objective of making Jimmy Garoppolo's preparation for the season's first four games a priority, it was uncertain whether Brady would be on the field even though he traveled. But with Brady a late scratch last Thursday against the Bears after gouging his thumb just before kickoff, his chances for game reps before his exile were waning. 

Brady made it very clear this week that he doesn't just want the game reps for tuning up and getting knocked around but because he believes it's his job and responsibility to be out there leading the team, regardless of where he'll be the first four weeks of the year. With him feeling that strongly about playing being important for his preparation and for his standing within the team, it makes sense for Belichick to give him reps. 

It's not known whether Brady or Garoppolo will start or how many series either quarterback will play Friday night. 

Branch reinstated by Patriots after week-long suspension

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Branch reinstated by Patriots after week-long suspension

Alan Branch has been reinstated by the Patriots after the team suspended him prior to last week's preseason game with the Bears, according to Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran. 

When Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked about Branch's absence last week, he replied, "It's a club matter."

What got Branch suspended by the team is still unknown, but he is expected to be a contributing player on the interior of the Patriots defensive line in 2016. He started in 17 games last season, including both playoff games, often lining up alongside fellow defensive tackle Malcom Brown. 

Through training camp the Patriots have also used Terrance Knighton, Vincent Valentine, Anthony Johnson and Joe Vellano on the interior of their defensive front. Branch, however, has consistently been used with the team's first defensive grouping. It's unclear how a week away from the team might impact his spot on the depth chart. 

Field Yates of ESPN was the first to report the news that Branch had been reinstated.

Brady makes trip with Patriots to Carolina

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Brady makes trip with Patriots to Carolina

Tom Brady traveled with the Patriots to Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, ahead of the third preseason game Friday night against the Carolina Panthers.

Jeff Howe of The Boston Herald was first to report the news. 

There’s no word on if Brady will play. He missed the opener against the Saints and, after cutting his thumb with scissors, missed the second exhibition game last Thursday against the Bears, both at Gillette Stadium.

Brady, of course, will miss the first four games of the regular season serving his NFL-imposed Deflategate suspension.