Postcards from camp, Day 4: A little sloppy in the rain
Postcards from camp, Day 4: A little sloppy in the rain
FOXBORO -- Each day from Patriots training camp, we'll bring you news and observations following practice. On Day 4 of on-the-field work, the second consecutive day in full pads, here's what we saw.
*The Patriots were without center Bryan Stork at Sunday's practice, one day after he left the field about midway through the team's workout. His physical status bears watching as he's been splitting first-team reps with second-year center David Andrews.
Guard Jonathan Cooper was also absent on Sunday one day after he had to be carted off the field with what's been reported by NFL Media as plantar fasciitis. In his place, rookie offensive lineman Ted Karras saw the first-team reps at right guard and handled himself well.
Receiver Keshawn Martin was a new absence on Sunday as well. That left more reps available for players like Aaron Dobson and rookie Malcolm Mitchell, who returned to practice on Sunday after missing Saturday's session.
Running back Dion Lewis and guard Tre' Jackson were also not spotted. Both players are on the physically unable to perform list. Other players on PUP -- Sebastian Vollmer, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and Clay Harbor -- were present for the start of practice but did not participate.
Alan Branch (non-football injury list) and Nate Washington were also present but did not participate. Washington has missed the last three days of practice after becoming ill at the end of Day 1.
* There were a handful of players who were limited during the session. Offensive linemen Josh Kline and Shaq Mason, both of whom dealt with offseason injuries, have not been full participants during periods with contact. They were spotted running hills behind the practice fields toward the end of the session.
Mason and running back DJ Foster, both of whom left for conditioning on a lower field soon after the start of Saturday's practice, appeared to be more active participants in Sunday's work.
* Chris Hogan sustained an apparent shoulder injury during the practice while working against defensive backs and did not participate in team periods thereafter.
* Joining Mitchell as returnees to practice on Sunday were running back Brandon Bolden and defensive lineman Vincent Valentine, who traveled to Nebraska for the funeral of friend and former teammate Sam Foltz.
* Corner Logan Ryan and safety Duron Harmon continue to sport red non-contact jerseys at practice.
* In what was at times a driving rain, Sunday's practice was the sloppiest of training camp thus far. They were the type of conditions in which coach Bill Belichick likes to practice, and there were plenty of opportunities to work on better ball-security. Several players recorded drops, there were two fumbled center-to-quarterback exchanges in team periods, and players lost their footing on multiple occasions
GAROPPOLO PICKED OFF TWICE
Jimmy Garoppolo threw his first two interceptions of camp, both of which bounced off the hands of intended receivers. One deflected off of tight end Martellus Bennett and landed in the arms of Devin McCourty during a 7-on-7 period. The next came in 11-on-11 work when a ball bounced off of receiver Chris Harper and was picked by Brock Vereen.
Garoppolo also mishandled a snap that earned him and center Kyler Kerbyson a lap. Markus Kuhn, who has seen a good deal of work alongside Malcom Brown on the defensive front, came up with the recovery.
Jacoby Brissett also lost a quarterback-center exchange in the 11-on-11 period, and he was sent for a lap along with Andrews. Rookie linebacker Elandon Roberts, who knifed through the line to thud Foster in the backfield on the previous play, came up with the recovery.
* Rob Gronkowski infused some energy into the practice during the 11-on-11 period as the offense moved into the red zone. After catching a touchdown pass with Patrick Chung in coverage, Gronkowski excitedly whipped the football into the nearby community relations tent. As soon as he saw where the ball ended up, he apologized quickly. Soon thereafter, Gronkowski caught another touchdown from Brady, this time with Collins in coverage. To celebrate, Gronkowski lofted the ball high into the air, and he went back over to the community relations tent to high-five everyone he saw.
When Garoppolo stepped in, he hit Bennett on a similar route for a score. Jordan Richards was in coverage and was close by when Bennett imitated Gronkowsk by tossing the football sky-high. Gronkowski ran over the Bennett, his helmet in his hand, and celebrated heartily.
The offensive celebrations continued when undrafted rookie free agent tight end Bryce Williams also caught a corner route for a touchdown. When that happened, a gang of offensive players crowded around Williams and celebrated loudly.
As skilled as Gronkowski is on the field, those few minutes of practice seemed to be an example of how he can impact the club emotionally as well. He set an energetic tone at the end of a rainy day of practice, when perhaps his teammates needed the spark.
* Rob Ninkovich continues to stand out in one-on-one drills, as he got by Marcus Cannon on two separate occasions. Ninkovich's hand quickness stood out. Andrews had a strong rep, stopping Kuhn in his tracks. Defensive end Jabaal Sheard got around Nate Solder twice, and defensive end Chris Long handled Cameron Fleming with a long-arm move. Guard Joe Thuney continued to hold his own in the one-on-one period. He gave up ground to Brown, but didn't let Brown past him. Thuney also blocked Rufus Johnson handily. Valentine, in his first day of padded practice, flashed a spin move in the one-on-one session that drew some attention.
* In the 11-on-11 period, Tom Brady was the first quarterback on the field. (Garoppolo was the first quarterback up in the 7-on-7 portion of practice.) Brady went 5-for-7, completing passes to Donald Brown, Rob Gronkowski (3) and Bennett. Garoppolo went 4-for-8. His completions went to Joey Iosefa, Bennett, Dobson and Bryce Williams. Brissett attempted one pass in 11-on-11 work while Garoppolo was finishing up his lap. It resulted in him throwing it away when he realized he had nothing.
* Brady and Garoppolo had a side session Sunday with Gronkowski, Bennett, Dobson and Mitchell. Mitchell, who performed well in one-on-ones against defensive backs, had a nice day after missing Saturday's practice.
* Rookie second-rounder Cyrus Jones, DeAndre Carter, V'Angelo Bentley and Chris Harper all had shots at returning punts in the rain. Special teams coach Joe Judge and assistant Ray Ventrone watched closely as players focused on securing possession and getting up the field. Jones looks quick with the ball in his hands, though he lost his footing on the wet turf during one return attempt Sunday.
* Carter turned in one of the most impressive plays of the day as he reeled in a well-placed deep ball from Brissett after getting a step on Cre'von LeBlanc in the one-on-one period between receivers and defensive backs.
During that one-on-one period Garoppolo made a spot-on throw to Dobson down the sideline that Dobson bobbled. He ended up catching the football -- but he was out of bounds when he did. Malcolm Butler was tight in coverage on the play.
Some other observations from that one-on-one period: Harper made a nice outside move to create separation from Ryan in order to make an easy grab; Harper later ran a comeback route that earned him some praise from Garoppolo; Gronkowski could be heard laughing as he caught a pass from Garoppolo, stiff-armed Richards, and high-stepped into the end zone; Vereen later broke up a pass intended for Gronkowski -- starting what ended up as a nice day for the third-year safety.
* When the one-on-ones moved to the red zone, Butler earned a pass breakup on Dobson, Chung broke up an attempt to Gronkowski, and Justin Coleman got his hands on a pass to Dobson to force an incompletion. Mitchell beat both Bentley and Darryl Roberts for scores. Fellow rookie receiver Devin Lucien dropped a pass in the back corner of the end zone, but he was lauded by the coaching staff for having patience as he made his release off the line of scrimmage.