NASHVILLE — It was a piping hot morning on the outskirts of Nashville when the Patriots and Titans took the field for the first of two joint practices this week. When the sun ducked behind the clouds it was actually pretty mild but when it came out, it was oppressive. A number of Patriots players were clearly feeling the heat early in the fully-padded practice. In particular, center David Andrews who battled some dry heaves toward the end of the first hour of work.
Jamie Collins was absent from practice which was a surprise. Bill Belichick spoke to the media prior to practice so there was no chance to ask him about that. Also a bit of a surprise was seeing rookie wideout N’Keal Harry on the field and suited up. But he was only out for a moment at the start of practice before peeling off.
Isaiah Wynn continued to work his way into being a more regular participant, splitting reps with Dan Skipper at left tackle. The 6-foot-9 Skipper was dealing with the after-effects of the heat following practice sitting in the medical tent with ice on his neck.
Rookie running back Damien Harris, who missed the preseason opener against Detroit, was a full participant.
There are three practice fields here at the Saint Thomas Sports Park facility and the teams split their work with the entire New England offense toiling on the far right field against the Tennessee defense and the Patriots defense going with the Tians offense on the far left. Wide receiver Phillip Dorsett left practice midway through after hauling in a pass down the seam from Tom Brady.
Dorsett wasn’t limping as he left the field with trainer Jim Whalen, but he was walking slowly after crashing to the ground with the reception. Later, the Patriots saw Maurice Harris leave the field with an unknown malady. For a Patriots wideout crew that’s already without Harry, the loss of Dorsett and Harris — even for a brief time — puts extra pressure on the group.
VRABEL STILL THE SAME
During an early-practice passing period with three receivers going against four defensive backs, Patriots tight end Ben Watson came up howling about being grabbed by Titans DB Dane Cruikshank. Vrabel agreed that Watson had his shirt grabbed and spoke to his player but ordered Watson to “get his old ass back in the huddle.”
Vrabel oversaw the Titans defense for much of the practice while Bill Belichick kept watch on the Patriots defense. There was no intermingling between the two which was interesting to note.
In a touching tribute, Belichick sent the Patriots rookies to sing “Happy Birthday” to Vrabel, who turned 44 on Wednesday.
• Rookie quarterback Jarrett Stidham had a couple of mishandles at quarterback on shotgun snaps and took a lap as a result. One appeared to be on him, the other was just a bizarro snap from James Ferentz.
• Prior to practice, Tom Brady limbered up with injured wideout Demaryius Thomas for a few minutes. Thomas was in shorts and a t-shirt. It was interesting to see Julian Edelman standing behind Brady holding his right hand on Brady’s right hip and left hand on Brady’s left shoulder to remind the quarterback to keep from opening up too soon on his throws.
• Titans running back Derrick Henry didn’t practice, but worked out with a trainer on the middle field and he is an enormous human. Imagine if Jabaal Sheard played running back? Same general size.
• The Titans’ exuberance was much higher than the Patriots, especially in the early portion of practice. It wasn’t that the Patriots weren’t into it, it was just that Tennessee was REALLY into it. There was nothing remotely close to scrapping in the first hour, however.
• Brady didn’t have a lot of time to throw in the semi-competitive 11 on 11 drills I watched and most of his completions were coming with rushers buzzing around him but unable to make contact. Still, his completion percentage in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 was high as he continues to appear locked in during this camp.
• One big play for the Patriots was a deep downfield throw from Brian Hoyer to James White, who leaked out on a wheel route.
• In general, the Patriots defense had a very strong day against the Titans offense, forcing a number of throwaways by Marcus Mariota. Second-year corner J.C. Jackson in particular was solid. Jason McCourty got beaten over the top on a pair of plays, once by rookie A.J. Brown and later by Taywan Taylor.
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