FOXBORO, Mass. — Patriots quarterback Tom Brady caught a breather Friday afternoon, as backup Brian Hoyer had an excellent practice taking the majority of the snaps in team drills.
Also, cornerback Jonathan Wilhite, defensive lineman Myron Pryor and offensive lineman Mark LeVoir all returned after missing Thursday afternoon's shorts-and-shells session.
The Patriots were still missing a dozen players, including running back Thomas Clayton, cornerback Terrence Johnson, defensive lineman Ron Brace, defensive lineman Mike Wright, wide receiver Matthew Slater, safety Bret Lockett, linebacker Gary Guyton, left guard Logan Mankins, outside linebacker Derrick Burgess, cornerback Leigh Bodden, offensive lineman Nick Kaczur and defensive lineman Ty Warren.
Here are some other observations from the Patriots' 17th practice of training camp.
Hoyer got on a roll early in practice during one-on-one drills between wide receivers and defensive backs. The wideouts were running very crisp routes in the end zone, and Hoyer had an easy time hitting them in stride. It was a decidedly one-sided drill.
Back It Up
While concentrating on situational football, the Patriots worked on punting from their own end zone, and Zoltan Mesko was booming the ball from the back of the end zone to midfield on a regular basis. Later in the practice, though, when the Patriots worked on directional punting from the end zone, Mesko badly pulled a few punts out of bounds.
Rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez is a vacuum, just swallowing everything in sight. He's made a whole bunch of acrobatic catches throughout training camp — leaping, diving, etc. — and that trend continued Friday. Hernandez has done a good amount of that work over the middle of the field, too. On the other side of that coin, though, Hernandez can make those catches in camp because he knows he's not going to get lit up by his own teammates. The big test will be doing it in live action against linebackers and safeties who want to blast him back to Florida.
Clayton has missed 12 of the Patriots' 14 padded practices, and he might be fighting through a right knee injury. It's not serious because he's worked out on the sideline during the majority of those practices. Anyway, late in Friday's session, Clayton was stretching, and it looked like he was pulling a sleeve off his knee.