FOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots are five days and 10 practices into their 2010 training camp, and things are starting to take shape. Monday night's session was inside Gillette Stadium, and it was held for season-ticket holders, who filled up at least three-quarters of the lower bowl.
Fourteen players missed the session, including wide receiver Wes Welker. Also missing were wide receiver Matthew Slater, cornerback Jonathan Wilhite, safety Bret Lockett, running back Thomas Clayton, cornerback Terrence Johnson, outside linebacker Derrick Burgess, linebacker Gary Guyton, left guard Logan Mankins, offensive lineman Nick Kaczur and defensive linemen Myron Pryor (first missed practice), Ty Warren, Ron Brace and Mike Wright.
Interestingly, a good chunk of the team's injured players have gone out to the first nine practices to work out on the sidelines, but none of them appeared for Monday night's session. Maybe, due to the later start time, Bill Belichick asked them to finish up their day's work and head home.
Here are some other observations from Monday's double-session.
A Little Light
The morning practice was about 15 minutes shorter than the first seven pads practices, and the Patriots only broke off into one series of 11-on-11s, which have the most contact. They've typically gone 11-on-11 at least twice in each pads practice, but Belichick said he wanted to take it easier on the players since the night session started three hours and 15 minutes later than usual.
Media were able to watch the night session from the sideline, and a couple of things really stood out. First, rookie outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham is a physical specimen. He's listed at 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds, which isn’t overly huge, but he just looks much more massive than some of the other linebackers.
Also, safety Patrick Chung looks much faster up close. He's got some really good closing speed, and it was put on display when he flew from the second level of the defense into the backfield on a quick pass to Sammy Morris in the flat.
Quarterback Tom Brady has an obvious chemistry with Randy Moss and Welker, but he's forming one with rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski and receivers Brandon Tate and Julian Edelman. Brady seems to look toward Gronkowski more than he did with his tight ends last season, and Gronkowski also caught a touchdown pass during a red-zone drill between the first-team offense and first-team defense.
Brady has also gone to Tate down the field a bit, and the second-year wideout (kind of) made a spectacular catch in the right corner of the end zone during 11-on-11s. One of the ball boys signaled that it was incomplete, but the offense celebrated as if Tate caught the pass. Brady also had some congratulatory-type words for Tate afterward.
McCourty in Focus
Rookie Devin McCourty got some good reps as one of the starting cornerbacks throughout Monday's practices. He also worked the left side during nickel formations that called for Darius Butler to line up in the slot. McCourty has done all right against everyone except Moss, who just abuses the Rutgers product.
Rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez caught a touchdown pass midway through the night session and quickly flung the ball about 10 rows deep into the crowd along the sideline. Moments later, however, security guards approached the fan to retrieve the ball, and they received a hearty round of boos from the crowd. About five minutes after, Patriots owner Robert Kraft walked across the field, picked up a football and sought out the fan to give him a new ball.
Defensive lineman Gerard Warren briefly met with the media after the stadium practice, and he addressed the new turf.
"Turf's pretty good, that new high-tech stuff," Warren said. "Lot of bounce. Pretty fast."