It's not viewed as a punishment. Rather, the half dozen one-year vets have appreciated the chance to enhance their knowledge of New England's system.
Defensive ends Markell Carter, Alex Silvestro and Aaron Lavarias, running back Eric Kettani, quarterback Mike Hartline and kicker Chris Koepplin have joined seven draft picks and seven undrafted free agents at the two-day camp.
"It's good," Lavarias said. "It's kind of a nice refresher course. Having been here a little bit last year, you feel like you're a little bit ahead of the curve. You know a little bit more of the terminology of things, but at the same time, I still have a lot of work to do. I've got to study as hard as anybody else just to find a place on this team."
Carter spent his rookie season on the practice squad. Silvestro was up and down between the practice squad and the active roster, and he was famously promoted to the game-day roster the night before Super Bowl XLVI. Lavarias had two stints on the practice squad last season, but he also spent three months out of the NFL.
Kettani was on the practice squad until October, when he was recalled by the Navy, but he was allowed to return to the Patriots last month. Koepplin spent the 2011 training camp with the Patriots, and Hartline was in last year's training camp with the Colts.
So, they all lack experience to various degrees, and they enjoyed the chance to earn some extra work with the coaches at Gillette Stadium, particularly since they didn't have the luxury to run through a rookie camp due to last year's lockout.
"It's been cool getting to know all the rookies, seeing all the things I missed out on last year via the lockout," Carter said. "Just taking this opportunity to learn. I'm getting a lot of individual work, a lot of one-on-one work that I wasn't able to get last year because I wasn't here. It's been cool just having that time just to grow in the defense."
Of course, the six veterans are anything but roster locks, although the expectations are different for each of them. Carter has a good chance to make the team and contribute, but Koepplin isn't going to steal Stephen Gostkowski's job. Regardless of which side of the spectrum each player resides, they viewed this weekend as an opportunity to further develop their NFL careers.
"I was happy [to attend rookie camp] because I have a lot to learn playing in this league," Lavarias said. "To help me become a better player, I think it's a good opportunity."