Offensive lineman Nick Kaczur was absent from Friday's afternoon practice after suffering an unknown injury during the first session of the day. Wide receiver Matthew Slater, outside linebacker Derrick Burgess (considering retirement) and left guard Logan Mankins (holdout) were absent for both of Friday's practices.
Defensive lineman Ty Warren missed the afternoon session, but he was working out on the sideline with injured teammates Wes Welker (physically unable to perform list), Darnell Jenkins (non-football injury list), Thomas Clayton (missed both practices), Ron Brace (non-football injury list), Kyle Love (suffered an injury during the morning practice) and Bret Lockett (missed both practices).
All of New England's recent injuries appear to be minor, but it's a sure sign of training camp when players start pulling up with random issues. Even though they spend months gearing up for this point, it's still a shock to the system when they get pushed this hard right at the start of camp. The population inside the trainers' room will only increase as the summer progresses.
Here are some other observations from Friday's two practices.
Straight Cash Homey
How much can $100 get you these days? One Patriots fan might just find out. After the morning practice, wide receiver Randy Moss obliged a fan's request to autograph a C-note. That’s about to turn into an expensive wall decoration.
Stuck in the Middle
The defensive play of the day came during the morning session when the Patriots were practicing goal-line situations. Running back Laurence Maroney took the handoff and was promptly buried by a rocket-fueled Tyrone McKenzie, whose hit charged up the crowd of nearly 7,000.
With Kaczur absent from practice, Dan Connolly took the majority of the snaps at left guard, which has been vacated by Mankins. Ryan Wendell also jumped in at the position.
Head coach Bill Belichick started the second practice by instructing the defense for about 15 minutes. He was working primarily with the defensive linemen and teaching them technique while they got out of their stance.
The Patriots spent a large chunk of time working with the punting units during both practices. Punter Zoltan Mesko boomed the ball through much of the drills, and Julian Edelman and Brandon Tate were the primary returners, although the drills seemed to be more geared toward punt coverage.
Leigh Bodden and Darius Butler are clearly the defense's top-two cornerbacks, and it looks like rookie Devin McCourty has jumped past Jonathan Wilhite as the team's third-stringer. McCourty's size is a real asset, and if his physicality can match his mass, he might be a very useful defender when Brandon Marshall and the Dolphins appear on the schedule.
Inside linebacker Brandon Spikes has been really impressive in 11-on-11's and positional drills. He's physical and instinctive, and even though he has spent most of his reps with the second defensive unit, it's hard not to imagine him seeing more and more time with the starters as a sub. He's definitely earned it.
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