FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots officially closed the book Wednesday on training camp 2016, holding their final open practice of the summer on the fields behind Gillette Stadium.
There wasn’t much to glean from the session — a walkthrough with the visiting Chicago Bears — but here were a few highlights from the practice itself and the media availability that followed:
— Tight end Clay Harbor was a full participant one day after an awkward hit forced him to leave Tuesday’s practice. Harbor and second-year pro A.J. Derby are the top candidates to fill the third tight end spot behind Rob Gronkowski (who did not practice Tuesday or Wednesday) and Martellus Bennett.
— Safety Nate Ebner donned a helmet for the first time this summer after returning from the Rio Olympics earlier this week. Ebner, who attended practice Tuesday but did not participate, took part in special teams drills and also worked 1-on-1 with head strength and conditioning coach Moses Cabrera during the full-team portion of the walkthrough.
Ebner has yet to address the media since returning to Foxboro.
— Rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett saw his reps dwindle as camp wore on, with Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo taking the lion’s share of snaps in team drills over the last two weeks.
Brissett, who’s set to begin the regular season as Garoppolo’s backup while Brady serves his Deflategate suspension, described the challenges of learning while from the sideline.
“You’ve just got to make the most of the mental reps,” Brissett said. “And whenever you get a rep, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got to make it count. Just grind like you’re the starter. Just try to stay ahead and try learn as much as possible.”
He continued: “(I) just try to make the most out of each day. Learn from those guys on their end. Whenever I get off the (field), try to learn from the mistakes that I’m making.”
Brissett did play the entire second half of New England’s preseason opener, however, and is expected to see significant playing time in Thursday night’s exhibition matchup with the Bears.
— Brissett also gave an important update after Wednesday’s session: He no longer is hitching rides to practice with fellow Patriots draft pick and former N.C. State teammate Joe Thuney.
“I’ve got a car now,” Brissett said with a laugh. “… Now I don’t have to rely on him to give me a ride.”
— ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss on Tuesday caught up with Bears kicker Robbie Gould, who attended Patriots training camp as an undrafted rookie in 2005 before latching on with Chicago later that season.
“Every time we come to play the Patriots, whether it’s home or away, (Patriots coach Bill Belichick) always goes out of his way to come say hello,” Gould told Reiss. “That means a lot to me. Mr. (Robert) Kraft, on the sideline, he grabbed me when I was watching practice to say, ‘We’re really happy for you; it’s awesome to see you doing so well.’
“Those are things that kind of give me chills just thinking about, because here’s this puny little rookie, sitting behind Adam Vinatieri just trying to learn and figure out where the next stop was going to be, and these guys are taking time out of their busy day to remember it and come up and say hello.
“For me to reflect 12 years later, never would I have thought in a million years that I’d be playing for one organization for 12 years. At the same time, never would I have thought 12 years later I’d be on New England’s practice field having the interactions with these guys that I’ve had.”
Read Reiss’ full conversation with Gould here.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images