FOXBORO, Mass. — After opening training camp with four lighter practices, the New England Patriots suited up in full pads for the first time Monday morning.

Here’s everything we observed:

Full pads. “Real football,” as many players called it, though live, to-the-ground tackling still was not allowed.

Six players were missing from practice:

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WR/RB Ty Montgomery
G Mike Onwenu (physically unable to perform list)
OT Calvin Anderson (non-football injury list)
ST Cody Davis (PUP list)
OL Jake Andrews
LB Terez Hall

Outside linebacker Matthew Judon, offensive tackle Trent Brown and running back Rhamondre Stevenson all were heavily limited, retiring to a side conditioning field before the start of team drills.

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Judon’s and Stevenson’s limitations reportedly were precautionary and workload-related. It was unclear whether Brown, who was a full participant in all four non-padded practices, was dealing with some sort of injury.

Rookie linebacker/safety Marte Mapu continued to practice in the red non-contact jersey he’s worn since the spring.

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Rookie wide receiver Kayshon Boutte returned to practice after sitting out Sunday.

The introduction of full pads coincided with a sharp uptick in player injuries. The most notable casualty was starting left guard Cole Strange, who suffered an apparent left leg injury on his first 1-on-1 rep of the summer.

Strange sustained the injury while blocking defensive tackle Lawrence Guy. The second-year pro was evaluated by head trainer Jim Whalen and spent much of the morning receiving treatment in the medical shed. Strange later rejoined his teammates but did not take any additional reps, watching the rest of practice from the sideline with his helmet on.

Tight end Scotty Washington, guard Chasen Hines and wide receiver Jalen Hurd also spent time in the medical shed, and safety Brad Hawkins had to be helped off the field after an awkward collision during an 11-on-11 running play. Guard Bill Murray also appeared to tweak something on the final rep of the day but took part in post-practice hill runs.

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As these ailments stacked up, head coach Bill Belichick called the entire team in for an on-field meeting before the start of a red-zone period. Players said after practice that Belichick reminded them of the importance of playing smart and avoiding unnecessary injuries.

All told, more than a dozen players either did not practice Monday or were in some way limited.

Mac Jones: 8-for-10 in 11-on-11 drills

Bailey Zappe: 4-for-8

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Trace McSorley: 1-for-5

— With Stevenson held out of team drills and Montgomery missing his third straight practice, the Patriots had just three available running backs Monday: second-year pros Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris and longtime practice squadder J.J. Taylor.

Harris stepped in as the top replacement for Stevenson, taking seven handoffs from Jones and seeing three targets from New England’s starting quarterback (two catches, one drop). Strong caught one pass from Jones but mostly worked with backups Zappe and McSorley. The South Dakota State product and Taylor rotated with the reserve units, logging six and four carries in 11-on-11 drills, respectively.

There’s a long history of Patriots running backs breaking out in Year 2 after de facto rookie redshirts, so we could see Strong and/or Harris take on larger roles after neither saw much offensive playing time in 2022. Strong carried 10 times for 100 yards and one touchdown last season and added seven catches for 42 yards. Harris had 18 carries for 52 yards and one score and was not targeted in the passing game.

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But even if they do progress, this group looks too shallow as currently constructed. Signing Ezekiel Elliott, who visited the Patriots over the weekend and remains available, would be a logical move if he and New England can agree on contract terms.

— It was a solid day overall for Harris, who saw action in just five games as a rookie and spent part of last season on the practice squad. But he did appear to fumble on one goal-line carry — Jones scooped the ball up and tried to run it in himself — sparking memories of the ball-security problems that hindered him last preseason.

That cannot become a trend if Harris hopes to make a legitimate run at a roster spot.

— The Patriots were down three starting offensive linemen (Brown, Strange and Onwenu) for most of practice, necessitating some new O-line combinations.

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Riley Reiff got first ups at left tackle with Brown limited, and powerful fifth-round rookie Atonio Mafi was the next man up at left guard once Strange went down. Reiff also saw reps at right guard — Onwenu’s usual spot — late in practice. Murray has been the top choice there since the start of spring practice as Onwenu recovers from offseason ankle surgery.

— Jones was 4-for-4 when targeting JuJu Smith-Schuster in competitive drills, accounting for half of his eight completions. The QB’s two misses were a Harris drop in the flat and a botched goal-line fade to tight end Hunter Henry on the starting unit’s final rep of practice.

Henry has been Jones’ most reliable target this summer, but he and the QB were not on the same page on that misfire.

— Kendrick Bourne is on the board. The short touchdown pass he caught from Zappe on Monday was the wide receiver’s first reception in competitive drills this summer.

— Zappe tried to hit Tyquan Thornton down the left sideline earlier in practice, but his pass was broken up by Isaiah Bolden. It was a nice play by the seventh-round rookie, who blanketed the speedy Thornton and showed good ball skills as the pass arrived.

— One of the surprise highlights of practice was wide receivers coach Ross Douglas taking a draw handoff from Jones during a 7-on-7 drill and juking his way through the Patriots’ defense.

Douglas, who played in college at Michigan and Rutgers, had some legitimately impressive shiftiness. Get that guy a helmet.

— The Douglas who’s actually on the Patriots’ roster also flashed during that same period. Sixth-round rookie receiver Demario Douglas laid a block on a screen pass to Tre Nixon that drew cheers from his teammates.

The diminutive Liberty product has been one of the early stars of camp, gobbling up targets in team drills and seeing daily reps with Jones and the offensive regulars.

“Oh yeah, we noticed him,” veteran safety Jabrill Peppers said. “He’s out there making plays. Same thing you guys are seeing, we saw it early on in OTAs.”

Douglas is a crisp route-runner out of the slot and a potential asset on punt/kick returns. He’s also not afraid to throw his 5-foot-8, 192-pound frame around.

“What surprises me the most is his physicality,” Peppers said. “He’s a smaller guy, but he’s tough as nails. I think that will bode well for him.”

Barring an injury or midsummer dropoff, Douglas appears well on his way to earning a 53-man roster spot.

— Multiple Patriots defenders said they enjoyed going up against linebacker Jahlani Tavai during a round of goal-line running plays. New England doesn’t have a fullback on its roster, so offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien will need to get creative if he wants to utilize a short-yardage lead blocker this season.

The Patriots never have been shy about playing defensive players on offense, with Marcus Jones last season and Elandon Roberts in 2019 standing out as two recent examples.

— Monday felt like a ramp-up day for the Patriots, with a relatively low energy level and errors on both sides of the ball. Smith-Schuster, Harris and Hurd all dropped passes (Smith-Schuster’s came during a non-competitive period), and defensive linemen Deatrich Wise and Sam Roberts had to run penalty laps after jumping offsides.

The Patriots are set to practice again Tuesday at 9:45 a.m. ET. No word on whether that will be a fully padded practice, but comments from Wise suggested players might be back in shells.

Featured image via Eric Canha/USA TODAY Sports Images