(cough, cough) Hello, Mr. Boss? Can't come in today (sniffle, cough) I'm sick. I'll try to make it in (cough, hack) tomorrow, okay? See ya.
That conversation took place in the stores, offices, garages and workshops of the thousands of fans that packed the field behind Gillette Stadium this morning to watch the Patriots and Saints practice. Our group took a vacation day for the privilege, and sweltering-melting heat aside, it was awesome to watch.
We arrived at 8:30 with players from both teams already on the field in full pads, milling around, playing catch, and just loosening up and chatting for the first 15 minutes or so before stretching and warm-ups.
9:00 AM - Saints have the far field, Patriots near the bleachers. Each field was broken in half by offense and defense for drills at jog-through speed. Belichick was clearly running the defense here, calling plays and letting the defense jog through the play.
9:15 AM - The team separated for position-specific drills, DL, DBs, STs, QBs with WRs, RBs, OL, and TEs. Interestingly, the O-Linemen kept their usual spot on the far field all the way to the right.
- We caught BB on the sidelines with buddy Jon Bon Jovi, Sean Payton, Robert Kraft and Belichick's sons. Got some great pics too. What tipped me off that he might be there was hearing Bon Jovi's "Have a Nice Day" booming from the speakers during warm-ups.
9:30 AM - The near field broke into two drills, with the Patriots running backs against the Saints D on the right side and the Patriots receivers against the Saints D on the left. Officials were present and throwing flags as necessary.
- As soon as players from both teams squared off against each other there was a noticeable step-up in intensity.
- The Patriots offense looks sharp. New receiver Rod Owens took down a Saints defender for a pass interference call. Brandon Tate and Randy Moss each dropped one with Wes Welker and Julian Edelman making catches. That was followed by Moss, Gronkowski, Price, Aiken and Edelman all making catches on the Saints D.
- One goosebumps moment came when Welker slid on the grass a bit with his bad knee, but recovered and still made the catch.
- Rod Owens made an outstanding full-body-stretch catch to the appreciation of the crowd.
- It has to be stated that Aaron Hernandez has really, really nice hands and is catching almost everything easily, without any bobbling. Smooth. He also has a fiery personality, and is hyper-competitive. He's going to be a great addition to this offense.
9:45 AM - Full team-on-team special team scrimmages for punt work with Mesko getting some good experience with real pressure.
Continued after the jump...
Belichick with Jon Bon Jovi and Sean Payton:
Belichick leading the defense:
10:00 AM - Full inter-squad scrimmages.
- Drew Brees and backup QB Patrick Ramsey vs. Pats Defense.
- Tom Brady and Brian Hoyer vs. Saints Defense.
- Laurence Maroney had a 2 yards and stopped play, Green-Ellis and Fred Taylor had a couple of nice runs.
- Randy Moss caught a long bomb for a TD.
- Mike Wright committed a penalty, was pulled out and had to run a lap.
- James Sanders leaped up to break up a Ramsey pass.
- Darius Butler missed a Drew Brees pass to Saints WR Courtney Roby.
Drew Brees under center
10:30 AM - Red Zone drills
- Brandon Meriweather broke up a Brees to TE Dave Thomas pass on third down.
- Randy Moss missed a catch in the end zone, but Aaron Hernandez caught the next one for a TD.
- Brady connected with Rob Gronkowski in the end zone.
- Stephen Gostkowski executed a fake field goal attempt for a shovel pass to Alge Crumpler for a 1st down.
Brady and the WRs against the Saints D