After suffering an injury on Tuesday, veteran defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene was not present on the practice field Wednesday as the New England Patriots held their second day of mandatory minicamp on a rainy practice field outside Gillette Stadium.
Fanene, who signed with the Patriots this offseason as a free agent, limped off the practice field yesterday after suffering what appeared to be a left leg or knee injury. Even though he came back to the field after suffering his injury, he was not spotted during Wednesday's practice, which leads one to wonder the severity of his injury..
Another notable Patriot that was out of commission today was third-year DE/OLB Jermaine Cunningham. Cunningham, who was praised by his head coach, was sidelined on Tuesday as well. While it's unknown as to what sort of injury he's sustained, he did emerge from indoor facilities towards the end of Wednesday's practice with rehabbing players Brandon Spikes and Myron Pryor.
Among the rest of the players who were not spotted during Wednesday's minicamp was offensive lineman Brian Waters (excused for personal reasons), tight end Daniel Fells (injury related) and newly acquired tight end Jake Ballard (en route to New England).
The same looking group of Rob Gronkowski, Sebastian Vollmer, Logan Mankins, Tracy White, Matthew Slater and Markus Zusevics were rehabbing on the sidelines. Undrafted rookie free agent Brandon Bolden was also on the sideline watching the end of practice. No word on his condition.
Some special guests graced the presence of the rather messy practice field, as NFLPA chief De Maurice Smith took in some of Patriots practice alongside team owner Robert Kraft. Interesting to note that these two were instrumental in striking a new collective bargaining agreement during last year's lockout. Former St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau were also on hand to see their close friend Bill Belichick.
As for players on the practice field today, they participated in a wide variety of drills. According to a few reporters on the scene, there was an extensive amount of time that was spent with just offensive drills, specifically goal line and redzone drills. Special teams was also of emphasis, especially on kickoff plays. There was a seven-on-seven scrimmage at the end, but no 11-on-11's today.
Here are just a few observations from ESPN Boston's Field Yates:
-- After drafting Dont'a Hightower in the first round, some suggested he'd find his way on the field in sub situations as an edge rusher. Hightower did some of that in college, but also held coverage responsibilities as one of the leaders of the Alabama defense. He flashed the ability to drop into coverage and break on the ball today, and we'll continue to monitor his work in space. If he can play on all three downs as a linebacker, that would give the Patriots added versatility on their defense.
-- Strong showing from Wes Welker today. He made a number of nice catches, and looked solid on the whole.
-- The weather played a factor, there's no doubt about that. Passes were dropped, and the slick fields were less than ideal for precise footwork. Perhaps, however, that's exactly why Bill Belichick wanted to be out on the field, rain or shine. Emulating conditions like these -- which the Patriots will likely face throughout the season -- can prove beneficial for a team, even if it also results in potential dropped passes or slips on the grass.
-- Although today was not a day dedicated to the return game, Patrick Chung once again aligned as a returner (on the kickoff return scout team). I asked special teams coach Scott O'Brien about that after practice, and he seemed to indicate that Chung could continue to be used there going forward. That's not to say he'll handle punts or kick during the regular season, but it at least seems he'll continue to work there through training camp.