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Patriots Rookie Mini-Camp, Practice One Impressions

Albert Breer: Rookie camp Practice 1 impressions:

1) Belichick responds: Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked about concerns over Aaron Hernandez's positive drug tests at Florida. His answer came in generalities: "Well, everybody that’s here, we feel can help our football team. That’s why they’re on the field."

2) Spikes' impact: The rookie most certainly has a swagger to him, and it's easy to see how he became the defense's Tim Tebow, so to speak, at Florida. He lined up at the "Mike" position (SILB) during practice, which is how most people envisioning him ... Playing the old Ted Johnson role, and eating up blocks, to clear the way Jerod Mayo to get to the ball. Also worth noting that Dane Fletcher, a college end, repped some at the "Jack" (WILB) spot.

Mike Reiss: Observations from rookie minicamp:

Jermaine Cunningham at right outside linebacker. Second-round draft choice Jermaine Cunningham, who played defensive end in Florida's 4-3 defense, spent the workout at right outside linebacker. This will be an important transition to monitor, as Cunningham could help the team in a top area of need, the pass rush. After the practice, Cunningham said he dropped into coverage about 50 percent of the time while at Florida, which seems like an unusually high number. While no definitive judgment can be made at this point, Cunningham looked comfortable playing in a two-point stance. He said this was the first practice he's spent that much time in a two-point stance.

No doubt about who's running the offense. While the Patriots don't have an official offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach Bill O'Brien was clearly in charge of the session. For the second year in a row, it seems as if O'Brien is the offensive coordinator without the title.

More Links and Quotes after the jump...

Ian Rapoport: What happened at the Patriots first mini-camp?

Punter Zoltan Mesko just bombed a 55-yard, floating punt, which was a good sign. But he also had a few real short ones, showing some inconsistency.

WR Taylor Price looks fast, as we thought he would. Definitely among the quicker guys here, and he runs good routes.

TE Aaron Hernandez mis-timed a jump and hung in the air for forever to make the catch anyway. Pretty impressive. Cunningham is standing up as an OLB, and Spikes called the plays for the young group. TE Rob Gronkowski is monstrous. But he really does receive the balls pretty softly. Both TEs were being coached by Brian Ferentz.

Mark Farinella: Rookie camp: What you'd expect:

Players wore helmets, numbered shirts and shorts, no pads, and went through the motions to start picking up the basics of the playbook. Coaches watched techniques closely; veteran offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia spent a little extra time getting Illinois wrestler/offensive lineman John Wise in the proper position to hit the blocking sled, and Australian punter David King needed some instruction in the finer points of his steps prior to the kick.

Otherwise, it was just the beginning of a long process.

Tom E. Curran: Slow-footed Spikes quick to make point.

If Brandon Spikes is as mud-footed as his 40 time says he is (5.0 -- not great for an NFL linebacker), how did he manage to take four interceptions back for touchdowns at Florida? Seems to me like an indication of a guy who can move when he has to.

"Me and you both," said Spikes when I asked him about that Friday after his first minicamp practice with the New England Patriots.

"I've been watching this game for a while, I have yet to see a player run in a straight line 40 yards in a game," Spikes offered. "So I've got a little saying: It is what it is, but it ain't what you think."

"I feel everything happens for a reason," he said. "I'm blessed to be here and fortunate the opportunity is right here and I just have to seize the moment. It's a great place, great organization, great teammates and a winning tradition, which is what I'm about."

Shalise Manza Young: Spikes speaks to eye gouge.

Last November, new Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes got himself in a bit of trouble when he reached into the facemask of a Georgia running back during Florida's matchup with their rival, trying to gouge the eyes of Washaun Ealey.

"I feel like, if you do something wrong you should know the consequences," Spikes said at the close of the first mini-camp session this morning.

Ian Rapoport: Bill Belichick discusses the first mini-camp practice:

"Everybody did a couple of things good," Belichick said. "After this is over, we’ll spend a little time next week going back over the last couple of days and see what the performance was. I’d rather do that than just do it off one or two plays. We’ll see what rate guys improve. By the end of camp, we’ll know more."

"I think it’s significantly from what their college teams run," Belichick said. "Different offense, different defense, the players’ skills are different, not just better. Different schemes mean different adjustments. It’s football, but there certainly are a lot of variations and modifications. Most players now were very experienced players on their college teams, some seniors, some fourth-year juniors, and now, some of the best players have the least experience.

"They’re freshman all over again," Belichick continued. "The elevator goes down. It starts right up at the bottom."

Andy Hart: Morning rookie camp notes.

The first reaction to the top three offensive skill draft picks is positive. Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Taylor Price all showed soft hands and pretty soft route running. Those intrigued by the picks and their potential on offense should feel no different following their opening workout in New England.

I can’t say enough good things about Gronkowski. Everything we saw on tape – soft hands, smooth routes and casual playmaking style – were evident on the practice field. I’ll say it again, Tom Brady is going to love this guy. And I’m going to fuel the pressure of expectation and say he’ll be a Pro Bowler in the not-too-distant future.