Veteran offensive lineman Brian Waters was the only player not in attendance for the opening day of New England Patriots mandatory minicamp. Waters, who also didn't report to team OTAs last week, has been excused by Bill Belichick due to personal reasons. Retirement? I think it's too early to speculate, but we'll monitor it.
Among the players who were on the field practicing were tight end Aaron Hernandez and defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick, who were both absent from last Thursday's finale of Patriots OTAs.
A group of rehabbing players were spotted on the sidelines working with team doctors and trainers. Among the notables were Rob Gronkowski (ankle), Brandon Spikes (knee), Logan Mankins (ACL), Matthew Slater, Daniel Fells, Myron Pryor, Tracy White (sports hernia) and Markus Zusevics.
As for players sustaining new injuries, newly signed defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene appeared to sustain a left knee injury late in practice. The trainers went and worked on him for a while and allowed him to return to the sideline so he could watch the end of practice. Nothing to serious for someone who could be a big part of the team's front seven next season.
As for the rest of the team, they were on the field for practice for about an hour and a half. Among the drills that were done were positional, conditioning, special teams, seven-on-sevens and finally ending with 11-on-11 drills.
Check out a few stray happenings from the first day of minicamps, after the jump!
- Starting safety Pat Chung saw some action today as a punt returner during special teams drills. Chung, who hasn't returned a single kick in his NFL career, was splitting reps with last year's primary return man, Julian Edelman. He's not a complete stranger to punt returns though, having done so in college at Oregon.
- With the injuries piling up on the offensive line, the Patriots have had to get a little bit creative with their wall of big men protecting Tom Brady. The five that got the majority of the first-team reps were Nate Solder (left tackle), Ryan Wendall (left guard), Dan Koppen (center), Dan Connolly (right guard), Marcus Cannon (right tackle).
- On the defensive line, the Patriots used a 4-3 base with Trevor Scott, Vince Wilfork, Jonathan Fanene and Rob Ninkovich lining up on the line.
- Contrary to the fact during Team OTAs, new Patriots running back Joseph Addai took the majority of reps on the first team at running back. Before, sophomore running back Shane Vereen was seeing the majority of the carries.
- Backup quarterback Ryan Mallett got some extensive one-on-one work with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. The second year pro, who will likely enter the season as the team's third-stringer, may be getting groomed and prepared for 2013, when second-string QB Brian Hoyer could depart in free agency.
- Things got a little bit interesting towards the end of practice. Defensive end Rob Ninkovich and left guard Ryan Wendall got into a small scuffle following a seven-on-seven drill. Cooler heads prevailed however, and the two only had to run laps.