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Hernandez, Ochocinco Among Those Missing Thursday

New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez and wide receiver Chad Ochocinco were missing from the final organized team activity on Thursday just outside Gillette Stadium.

It was the first time that either Ochocinco or Hernandez had missed a media-friendly practice in the three weeks of OTAs. Ochocinco was reportedly visiting the eye doctor, while the reason for Hernandez's absence is still unknown.

With the Patriots without Hernandez, and the injured Rob Gronkowski and Daniel Fells, they were down to just three tight ends to start practice. But even that didn't last long. Undrafted rookie Brad Herman had to carted off the field following an injury during warm up drills, so that left converted defensive end Alex Silvestro and recently signed veteran Bo Scaife as the only two usable tight ends on Thursday.

Also among the other notable players who were not spotted at all on Thursday were defensive linemen Brandon Deaderick and guard Brian Waters. Deaderick had practiced with the team during the first two weeks of OTAs. Meanwhile, Waters has been using this time to spend with his family.

Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer were a part of a group of players who were rehabbing on the sidelines with trainers. The rest of the group consisted of Brandon Spikes, Rob Gronkowski, Tracy White, Matthew Slater and Markus Zusevics.

As for what was going on in the activities today, here just a few interesting observations of note from my good friend Field Yates over at ESPN Boston:

  • Offseason pickup Bobby Carpenter continues to see reps with the first team defense, with Rob Ninkovich continuing to practice with the defensive linemen.
  • Joseph Addai was back on the field and a full-participant today, a week after spending part of last week's OTA working with the Patriots training staff.
  • Red zone was a focus for the team today, and veteran addition Brandon Lloyd snared a couple of impressive catches in the end zone. His strong offseason play continued. Britt Davis, a receiver who projects as a potential practice squad player, made an impressive toe-tapping catch of his own, only to be followed up with a careless drop.
  • Sterling Moore came out of nowhere to play a pivotal role for the Patriots during the 2011 postseason. He remains an under-the-radar player now, and I continue to be impressed with technique and ability to leverage opponents. He plays with good bend and flexibility, and seems to have solid fundamentals to his game.
  • Not to make too much out a single practice and small sample size of plays, but rookie cornerback Alfonzo Dennard had an active day, breaking up multiple passes and showing solid instincts and ball skills.

Thursday marked the closing of OTAs for the offseason. Next on the schedule is a three-day mandatory minicamp starting next week. Just another step closer towards the start of Patriots Football 2012.