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Malcolm Butler absent but Patriots defensive backs still have a very good final minicamp practice

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New England concluded its mandatory minicamp today.

On Thursday, the New England Patriots returned to the practice fields once more for their third and final practice of 2017 mandatory minicamp. The team was practicing in perfect conditions on the fields behind Gillette Stadium in what turned out to be a somewhat sloppy but spirited session.

Here are the notes from today’s practice.

Attendance

The Patriots had solid but not perfect attendance during their last session: For the first time all minicamp, cornerback Malcolm Butler was absent for undisclosed reasons. He was joined by defensive lineman Lawrence Guy and offensive tackle Andrew Jelks, who both missed yesterday’s practice as well.

Three more players were spotted but did not participate in team drills: defensive tackle Alan Branch, linebacker Dont’a Hightower and wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell. All three were no-shows during OTA practices as well and, just like they did the last two days worked out separately.

Furthermore, defensive edge Kony Ealy appeared to have suffered a minor injury. He walked off the field early in 11-vs-11s – albeit without a trainer – and did not finish the session. Speaking of not finishing: Rookie defensive tackle Josh Augusta seemingly needs to work on his conditioning as he was unable to finish a two-lap run midway through practice.

Offense

The quarterbacks performed as follows (via Mark Daniels; here and here):

7v7s: Brady 9/13 INT, Garoppolo 7/10 INT, Brisset 12/16 INT

11v11s: Brady 14/24, Garoppolo 4/4, Brissett 10/16

Brissett actually took the second set of reps over Jimmy Garoppolo during 11-vs-11s.

Second-year running back D.J. Foster made the catch of the day when he caught a pass falling backwards while covered by Shea McClellin. Chris Hogan, Devin Lucien and undrafted rookies Austin Carr and Cody Hollister also made "nice catches", per NESN’s Doug Kyed.

Second-year wide receiver Devin Lucien stood out today. He also was among the last two players leaving the field following the practice session.

Julian Edelman and James White were Tom Brady’s favorite targets today, each catching four passes.

Tom Brady and Brandin Cooks spent some extra time together after practice:

Defense

The defense recorded three interceptions on the day, all during 7-on-7 work: Eric Rowe intercepted Tom Brady on a throw intended for Danny Amendola, Nate Ebner intercepted Jimmy Garoppolo and undrafted rookie Jason Thompson picked off Jacoby Brissett.

Offseason acquisitions Stephon Gilmore and Brandin Cooks had a one-on-one battle today on a deep pass that ultimately fell incomplete. Gilmore ran "stride-for-stride" with the speedy wideout.

Second-year defensive back Cyrus Jones saw some playing time as the slot cornerback today. The role was manned by Jonathan Jones and Justin Coleman the last two days.

Safety Patrick Chung had a pass breakup on a throw intended for tight end Rob Gronkowski. David Jones, Harvey Langi, Eric Rowe and Jonathan Jones also were able to break up passes. Overall it was a very active and successful day for the Patriots’ pass defense.

Special Teams

After showing a lot of improvement the last two days, Cyrus Jones muffed the first punt he fielded today.

Rex Burkhead saw plenty of work on the punt blocking unit; mainly as the protection-setter.

Miscellaneous

Following the session, Tom Brady, Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski visited the Myra Kraft Community MVP banquet: