Happy training camp, everybody. The New England Patriots returned to practice today for their first session of this year's camp and they did so in front of packed bleachers; so packed, in fact, that the team opted to open the ramps of nearby Gillette Stadium so people could fit in.
And what they saw was a first glimpse at the defending world champions, a team that is possibly the most talented from top to bottom in the NFL right now. That being said, let's take a look at today's practice session (all notes via the Twittersphere within our live news feed).
Three players were not spotted: defensive edges Rob Ninkovich and Kony Ealy as well as long snapper Joe Cardona. The latter's absence was due to his service commitment to the Navy but he is expected on Saturday.
Linebacker Dont'a Hightower and defensive tackle Alan Branch, both on the PUP list, were spotted. Rookie offensive tackle Andrew Jelks, currently on the non-football injury list was too. All three were not practicing.
After being a no-show during minicamp, wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell returned to practice. Linebacker Jonathan Freeny, in the meantime, no longer wore the red non-contact jersey.
The quarterbacks, whose reps were split evenly, performed as follows:
7v7s: Tom Brady 4/6, Jimmy Garoppolo 2/6, two interceptions, Jacoby Brissett 7/12
11v11s: Brady 6/8, Garoppolo 6/8, Brissett 9/15
Brady and offseason acquisition Brandin Cooks appeared to be in an early rhythm: That was especially on display on a 30-yard touchdown pass, beating cornerback Cyrus Jones and safety Duron Harmon.
Brady also hit Cooks three times in a row late in the session. Cooks also scored on an end-around.
Brady also threw a touchdown to fellow newcomer Rex Burkhead.
Jacoby Brissett has looked good when it comes to throwing the football and making quicker decisions.
Rob Gronkowski appeared to be at full strength and enjoying practice; celebrating multiple of the plays he made.
Austin Carr made a spectacular catch on a touchdown pass from Garoppolo. The undrafted rookie, who beat rookie Will Likely, in general saw lots of reps with the second team offense. Fellow rookie Cody Hollister also looked good when it comes to creating separation.
Garoppolo also had a nice back shoulder connection with tight end Dwayne Allen.
Malcolm Mitchell caught the ball well but overall looked a bit rusty during the session.
Eric Rowe and Malcolm Butler registered pass receptions in coverage against Julian Edelman and Brandin Cooks, respectively.
Undrafted rookie cornerback Kenny Moore had an impressive first outing: He picked off Brissett in 4-on-4s and registered four additional pass deflections.
Linebacker Kyle Van Noy broke up a pass intended for Gronkowski, while his position-mate Elandon Roberts made a lot of defensive calls with Hightower absent.
Core special teamer Jonathan Jones, as he had in spring practices, saw plenty if reps at slot cornerback alongside top outside corners Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore.
Eric Rowe and Jordan Richards had back-to-back interceptions of Garoppolo during a 7-on-7 goal line period. Justin Coleman picked him off during 2-on-2s by leaping over Malcolm Mitchell.
Geneo Grissom and Derek Rivers saw additional reps due to Ninkovich and Ealy being absent.
Undrafted rookie defensive tackle Josh Augusta was moving well throughout the session. The days of struggling with conditioning seem to be behind him.
Head coach Bill Belichick spent some time with linebacker Trevor Bates, trying to coach him up.
Danny Amendola, Dion Lewis, Cyrus Jones and D.J. Foster were working as the kickoff returners.
Jones' first kickoff was muffed but he was flawless throughout the rest of the session.
The team worked on field goal block drills.
Ryan Allen placed his punts well and consistently moving in the 4+ seconds area in terms of hang-time.
All in all, the Patriots had a productive first training camp practice. And while the team still has a long way to go, its potential and depth were already on display – particularly in the passing game, on both sides of the football.
Tomorrow's practice session takes place at 9:15 a.m.