- The football gods couldn’t have dialed up a more ideal weather forecast on Saturday morning as the overcast and cool-temperatured conditions were perfect for the team’s first fully-padded practice session of training camp. Another overflowing crowd, estimated to have topped 20,000, buzzed with excitement to watch what Bill Belichick on Friday morning called the "real" start of training camp.
- The early story of the day was the guest appearance of Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens. He was initially spotted walking onto the field and chatting with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels before joining Bill Belichick on the sidelines for a lengthy chat. This is nothing new of course, as Belichick has long been a proponent of crossing sport lines and introducing prominent coach and player personalities to his practices, often to bring a message and to provide a different competition-minded perspective not only for his Patriot players, but his coaching staff as well.
Here's Bill Belichick and Brad Stevens chatting pic.twitter.com/nVuwMPHWYx— Mark Daniels (@MarkDanielsPJ) July 29, 2017
3. A name that has been left off of many 53-man roster prediction articles this summer is Jordan Richards, who, through the first three days of training camp, has performed as if he has read every single one of them.
Jordan Richards intercepted Tom Brady in 1v1s. He has three interceptions in three practices— Mark Daniels (@MarkDanielsPJ) July 29, 2017
Jordan Richards continues to make plays. Broke up a pass intended for Gronk from Brady. Gronk usually torches Richards in practice.— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) July 29, 2017
Pats Pulpit’s Michael McDermott, who has been on site in Foxborough this week, reported on Richards’ tight coverage on tight ends in seven-on-seven drill work on Friday, and he continued singing the former Stanford Cardinal’s praises on Saturday.
Richards having the practice of his life— Michael McDermott (@MichaelMcD8393) July 29, 2017
Richards has been the target of criticism mainly for the amount of draft capital invested in him (a 2015 second-round pick) — a player who has yet to carve out a role on Matt Patricia’s defense other than providing depth behind Patrick Chung at strong safety. In the 12 games last season in which he was active, Richards logged just 18 defensive snaps.
4. Veteran edge defender Rob Ninkovich was absent from practice for a third consecutive day, leaving an opening for another former early-round Patriots draft pick to get some reps with the “ones”.
With Rob Ninkovich out for a third straight day, Geneo Grissom continues to see reps with the 1st team defense.— Kevin Duffy (@KevinRDuffy) July 29, 2017
Grissom, a 2015 third-round selection from Oklahoma, was cut last September and signed to the practice squad. He stayed there until week seven, eventually being called back to the 53-man roster where he would finish the 2016 season. With two years under his belt, he has the most experience in the Patriots’ system of the players on the depth chart, so it’s not much of a surprise as to why he was selected as the man to pick up Nink’s reps. Kony Ealy is obviously new to Foxborough, and started his first training camp with his new team team off on the wrong foot, having been sat out of Thursday’s practice by Bill Belichick for unspecified reasons. Rookies Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise, who had a solid day on Saturday, round out the team’s depth on the edge.
5. Saturday’s practice was short and extremely light on competitive contact drills considering players were fully padded. Unhappy with the intensity level of his defensive group through much of the session, coordinator Matt Patricia made his feelings known. He stopped the session, seemingly flipped a switch, and began ripping into his players. The effort level seemed to rise immediately afterward.
6. Towards the end of the session, and to the delight of onlookers (media and fans alike), the team began 11-on-11 goal line work. Most notably, Patriots offseason addition Mike Gillislee got the initial carries, and as he did so often in 2016 for Buffalo, excelled in the role.
First goal-line carry of camp in full pads goes to Mike Gillislee. Powers up middle for TD. Top candidate to replace LeGarrette Blount.— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) July 29, 2017
After practice, Gillislee wasn’t shy in sharing his feelings about the running back unit’s talent level and potential.
Mike Gillislee says this is the most talented backfield he's ever played with pic.twitter.com/66smwKCHmq— Mark Daniels (@MarkDanielsPJ) July 29, 2017
7. Injury report:
- The day’s major scare came when safety Duron Harmon remained down on the field following a rep in 11-on-11 drills. He would eventually limp off on his own power and not return to practice. The good news, however, is that the knee injury is not considered serious according to Jim McBride of the Boston Globe. Harmon was also seen walking freely after practice while chatting with family, still in full uniform.
- Veteran running back Brandon Bolden also did not finish practice. His injury was not immediately specified, but he did leave the playing field on his own accord.
- Wide receivers Danny Amendola and Malcolm Mitchell, who each missed the first two sessions, were present and fully dressed, but each joined UDFA David Jones and the training staff to work on conditioning on a separate field once the team spilt into group drills.
- Long snapper Joe Cardona returned to practice for the first time this week.
8. Former Patriots running back Kevin Faulk was spotted towards the beginning of practice talking to players and coaches in his red Patriots Hall of Fame jacket. He joined other Patriots Hall of Fame members off to the side as the session fully commenced. The group of greats were there to induct Raymond Clayborn into their hall. After practice, coach Belichick seized the opportunity to introduce his team to the Patriots legend.
Bill Belichick introducing Patriots Hall of Fame inductee Raymond Clayborn to players. Other Hall of Famers in red jackets join in. pic.twitter.com/S8XYzECy4c— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) July 29, 2017
Clayborn’s induction was a special moment, and included the signing of a ceremonial contract to officially end his career as a Patriot. Naturally, team owner Robert Kraft was on hand to welcome Clayborn into the hall with a lively speech.
Clayborn doing a ceremonial contract so he can retire as a Patriot. Kraft made a lawyer joke too.— Michael McDermott (@MichaelMcD8393) July 29, 2017
Bob Kraft just made a 28-3 reference— Michael McDermott (@MichaelMcD8393) July 29, 2017