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Patriots OTA Notebook: Christian Gonzalez, New England’s rookies heavily involved

The Patriots held their second open organized team activity on Tuesday.

NFL: JUN 06 New England Patriots OTA Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After what head coach Bill Belichick described as a “big day” at Monday’s organized team activity, the New England Patriots dialed back the intensity at Tuesday’s practice.

Here’s what went down on the back fields of Gillette Stadium.


Did not practice: WR DeVante Parker, RB James Robinson, K Nick Folk, WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, LB Matthew Judon, WR Tyquan Thornton, WR Scotty Washington, DB Adrian Phillips, DB Cody Davis, P Bryce Baringer, OG Chasen Hines, OG Mike Onwenu, OT Trent Brown, OT Conor McDermott, WR Kendrick Bourne, DL Lawerence Guy Sr.

Red non-contact jersey: LB Marte Mapu


Christian Gonzalez thrown right into the mix: After missing last week’s open OTA practice, Patriots first-round pick Christian Gonzalez was present on Tuesday. He was an immediate plug-and-play starter on the outside in the opening team drills. Jonathan Jones worked opposite of him, as Jalen Mills played the slot. Sophomore cornerback Jack Jones also saw work on the outside.

Rookies involved: Beyond Gonzalez, numerous other rookies got involved on Tuesday. The versatile Marte Mapu, who remained in a red non-contact jersey, saw a heavy dosage of snaps at safety after being used mostly at linebacker last week. With the Patriots missing their top four wide receivers, rookies Kayshon Boutte, Demario Douglas, Malik Cunningham, and newcomer Ed Lee also got their fair share of opportunities throughout the day.

Offensive line: Also in the rookie department, fifth-round pick Atonio Mafi was first up to replace sidelined guard Michael Onwenu (ankle) to starting center David Andrews’ right. That was a change from last week, when third-year man Bill Murray got the first nod. Murray eventually filled back in for Cole Strange down the stretch. At the tackle position, it was again Calvin Anderson on the left side with Riley Reiff back at right tackle.

Sparks fly: Despite the practice’s overall lower intensity, there was the first scuffle of the offseason. Things got feisty between left guard Cole Strange and defensive linemen Anfernee Jennings and Deatrich Wise Jr. Christian Barmore then came overtop with a punch before being pulled out of the pile by David Andrews. While no players were kicked out, Strange and Barmore did not see the field the rest of the afternoon.

“People on our team are very passionate about what they do,” Wise Jr. said after practice. “Things happen.”

Other notes:

  • The quarterback competition remains nonexistent. It was again Mac Jones taking the majority of the first-team reps.
  • With several of their top receivers down, Mike Gesicki and Hunter Henry continued to often share the field. Early signs point to an increase of the Patriots’ 12-personnel usage this season.
  • Corliss Waitman handled all the punting duties with rookie Bryce Baringer absent from practice. The veteran showcased his leg with an impressive day.
  • UDFA Jourdan Heilig spent the majority of his collegiate career at Appalachian State on special teams. That looks like his path on the Patriots roster, as he spent most of his time on Tuesday working off to the side with Matthew Slater and other special team coaches/drills.
  • Bill O’Brien continues to be extremely vocal on the sideline. He had choice words for Kayshon Boutte at one point after the rookie receiver had issues lining up.
  • A little more overall sloppiness on the defensive side of the ball. Numerous players were sent on laps for false starts/offsides, including Deatrich Wise Jr., Sam Roberts, and Anfernee Jennings.

The Patriots will be off on Wednesday before returning for their final two OTA practices on Thursday and Friday, the latter being open to the media.