FOXBORO – Shortly after the conclusion of the ceremony inducting Rodney Harrison and Leon Gray into the Patriots Hall of Fame, Bill Belichick’s current team moved inside Gillette Stadium for its annual practice in front of season ticket holders and Foxborough residents.
While the workout was a relatively light one in shorts, jerseys and helmets, it was notable that it took place on natural grass rather than the usual FieldTurf game surface. Gillette Stadium remained sodded from the previous night’s International Champions Cup match between AC Milan and Benfica.
Asked about the conditions, which had brown spots and got wet during a late-afternoon thunderstorm, Belichick responded in somewhat cryptic fashion.
“Well, it’s a soccer field,” Belichick said.
Absent: Yodny Cajuste (NFI), Dontrelle Inman, Bryon Cowart, J.J. Dielman (retired)
Present but not participating: Julian Edelman (NFI), Nate Ebner (PUP), Ken Webster (PUP), Demaryius Thomas (PUP), Cole Croston (PUP)
Red non-contact jersey: None, other than quarterbacks
Here are some quick observations from the Patriots practice field:
--Belichick spent some time on the sidelines early in practice chatting with Rob Ninkovich and Tedy Bruschi, two of the many former players on hand for the Hall of Fame ceremony.
--Nick Caserio chatted at midfield with Kevin Faulk later in the workout.
--N’Keal Harry continues to struggle catching the ball a bit. He dropped a slant that bounced off his chest early in practice. Later, he dropped a nice deep ball down the right sideline.
--Sony Michel and David Andrews were both more active than they have been to date in practice, though it was obviously not a full-contact workout.
--Patrick Chung wore a regular blue defensive jersey, not the red non-contact shirt he’d been wearing to open camp as he works back from a broken arm and shoulder surgery. Chung actually spent a decent amount of time working as a scout team running back for Danny Etling’s look offense.
--Terrence Brooks continued to get high-end reps in the top secondary, lined up next to Devin McCourty. Brooks also had a role on the top goal line defense on Sunday. The veteran newcomer is showing his stuff early in his new home and certainly has a very good chance to make the roster. He could also add a new wrinkle to the safety depth chart that has primarily been McCourty, Chung and Duron Harmon the last few years.
--Derek Rivers, the team’s top pick in 2017, is likely in a key year in New England. While many think he could be in fight for a roster spot, the third-round edge defender has been getting reps with the top defensive unit over the last couple days of camp. Belichick has praised Rivers’ work ethic and expressed hope for his future in the past. That time to shine may be now or never.
--Specialists Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona and Jake Bailey were not on the field for nearly the entire practice. There were no special teams drills in the workout that lasted just more than an hour under the lights.
--Patriots players signed autographs for the fans in attendance following the workout.
--Only a small group of players spoke with the media after practice, including wide receiver Maurice Harris and defensive linemen Mike Pennel Jr. and Lawrence Guy. While Tom Brady was originally scheduled to speak with the media, that access was canceled on Monday afternoon.
--The Patriots will not practice on Tuesday, the first day off since camp opened last Thursday. The team is expected to return to the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium on Wednesday morning.