* LB Eric Alexander, OT Mark LeVoir, TE Aaron Hernandez, WR Darnell Jenkins, and OLB Jermaine Cunningham didn’t practice, but were in attendance, working out on bikes and Elippticals off to the side. WRs Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater, DBs Bret Lockett and Josh Barrett, DL Kade Weston, G Logan Mankins, and OL Nick Kaczur were among those not spotted at all.
* With Hernandez sidelined, fellow rookie TE Rob Gronkowski stole the spotlight. During 7-on-7s, Gronkowski made a number of plays down the seam. Later, in red-zone drills, he bodied up Brandon McGowan and boxed the veteran out to go high and haul in a touchdown pass at the pylon. He reacted by punting the ball in the air … and it quickly came down after hitting the side of the bubble. Gronkowski showed up again in team drills, shaking coverage on a wheel route for a big gainer down the sideline.
* New acquisition Quinn Ojinnaka arrived about 15 minutes late, and when he showed up, he mostly stood off to the side. Ojinnaka did work some at tackle and guard, but seemed to be taking instruction more than anything.
* Darius Butler’s getting a lot of work as a slot corner, both with the
first defense and the second group. Leigh Bodden returned today, but was
eased back into the action, and you could see the coaches rotating
corners in and out. Most often, it was Butler and Devin McCourty on the
right and left, respectively, with the first team. I wouldn’t be
surprised, though, if Butler getting reps there is significant to what
the team could do in its nickel and dime looks. Plenty of teams kick
starting corners inside in sub packages, and Butler might be best equipped of the available guys to play there — because of his quickness — and deal with slot receivers.
* Being inside, and because of the confined space to work with 80, there was quite a bit of situational work. The Patriots worked on Yellow Zone (the offense backed up to its own goal line) and Red Zone extensively. And with the team outfitted in shorts and shoulder pads, there was far more done in the passing game today than the running game.