FOXBOROUGH — Bill Belichick did something on Saturday that this writer has never seen in a training camp practice in seven-plus years covering the Patriots: He split the team for a blue and white scrimmage, with the white team featuring most of the top offensive players and second-string defensive players, and the blue team consisting of the top defensive players and reserve offensive players.
It appeared that the plays were somewhat scripted/situational, with coaches calling out down-and-distance, and calling for quarterbacks to switch into two-minute for some possessions. But with players in shells and shorts, there was no live tackling.
Birthday boy Tom Brady had an easy workday, on the field for just one drive, though he threw touchdown passes on back-to-back plays, both to Danny Amendola.
That left Ryan Mallett to run the white team offense for the rest of the practice, with Tim Tebow as the lone blue team quarterback. Mallett was solid, though he’s still having trouble keeping his passes down. He also was picked off by Devin McCourty on a deep ball intended for Kamar Aiken. McCourty was out of the red no-contact jersey he wore throughout the spring and first week of camp (he underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason).
Tebow was Tebow. He had several head-scratching plays, with interceptions by rookies Jamie Collins and Duron Harmon, but also completed a couple of nice passes, including a touchdown to Quentin Sims, who outjumped Justin Green in the back of the end zone.
Physically unable to perform: TE Rob Gronkowski (back); WR Mark Harrison (foot); DE Armond Armstead (non-football illness).
Missing: S Tavon Wilson, CB Ras-I Dowling, OL Marcus Cannon, DL Jermaine Cunningham, TE Jake Ballard, WR Michael Jenkins, WR Lavasier Tuinei, DB Nate Ebner, OL Kevin Haslam.
New injuries: None.
Returning from injury: None.
Shells and shorts.
■ On his first drive after “halftime,” Tebow capped the series with a completion to Sims. It was definitely one of Tebow’s better throws on the day, but Sims made a nice play to keep the ball from Green for the touchdown.
■ McCourty made a great play on the deep ball from Mallett intended for Aiken. Aiken appeared to have the corner beat, but McCourty came in, stepped in front of Aiken, and picked off the ball, taking off in the opposite direction to the delight of his teammates.
■ Logan Ryan had a nice pass breakup of a potential touchdown pass from Mallett to Kenbrell Thompkins. Thompkins had his hands on the jump ball but Ryan knocked it out of his hands.
Brady: He didn’t have a long day, but he was 7 for 9 during his one drive, completing passes to Amendola (three), Thompkins (two), Zach Sudfeld, and Stevan Ridley.
Sudfeld: The undrafted rookie continues to show that he’s arguably the best pass-catching tight end on the roster.
Stephen Gostkowski: Converted four PATs and five field goals, including one of around 50 yards to end the practice.
Justin Green: Drew rookies Josh Boyce and Sims in coverage, and was beaten twice by Sims on jump-ball touchdowns; had some trouble keeping up with the speedy Boyce.
Tebow: He had some bright spots, and you can see how even a simulated game brings out better play, but there were still too many off-the-mark throws and times when he surely would have been sacked had there been live tackling.
Finished 17 for 31 with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
ODDS AND ENDS
■ Roster for the white team:
QB — Brady, Mallett.
RB — Ridley, Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden (in uniform but did not participate), James Develin, George Winn.
WR — Amendola, Julian Edelman, Thompkins, Aiken, Johnathan Haggerty.
TE — Sudfeld, Brandon Ford.
OL — Nate Solder, Logan Mankins, Ryan Wendell, Tyronne Green, Markus Zusevics, Elvis Fisher, Dan Connolly (in uniform but did not participate), Brice Schwab (later switched to blue team).
DL — Justin Francis, Jake Bequette, Cory Grissom, Marcus Forston, Michael Buchanan, Joe Vellano.
LB — Collins, Steve Beauharnais, Dane Fletcher, A.J. Edds.
DB — Harmon, Steve Gregory, Marquice Cole, Brandon Jones, Kanorris Davis, Justin Green.
P — Ryan Allen.
■ Roster for the blue team:
QB — Tebow
RB — Leon Washington, LeGarrette Blount, Ben Bartholomew.
WR — Aaron Dobson, Matthew Slater, Boyce, Sims.
TE — Hoomanawanui, Daniel Fells.
OL — Chris McDonald, Luke Patterson, Josh Kline, R.J. Mattes, Will Svitek.
DL — Rob Ninkovich, Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Chandler Jones, Marcus Benard, Scott Vallone, Jason Vega, Anthony Rashad White.
LB — Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Dont’a Hightower, Jeff Tarpinian, Mike Rivera, Niko Koutouvides.
DB — McCourty, Adrian Wilson, Kyle Arrington, Aqib Talib, Ryan, Alfonzo Dennard (in uniform but did not participate).
P — Zoltan Mesko.
■ As a prank for Brady’s birthday, someone on the team had “Happy 40th Birthday Tom” T-shirts made (Brady actually turned 36). Asked about it after, linebackers coach Pepper Johnson grumbled that he was the “only fool” who wore the shirt out to practice.
Sunday: No practice (day off).
Monday: Practice 10-11:45 a.m. (open to public).
Tuesday: Practice with Eagles in Philadelphia, 12:30-2:30 p.m. (closed to public).
Wednesday: Practice with Eagles in Philadelphia, 12:30-2:30 p.m. (closed to public).
Friday: Preseason opener at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.