FOXBOROUGH — The big news of the day, of course, was that Tom Brady returned to practice a day after suffering a minor sprain in his left knee and putting Patriots fans in panic mode. Brady wore a brace on his knee — he wasn’t wearing it Wednesday — and participated fully in practice.
The practice itself, though, wasn’t very exciting. It was a walk-through type in advance of Friday night's preseason game, with many drills done at half-speed.
The Patriots and Buccaneers also practiced a lot of situations — onside kicks, punts backed up against the end zone, tight Red Zone drills, and more.
Other than Brady returning, Thursday’s practice was a bit of a snoozer.
With that, let’s get on with the report:
Physically unable to perform: TE Rob Gronkowski (back); WR Mark Harrison (foot); DE Armond Armstead (non-football illness).
Red non-contact jersey: S Devin McCourty.
Not participating: TE Daniel Fells, CB Alfonzo Dennard (limited), OL Marcus Cannon (limited), WR Michael Jenkins (limited), CB Ras-I Dowling (limited), OL Dan Connolly (limited), and DE Jermaine Cunningham.
Injured reserve: OL Tyronne Green
Waived: WR Michael Jenkins, OL Kevin Haslam
Returning to practice: DB Nate Ebner
Shells, no contact
■ Brady walked on the field and got a loud round of applause from the fans. This was the most important thing to happen at practice.
■ Brady had an amazing lob to WR Danny Amendola in the right corner of the end zone. Amendola caught it over two defenders with his feet just inbounds.
■ Brady had another perfect corner fade to WR Aaron Dobson, who caught it over Bucs CB Leonard Johnson.
■ P Ryan Allen booted one that came to rest millimeters from the right sideline. Impressive.
S Duron Harmon: Rookie third-rounder has been impressing in camp and took a lot of first-team reps this week. Don’t be surprised if he starts in McCourty’s place Friday.
DB Nate Ebner: Finally returned to practice after sitting out a couple of weeks, and now can focus on winning another special teams spot.
Eduardo Martinez: This youngster got to participate in a Make-A-Wish type of event. He took a handoff from Brady and ran into the end zone to end practice, then threw with Tim Tebow for 10 minutes afterward.
QB Ryan Mallett: Doesn’t look as if he’ll be getting as much playing time Friday now that Brady is back.
TE Daniel Fells: Missed his second straight practice, and may be losing a grip on a starting spot to Zach Sudfeld and Jake Ballard.
DT Marcus Forston: Appears to be the primary backup at defensive tackle and may be close to locking up a roster spot.
Tebow took a handful of snaps in team drills and skipped a couple of throws. The most interesting thing he did in practice was play on the onside-kick recovery team for three snaps. In addition to throwing with Martinez, he stayed after to sign autographs.
ODDS AND ENDS
■ This was the last practice of camp open to fans and media.
■ The roster is down to 87 players after Thursday’s moves. The cutdown to 75 players is Aug. 27, and the cutdown to 53 is Aug. 31.
Friday: Preseason Game No. 2 vs. Buccaneers, 8 p.m.