The stands were packed this morning, and the fans were treated to beautiful weather and the return of No. 83...
Wes Welker's removal from the PUP list is obviously the story of the day - the receiver drew applause when he walked on the field in pads (in a white offense jersey, not a red non-contact one), and huge applause for nearly every catch he made.
But while Welker has passed his physical, he has not been cleared for contact: after drills and skeleton work, when the team began 11-on-11 work Welker retreated to a different field to work on route running with training staff member Joe Van Allen using a bungee resistance band attached to Welker's back which Van Allen released after his first few steps. The initial resistance is to help Welker regain his explosion off the line.
Keep in mind, it may be Welker's shoulder - he had surgery to repair his rotator cuff this offseason as well -- which is keeping him from being cleared for full participation.
Randy Moss -- who deserves credit for being 7-for-7 in terms of signing autographs after every session -- had some fun with the crowd early. Tom Brady overthrew Moss during route tree work, and an older security lobbed the ball back but was well short of Moss' hands and was razzed by the crowd. Moss picked up the ball and tossed it to a young fan. The boy thought he could keep the ball, but Moss put his arm up to call for it, and the boy threw a nice pass right to him.
On punt return, Julian Edelman, Brandon Tate and Kevin Faulk all fielded Zoltan Mesko kicks. Mesko continues to be the first player on the field for practices, a good 10 minutes before his teammates.
During 11-on-11 work:
Matt Light and Rob Gronkowski had to do a penalty lap for jumping offsides;
Brian Hoyer connected with Aaron Hernandez on a screen, and Hernandez's fellow Gator Jermaine Cunningham lowered his shoulder and popped the tight end out of bounds;
There were no fewer than four different offensive line combinations used, with a lot of rotation in the three interior spots.
Taylor Price carried Moss' pads off the field, and from the How Quickly Things Change Dept., Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung both spent time with the media, and when McCourty wrapped up and passed Chung on his way back into the stadium, Chung flipped the rookie his helmet and told him to bring it inside. A short 12 months ago, Chung was doing that for his older teammates.