Push came to shove as the Patriots' offensive and defensive linemen delivered some hard-hitting messages to one another during practice Wednesday. (Barry Chin / Globe Staff)
FOXBOROUGH – Five observations from the Patriots’ 11th training camp practice, which was held today (2:30 p.m.) on the upper practice fields behind Gillette Stadium:
1) Injury scare for Fernando Bryant. It was the type of moment that makes those at training camp hold their breath. The Patriots were working 11-on-11 and quarterback Matt Gutierrez threw into a heavy traffic area up the left hashmarks. Cornerback Fernando Bryant was the nearest defender to the ball (we couldn’t spot the intended receiver), creating a deflection that safety Brandon Meriweather, after bobbling it a few times, corralled for an interception. But Bryant remained down, as things went quiet and trainer Jim Whalen tended to him. Bryant retreated to the sideline under his own power, and on his back, seemed to be having his left knee checked out. Before long, Bryant returned and finished the practice.
2) A teaching moment with the new force-out rule. In 7 on 7 work (no pass rush), the Patriots were inside the 20-yard line and Matt Cassel found Randy Moss in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. Moss did not catch the ball cleanly, and two defensive backs closed on him and pushed him out of bounds. With referees on the field and calling the action as if it were a game, Bill Belichick jogged in the direction of side judge Laird Hayes to double-check the call. It was a touchdown, Hayes told Belichick, because Moss got his feet down before being pushed out of bounds. But Belichick wanted even further explanation from Laird. Had defenders pushed Moss out of bounds before he had possession, Belichick wanted confirmation that it would have been no touchdown because of the change in the forceout rule. Laird gave him that confirmation, while noting after practice that the exchange was reflective of the detail in which Belichick works with the officials. Defenders can probably expect to see a tape of the play in their team meeting tomorrow, as it’s a perfect example of why defensive backs need to have extra focus on finishing plays on the sidelines and along the back line of the end zone.
3) Rodney makes his presence felt. Safety Rodney Harrison, who had returned to practice on Tuesday, got the crowd roaring a bit by coming up and laying a hit on receiver Sam Aiken during 7 on 7 work. Harrison stood over Aiken for a slight moment, and later put a little extra into a lowered shoulder on running back Laurence Maroney in 11-on-11 drills.
4) When veterans help youngsters. Current Patriots players often talk about how important it was to their careers to have older players take them under their wing upon their arrival in town – whether it was someone like Anthony Pleasant with the defensive linemen, or Troy Brown with the receivers etc. Every once in a while an example of that veteran presence can be spotted on the practice field. With the Patriots working on a 2-on-2 rush drill – with defensive linemen/outside linebackers taking on two members of the offensive line – nose tackle Vince Wilfork could be seen tutoring rookie outside linebacker Shawn Crable, presumably about how to play off each other in the pass rush. When it came time for Wilfork and Crable to take their turn – against left guard Jimmy Martin and left tackle Wesley Britt – the two executed nicely. Wilfork plowed into Martin, while Crable – who initially was engaged with Britt – looped around Wilfork untouched. Wilfork and Crable high-fived after the play.
5) Problems at the line of scrimmage. With officials calling the practice, there were at least two penalties at the line of scrimmage – offsides on Richard Seymour and a false start against left tackle Nick Kaczur. They are the type of mistakes that are probably commonplace at this point in training camp, although players continue to run laps around the practice fields after making such mistakes.
EXTRA POINTS: Quarterback Tom Brady got the day off, with Matt Cassel and Matt Gutierrez taking the bulk of the throws. … Left tackle Matt Light missed his sixth straight workout, as did cornerback Jason Webster. … Others not in attendance: James Sanders, Vince Redd, Anthony Clement and David Thomas. … Chris Hanson was tested as the Patriots worked on punting deep in their own territory, and he seemed to strike the ball well from the back of the end zone, with coach Bill Belichick right standing next to him. … Ryan O’Callaghan worked as the first-team right tackle, with Wesley Britt the second-string left tackle. … Receiver Randy Moss drew “oohs” from the crowd with a terrific one-handed catch after crossing the field (cornerback Mike Richardson was the closest player in coverage). ... Cornerback Jonathan Wilhite broke up a Kevin O’Connell pass in 11-on-11 work, breaking nicely on the ball to deny receiver Chris Dunlap. … Defenders batted away at least two passes, with Pierre Woods and Richard Seymour getting their hands up in the passing lanes. … Tight end Benjamin Watson made a nice catch in the end zone, from Matt Cassel, with linebacker Eric Alexander in coverage. … Owner Robert Kraft spoke with media members after practice. ... Moss signed autographs for a group of kids before practice who kept chanting his name. ... A post-practice ceremony was held for Andre Tippett as he departs for his enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Thursday’s schedule: The Patriots have two scheduled practices – 8:45 a.m. and 4 p.m.