* WR Taylor Price returned to practice — and was impressive. The way he catches the ball away from his torso, controls his body, and comes in and out of his breaks is impressive. Clearly, you can see what the Patriots saw in him physically when they spent the 90th pick in the draft on the kid. Coming from the Frank Solich offense at Ohio, Price has got an adjustment to make. But there’s talent to work with. One ball Tom Brady rifled in his direction was high and to his inside, and Price shot his hands up and stretched out to get it, while keeping his feet. That drew praise from the quarterback. Price tweaked his ankle late and had to sit out the end of practice, but was back on his feet and getting extra work in after the session.
* While we’re on the rookies … It’s dangerous to speculate on depth charts and such at this juncture, but it’s easy to see that Devin McCourty is getting his chances at left corner. He didn’t stick out really, good or bad, at this practice, but he was in there for much of the time with Leigh Bodden at right corner and Jonathan Wilhite in the slot. Could set the stage for McCourty to battle with Darius Butler for run on the left side. McCourty also played some in the slot.
* Wes Welker was out there for 30 minutes — the same way he was during OTAs — of individual work before heading into the bubble to, presumably, do rehab in there. He had a little bit of a frustration, slipping and falling out of one of his breaks and having another ball clang off his hands uncharacteristically. But it remains remarkable how athletic he looks at this juncture. When the quarterbacks and receivers were working on setting up a screen (looked like the jailbreak screen), the way Welker was chopping his feet and exploding upfield was impressive.
* Logan Mankins was the only player absent. There was a three-man rotation inside, with Nick Kaczur at left guard, Dan Koppen at center, and Dan Connolly getting work at both spots.
* Jermaine Cunningham got some first-team reps, which was interesting to see, but there was a ton of rotation with the players in the front seven. Eric Alexander, Terrence Wheatley and Pierre Woods were running with the scout defense for much of the practice. Again, dangerous to make assumptions on that stuff. But Wheatley did break up a ball toward the sidelines intended for Randy Moss that brought a huge pop from his teammates.
* Brian Hoyer was fairly impressive with the second group. He looks sure of himself, and gets rid of the ball quickly with a really compact delivery. There was a wayward throw or two (one was picked off), but he looks like he’s got good command of everything around him for a soph.
* It’s worth noting, always, how natural Moss looks catching the ball and subtleties in his game. One thing I’ve constantly noticed, really since he got here, in practice is how he waits until right before the ball arrives to put his hands up for it, which prevents those covering him from getting a great read on when it’s coming.
* Rob Gronkowski looks like he might be a little behind the other tight ends, just based on the groups he’s running with. He did get some time with Brady’s unit, but it might be taking some time for him to earn prime-time reps.
* Gerard Warren and Ty Warren look, today, like your starting ends, but it was interesting to see how both of them appear to be going exclusively on early downs, with other players on the interior in the nickel.
* Vince Wilfork was the only player out there not in shorts or some sort of cutoff sweatpants. He was sporting running pants, and I asked him about it afterwards. He said he always does that.
* One funny moment to finish with — After Alge Crumper dropped a ball, he hit the deck and cranked out some push-ups. Good way to set the example for the young tight ends, I suppose.