FOXBOROUGH — Tuesday’s joint practice between the Patriots and Buccaneers was certainly very physical, and the starting units on both teams got a ton of work; 95 percent of the work in team drills was starting offense vs. starting defense.
What the practice wasn’t, though, was crisp or well-executed. Perhaps the constant rain had something to do with it, but players were slipping all over the field, receivers were dropping footballs, and Tom Brady’s throws seemed to be more off the mark than usual.
The only big news of the day was that ILB Brandon Spikes was not present, because of an undisclosed reason. And the Patriots also signed a new tight end to give them a fifth healthy body at the position.
Let’s get on with the report:
Physically unable to perform: Rob Gronkowski (back); WR Mark Harrison (foot); DE Armond Armstead (non-football illness).
Red non-contact jersey: S Devin McCourty.
Missing: CB Alfonzo Dennard (limited), OL Marcus Cannon (limited), WR Michael Jenkins (limited), CB Ras-I Dowling (limited), OL Dan Connolly (limited), ILB Brandon Spikes, DB Nate Ebner, OL Tyronne Green, OL Kevin Haslam, and DE Jermaine Cunningham.
Roster moves: TE Evan Landi signed; DL Jason Vega waived.
Full pads, full contact.
■ WR Kenbrell Thompkins made a ridiculous one-handed catch on an underthrown ball, using Tampa Bay CB Rashaan Melvin’s body to help corral the pass.
■ WR Danny Amendola absolutely destroyed S Dashon Goldson on a double move. Goldson bit hard on Amendola’s cut to the sideline, and Amendola was open by 10 yards when he cut back to the middle of the field for an easy catch from Brady.
■ WR Johnathan Haggerty had a great leaping catch over S Keith Tandy on a fade pass from Ryan Mallett.
■ QB Tim Tebow had a really nice back-shoulder throw on a wheel route to RB Shane Vereen in seven-on-seven drills.
■ Amendola also had a really nice fingertip catch on a deep post pass from Brady in seven-on-seven drills, catching the ball just past the outstretched arms of the linebacker.
■ Brady and WR Aaron Dobson hooked up for a really nice 30-yard fade catch over rookie CB Johnthan Banks.
TE Zach Sudfeld: Trying not to write about him every day, but Sudfeld took a majority of the first-team work at tight end during team drills while Daniel Fells and Jake Ballard sat on the sideline.
DT Marcus Forston: The Patriots are a little thin on the interior defensive line, and Forston took several reps with the starting defense.
S Tavon Wilson: Fighting for a roster spot, he had a really nice interception of QB Josh Freeman on the goal line, batting a slant pass up in the air, then corraling the ball and heading upfield.
TE Daniel Fells: It appeared that the veteran was the clear No. 1 tight end at the start of camp, but he seems to have fallen behind Sudfeld and could be battling with Ballard for a roster spot.
WR Kamar Aiken: Opened training camp with the starting offense, but clearly has fallen behind all of the kids (Thompkins, Dobson, Josh Boyce) and may be on the outside of the roster bubble.
ILB Brandon Spikes: Not a good sign to be missing practice — even if it’s just a minor injury — when you need to be impressing the coaching staff and proving that you can be an every-down player.
Tim Tebow spent a lot of his time standing on the sideline and watching before he and Mallett got a few snaps at the end of practice. Tebow worked with running backs and tight ends in some one-on-one drills early, and actually looked really comfortable throwing from the pocket, with several nice passes that had perfect accuracy. In 11-on-11 drills, he bounced a couple of quick throws to FB Ben Bartholomew and TE Evan Landi, had a nice play-action comeback throw to Haggerty, made a decent medium out-pass to Haggerty on the next throw, and ended the drill with a coverage sack. Tebow spent about 30 minutes on the field after practice working on his throws, then spoke to the media afterward.
ODDS AND ENDS
■ Fascinating to watch how much time the Bucs spend on fundamentals early in practice — tackling high and low, ball protection, etc. The coaches set up a circuit of five drills, the players are split into groups, and they spend a few minutes rotating between each drill.
■ Dowling, Dennard, Cannon, Jenkins, and Connolly were all in uniform and went through warmups with the team, then left practice to do conditioning drills with trainers. It is unclear whether any of them will be ready to play Friday.
■ Contact definitely seemed encouraged, although there were no fights. WR Julian Edelman caught a pass over the middle and after the play gave a nice thump to Bucs S Ahmad Black with his shoulder.
■ Each team spent a decent amount of time working on kickoff, punt, and field goal drills, especially hurry-up field goals. Steven Gostkowski was perfect in this drill, with each kick coming from 40-50 yards, while Bucs K Derek Dimke doinked a 42-yarder off the right upright.
■ Can anyone stop Bucs WR Vincent Jackson? The answer Tuesday was a resounding “No.” Jackson, listed at 6 feet 5 inches and 230 pounds, had little trouble getting open against Kyle Arrington, Aqib Talib, Logan Ryan, and even Devin McCourty, who played a lot of cornerback. Jackson was mostly lined up in the slot and was feasting on slants and posts over the middle.
■ Patriots owner Robert Kraft was at practice, and spent time speaking with both Bucs coach Greg Schiano and CB Darrelle Revis, who participated in individual drills but didn’t do any team work.
■ Freeman had some beautiful throws, particularly in the Red Zone to Jackson and WR Mike Williams, but struggled a bit with consistency, throwing interceptions to Talib and Wilson. Still, there’s little doubt that Freeman will be the Opening Day starter, with rookie Mike Glennon the backup.
■ In addition to missing on more than a few throws, Brady also fumbled a snap in a hurry-up situation in the two-minute drill.
■ The price of success: DL Tommy Kelly was shaken up for a moment after blocking a field goal.
Wednesday: Joint practice with Buccaneers, 2 p.m.
Thursday: Joint practice with Buccaneers (walk-through), 2 p.m.
Friday: Preseason Game No. 2 vs. Buccaneers, 7:30 p.m.
Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin