Patriots

8 notes and observations from Day 3 of Patriots training camp

Tom Brady returned to action, Sony Michel made his summer debut, and Nick Caserio addressed the media.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady passes the ball during training camp. Steven Senne / AP Photo

The Patriots had their first practice with pads Saturday morning, crossing another item off the checklist as they prepare for the regular season.

Quarterback Tom Brady returned to the field, director of player personnel Nick Caserio didn’t divulge much while talking about the Houston Texans, and running back Sony Michel saw his first action of the summer after undergoing minor knee surgery in the offseason.

Day 3 didn’t have much more on-field action or contact than Day 2, but it did offer some insight into who’s healthy, who’s not, and how several key players are progressing. It also featured some familiar faces, as former Patriots Randy Moss, Rob Ninkovich, Rodney Harrison, Willie McGinest, and Troy Brown all made their way to Gillette Stadium.

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Here’s a closer look at Day 3:

Tom Brady was back in action.

Patriots fans can breathe a collective sigh of relief, as Brady was back out there for Day 3.

It’s rarely a major concern when Brady takes a scheduled day off, as he did on Day 2. It is, however, an added bonus for those who make the trip to Gillette Stadium when he’s on the field during training camp, as he was Saturday.

After dapping up the former wide receiver Moss moments before practice Saturday, the longtime quarterback made a familiar trot onto the field while acknowledging fans who managed to carve out prime real estate early in the day.

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Caserio made it clear Brady’s absence the day prior doesn’t merit an overreaction.

“Every day, we do what we think is best,” Caserio told reporters. “Tom’s fine. I wouldn’t put too much stock in that.”

The QB didn’t complete a pass in 11-on-11s (gasp!), but he was 2 for 4 in 7-on-7s. Backup Brian Hoyer finished 3 for 3, while rookie Jarrett Stidham ended up 3 for 4.

Danny Etling, meanwhile, who is experimenting at wide receiver, spent time after practice working as both a wide receiver and quarterback.

Nick Caserio dodged questions about the Texans.

Caserio didn’t bite Saturday when asked if he was disappointed he didn’t get to sit down with the Texans to interview for their general manager position in June.

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The Patriots clearly don’t want him to go quite yet. While he reportedly wanted out of New England and desired a new and expanded role in Houston, Robert Kraft and Co. prevailed in another round of tug of war. Once the Texans backed off in their pursuit, the Patriots rescinded their tampering charge against the Texans after blocking him for a second straight year.

Caserio, speaking to the media for the first time since the incident, unsurprisingly didn’t give much insight into his involvement in the situation. He simply praised the Patriots organization and said he’s focused on helping the team, getting better each day, and being the best husband and father he can be.

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NBC Sports Boston reporter Tom E. Curran noted that by saying nothing, Caserio actually said a lot. He could have squished the rumors by saying he wasn’t interested in the Texans job, Curran said, but he didn’t do so.

Head coach Bill Belichick on Thursday called the situation “water under the bridge” but elected not to get into it any further. Caserio’s contract expires after the 2020 draft.

“Look, I’m in a great position,” he told reporters. “I’ve got a great opportunity each day to come in here and serve this team and this organization, and I enjoy doing that, and that’s what I’m excited to do. I’m going to continue to do that to the best of my ability.”

Both former and new Patriots were present.

Moss wasn’t the only former Patriot at practice Saturday. The safety Harrison, linebackers McGinest and Ninkovich, and the wide receiver Brown, were also present, prompting Boston Globe reporter Ben Volin to propose the idea of a varsity vs. alumni game.

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Fans hoping Rob Gronkowski would magically appear and return to the field saw no such drama.

Newly acquired tight end Lance Kendricks was in the house, and he spoke to reporters for the first time as a Patriot. Kendricks, who started his career with the St. Louis and Los Angeles Rams and then carved out a niche with the Green Bay Packers, could play a prominent role in New England if Gronkowski does stay retired.

Kendricks said the Patriots were essentially the only team that reached out to him in free agency, which made his decision a relatively easy one. He added that he’s eager to compete for a championship, noting that he played under offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in St. Louis, so he has some familiarity with the team’s system.

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“For me this year, it’s kind of a fresh start,” Kendricks told reporters, “so I kind of want to come in and just put my head down and go to work and just see what I can do.”

Sony Michel returned to practice.

After missing practice Thursday and Friday, Michel saw his first action of the summer Saturday.

Caserio notified the media of Michel’s status early Saturday morning, and Michel was, in fact, on the field a few minutes later. He reportedly didn’t participate in team drills, but it was still a welcome sight for Patriots fans to see him up and moving.

“Sony will start practicing here this morning, so that’s an adjustment relative to where he’s been,” Caserio said.

Michel, who reportedly missed the final stages of the Patriots’ offseason program because he had an arthroscopic procedure done on his knee, didn’t participate in the one OTA session or three minicamp workouts reporters could watch during that period. Though this injury was considered relatively minor, it’s the latest in a series of knee-related issues for the second-year back out of Georgia.

The former 2018 first-round pick missed part of his rookie training camp, a pair of games last season, and time in both college and high school due to knee problems. When he was healthy last year, he turned in a strong rookie campaign, racking up six touchdowns in the regular season and six more in the playoffs, including the lone TD in the Patriots’ 13-3 Super Bowl win over the Los Angeles Rams. 

He’s expected to be the Patriots’ primary ball carrier this year, and James White, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden, and Damien Harris, among others, will likely join him in the backfield. Running back is one of the team’s deepest positions, and having Michel back in the mix keeps last year’s postseason core intact.

“I’m out here practicing,” Michel told reporters.” I’m ready to go. I’m learning, trying to get better, and that’s what it’s all about.”

David Andrews was not a full participant and Michael Bennett was out for personal reasons.

After missing Day 1 and Day 2, center David Andrews was back on the field for Day 3. He was not, however, a full participant, and he’s officially day-to-day with a small injury.

Defensive end Michael Bennett missed his third consecutive practice. Caserio said Bennett was out for personal reasons.

Wide receivers Julian Edelman and Demaryius Thomas, offensive linemen Yodny Cajuste and Cole Croston, defensive backs Nate Ebner and Ken Webster, and defensive lineman Byron Cowart were all sidelined as well. Offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn and defensive end Deatrich Wise were limited participants.

A helicopter was on the field.

One unusual sight Saturday was a helicopter landing on the field and then departing. There was speculation that it might have been owner Robert Kraft, but it’s unclear who was actually present.

Brian Hoyer and N’Keal Harry teamed up for a touchdown.

After Brady and N’Keal Harry teamed up for a touchdown on Day 1, the backup quarterback Hoyer and Harry connected for a score on Day 3. Harry, a first-round draft pick out of Arizona State, may have caused the entire offense to do a lap Friday after a false start, but he redeemed himself the next day by showing his athleticism once again.

Maurice Harris, a wide receiver from the Washington Redskins, reeled in eight receptions in 11-on-11s, which is the most of anyone so far this week. Cornerback J.C. Jackson also broke up a Brady pass intended for wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, highlighting a day without many on-field highlights.

This was their shortest practice yet.

Just because the Patriots practiced in pads for the first time, that doesn’t mean they’re ramping up the intensity entirely.

Saturday’s session was only 90 minutes, and Volin noted that teams typically ease into full contact nowadays.

The Patriots return for Day 4 on Sunday. Practice starts at approximately 9:25 a.m., and players will be available for interviews around 11:30.