FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots held their first practice of training camp on Thursday and were still without guard Brian Waters.
But in his first news conference, coach Bill Belichick said flatly he is not surprised that Waters has yet to report, though he offered little more in the way of clarity.
Asked if Waters’s absence was excused, Belichick replied, “It’s basically the same as it was in minicamp.”
During June minicamp, which was mandatory for all players under contract, Belichick said Waters was “excused for personal reasons.”
Despite his high level of performance in 2011 and with a year remaining on his contract, Waters surprised many when he said moments after Super Bowl XLVI he was going to need time to decide whether he wanted to continue to play.
When Belichick was asked if retirement was an option, he responded that Waters would have to be asked that. The questioner said he had asked Waters and that the player said to ask the coach.
“I couldn’t comment on anybody else’s career — playing, not playing, or anything like that. That’s for them to talk about, not me. Nice of him to volley it back to me, though,” Belichick said with a slight smile.
There’s no timetable for Waters’s return.
“We’ll just take it day to day,” Belichick said. “There’s no long-term plan.”
In the short term, Waters’s absence, combined with left guard Logan Mankins (knee) and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back) being on the physically unable to perform list, made for a different first-string offensive line.
Nate Solder was at left tackle (where he is expected to start), with Ryan Wendell and Robert Gallery taking snaps at left guard. Dan Koppen was the center, with Dan Connolly at right guard and Marcus Cannon at right tackle.
Chandler Jones, the first of two first-round picks, learned that every rookie has duties in camp.
As he walked off the field toward a small cluster of reporters, the defensive end was carrying five helmets — his own plus those of Brandon Deaderick, Gerard Warren, Jermaine Cunningham, and Marcus Harrison.
“My job right now is to earn respect from the veterans and be a sponge,” said Jones. “Learn the playbook, earn respect from Vince Wilfork and the rest of the guys, and keep moving forward.”
Although Jones felt everything went smoothly at practice thanks to his participation in spring camps and classwork, he’s already learned there’s one big difference between college and the NFL.
“The biggest adjustment is time management,’’ he said. “Whenever I was in school, when I got out of practice, I did homework or played video games. But guys are going home to their families and guys are getting into their playbooks. This is our job. This is how we’re going to support our families. It’s just a whole different approach.”
Not up for it
When asked about Wednesday’s release of running back Joseph Addai, Belichick simply said it “didn’t work out.” But a league source said that the veteran was struggling during his conditioning test and quit. Patriot skill players run 20 timed 60-yard sprints with minimal rest . . . Attendance for practice was 12,163. According to the Patriots’ media relations staff, that is a record for one session. All players signed autographs at the end of practice . . . Owner Robert Kraft walked onto the practice fields about midway through the session and Troy Brown was on the sideline with one of his sons.