FOXBOROUGH — Summer break got started a little early for Patriots players and staff, when the team announced Thursday morning that the planned final minicamp practice and media access had been canceled.
It’s safe to assume Bill Belichick was pleased with the amount of work his team got done this week and throughout the spring. He also canceled the final day of minicamp last year.
Thanks to the new rookie wage scale, there is very little housekeeping for New England to do over the coming weeks — six of the team’s seven draft picks have signed contracts. Only receiver Aaron Dobson, the 59th overall pick, is not signed.
The Patriots will reconvene July 24 or 25 for the start of training camp.
Offseason shoulder surgery meant Aaron Hernandez saw very limited on-field reps during official team activities and minicamp; he was part of the rehab group that worked on the sideline during practices, and did catch passes from Tom Brady.
With so many new receivers on the roster and Rob Gronkowski’s availability up in the air because of pending back surgery, Hernandez will need to be healthy heading into the season.
“Shoulder’s doing great,” Hernandez said. “Better and better each day. Feeling good. Taking it day by day and hopefully by [the start of training camp] I’m ready. At the end of the day, you want to be healthy for the season. You don’t want to overdo it now and have it hurt you for the season. Just taking care of it, make sure you limit yourself and take it day by day.”
Owner Robert Kraft is an unabashed football fan. On Tuesday he was on the practice field in his team-color Nikes, taking in the Patriots’ first minicamp session, which was also Tim Tebow’s first practice with the team.
On Wednesday, he lamented that Thursday would be the final time his team would be practicing for six weeks — before he knew that Day 2 of minicamp ended up being the final time.
“It’s going to be tough getting to the end of July,” Kraft said. “I’m just really excited for this season and excited about the team we’re building.”
Asked what he’s noticed about the 2013 team to this point, Kraft allowed that he’s always excited in the spring, after the draft, but there’s no way to know at this point what these Patriots will become.
“In the end, you need two, three, four, five, six games and hope there are no injuries,” he said. “I am excited about this team. I think our young players from last year have improved. They’ve worked hard. We’ve seen the greatest jump in the past of so many of our players between the first and second year.
“With the salary cap and free agency, you have a player for four years and if you’re going to try to build a team and get good value, that second year is pretty important. We’ve been able to bring in some interesting free agents.”
New security rules
On Thursday, the NFL released a new Stadium Bag Policy, limiting the size and type of bags that can be brought into all NFL stadiums; it will go into effect at Gillette Stadium on Aug. 16, when the Patriots host Tampa Bay in the preseason.
According to a statement, New England will communicate directly with season ticket-holders on the process it will use to implement the new policy.
“The Patriots continuously offer the highest quality game-day experience and provide the most convenient service to our fans on entry into the stadium,” the statement read.
The new league policy will limit fans to bringing bags that are clear (see-through) plastic, vinyl or PVC; a small clutch bag, not to exceed 7 inches by 4 inches, may be brought into the stadium.
Coolers, backpacks, briefcases, and purses larger than a clutch that are not see-through are among the items now prohibited. For more information, visit NFL.com/allclear.