FOXBOROUGH – The Patriots returned to the practice field on Sunday for the first time since their preseason game against Washington on Thursday night. But the most notable news of the day involved a player not in attendance.
The Patriots practiced Sunday without quarterback Ryan Mallett, who was nowhere to be found. Bill Belichick declined to give a reason for Mallett’s absence, but it’s possible that the Patriots were taking it easy on him following Thursday’s game. Mallett didn’t show any obvious signs of injury in his post-game press conference, but he took several big hits and also slid awkwardly in the first quarter when his knee brace got caught up in the turf at FedEx Field.
Otherwise, Sunday’s practice was a relatively light 2-hour affair as the team gears up for two physical practices with the Eagles later this week. The team mostly worked on special teams and run-game drills, Rob Gronkowski returned to practice as expected and Jimmy Garoppolo got a lot of work with Mallett out of commission.
Let’s get on with today’s practice report:
Physically unable to perform: WR Aaron Dobson, WR Jeremy Gallon.
Non-football injury: DL Dominique Easley, OL Chris Martin
Missing: QB Ryan Mallett, TE Michael Hoomanawanui, DT Chris Jones, TE D.J. Williams, C Bryan Stork, DT Sealver Siliga, LB Ja’Gared Davis, LB Cameron Gordon, S Tavon Wilson, S Kanorris Davis
Returned to practice: RB Brandon Bolden, S Jemea Thomas, DE Jake Bequette
Limited/Non-contact: CB Alfonzo Dennard, WR Matthew Slater
Full pads, limited contact
■ WR Brian Tyms, who had a big game on Thursday night, made another great catch, going up over Logan Ryan to snag a 25-yard fade pass from Jimmy Garoppolo.
■ In 11-on-11 drills, DT L.T. Tuipulotu batted a Garoppolo pass up in the air at the line of scrimmage and snagged it for an interception.
■ Tyms: Keeps making plays in camp, and four-game suspension to start the season actually improves his chances of sticking with the team.
■ Garoppolo: Had a nice day throwing from the pocket, showing good touch and anticipation, to build on his solid performance on Thursday. Mallett being out only helps him.
■ DE Chandler Jones: Keeps getting work in 7-on-7 drills covering tight ends, which makes us wonder about how many different ways the Patriots plan to use him this year.
■ Ryan: Promising second-year cornerback had a rough game on Thursday night, allowing a touchdown with poor technique at the goal line, and gave up another big play on Sunday.
■ LT Nate Solder: Also had a rough game Thursday night, allowing a sack and committing a penalty, and continues to work with a lot of the backups in camp, perhaps a sign that the coaching staff believes he needs a lot of work.
■ Bolden: Good that he got back on the practice field, but he’s not going to make the team by dropping balls in 1-on-1 drills against linebackers.
Rob Gronkowski returned to practice after staying home last week, and returned to his old routine. He participated in individual drills but still hasn’t been cleared for contact. During special teams drills he did a lot of 1-on-1 work with Tom Brady, perhaps as makeup work for what they missed last week. Gronkowski said he doesn’t have a timetable for returning to contact and doesn’t know if he will be available for Week 1, though he would like to play in the season opener.
Odds and ends
■ Not a great day for the receivers. Kenbrell Thompkins dropped a slant pass that would have been a touchdown, and Josh Boyce had a bad drop over the middle, as well. Thompkins did have a really nice catch over CB Malcolm Butler in a hurry-up drill.
■ New TE Steve Maneri definitely wasn’t signed for his receiving skills. In 7-on-7 drills he had one pass go through his hands (it was a little high) and another glance off his facemask when he wasn’t looking.
■ The offensive line did well in 1-on-1 drills against the defensive linemen. Dan Connolly stuffed Joe Vellano, Sebastian Vollmer stood his ground against Michael Buchanan, and Marcus Cannon washed out Bequette.
■ The team ended practice after two hours and ran hill sprints to finish. They run sprints at the end of practice, possibly to get in shape for their Week 1 game at Miami, in which the weather figures to be very hot and humid.
Monday: Practice at Gillette Stadium, 2:30 p.m.
Tuesday: Joint practice with Eagles at Gillette Stadium, 2 p.m.
Wednesday: Joint practice with Eagles at Gillette Stadium, 2 p.m.
Thursday: No practice.
Friday: Exhibition game No. 2 vs. Eagles at Gillette Stadium, 7:30 p.m.