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Tre Nixon makes a nice connection with Mac Jones, and other observations from Patriots minicamp

Tre Nixon took part in drills on the opening day of mandatory minicamp in Foxborough.Steven Senne/Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH — Battle scars aren’t normally collected during NFL minicamps, where defenders pretty much must keep their hands to themselves, and any contact is incidental.

But there was second-year receiver Tre Nixon sporting a bloodied left knee following a nifty diving catch early at Tuesday’s opening day of Patriots mandatory minicamp.

It was the signature play on a day when Mac Jones shined, completing his first 20 passes and finishing 21 of 22 during competitive team drills.

Nixon ran a deep up-and-out route and Jones dropped a dime in his sliding receiver’s hands despite pretty tight coverage from Jonathan Jones.


“It was just one of those plays where it’s a shock play where you know your number’s called, so you get a little excited coming to the line of scrimmage,” said Nixon. “And whenever I can just make a play for the team, get some energy to the offense, I’m willing to do it.”

Nixon said Jones’s toss was “right on the money,” and that went for most of his throws on a partly sunny day that offered optimal conditions

It was one of a handful of impressive plays from Jones, who also hit DeVante Parker on a sideline route (the receiver skyed to win the ball over Jalen Mills) and a low pinpointer to Jonnu Smith, who slid to make the catch with Adrian Phillips on him.

Jones stayed long after the practice session was over and fired balls to a couple of staffers.

“He’s a great player,” said Nixon. “I’ll let him speak for what he’s got going on, but as you can tell, just on the field when you’re watching him, he’s making tremendous strides.”

Some other observations from the two-hour session.

▪ Only a half-dozen players were not on hand: kickers Nick Folk and Quinn Nordin; offensive linemen Chasen Hines and Andrew Stueber; receiver Kendrick Bourne; and defensive lineman Byron Cowart. Bill Belichick said all the absences were excused.


▪ Rookie corner/returner Marcus Jones wore a red noncontact jersey. He, along with running back James White, offensive tackle Trent Brown, receiver Jakobi Meyers, and tight end Hunter Henry, likely would have been categorized as “limited” had this been a regular-season session.

▪ Belichick acted as a snapper for Jones during one individual drill.

▪ Projected starting offensive tackles Trent Brown and Isaiah Wynn swapped sides at least for the day, with Brown playing on the left and Wynn on the right. Brown has experience playing both, while this is Wynn’s first taste of the right side. Wynn had a lengthy tutorial side session with Matt Patricia.

▪ Wynn, linebacker Matthew Judon, and receiver N’Keal Harry were among the notable names who haven’t been at OTAs but reported for duty.

▪ Things got a little heated at the end of practice when cornerback Terrance Mitchell knocked a ball out of receiver Nelson’s Agholor’s hands. Judon and Cole Strange collided as they dove for the loose piggy, and several players took exception to the physicality. A couple of shoves were exchanged but it de-escalated quickly. It was the final play of the day, and Belichick sent the players to run the hill after things simmered down.

▪ Safety Kyle Dugger turned in the defensive play of the day when he made a fingertip interception of Brian Hoyer’s slight overthrow to Smith. Questioned about whether he secured the ball before it hit the ground, Dugger joked, “We got the challenge flag out. It’s all right.”


▪ Smith took a penalty lap after a false-start infraction.

▪ Jake Bailey is still blasting ridiculously high and deep punts. The returners — Jack Jones, Myles Bryant, and Dugger — dealt with a stiff wind but were perfect on their catches.

▪ Jones rolled out and ran on one play, and defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. snatched the flag out of the quarterback’s shorts.

▪ Linebacker Jahlani Tavai had a breakup on a Bailey Zappe pass.

▪ Wise and Christian Barmore did a minor celebration dance after a coverage sack.

▪ Belichick opened his media availability by expressing his disappointment that Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy had been fired. “I’ll always support the Bruins, but he was a good friend, and somebody I had a really good relationship with,” said the coach. “Took the team to the playoffs and got pretty close in the finals and all that. I understand what the business is, but I’ll miss him.”

▪ Belichick also had fond words for Romeo Crennel, his former defensive coordinator and frequent squash opponent, who retired after 39 years in the NFL: “Certainly we, and I personally, owe a huge debt of gratitude to Romeo for what he did for me, what he did for our football team, and the success that we had with him here, but also on a personal level, with the Giants.”


Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.