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Annual fumble drill in Patriots camp was a big splash for rookies

Rookie lineman Cole Strange suggested that he might want to go through the hose drill more often.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

FOXBOROUGH — It was a pretty cool scene on a pretty toasty day.

It was the annual Slip ‘N Slide day at Patriots training camp, when the rookies are tasked with trying to corral a soaked football on saturated turf while being blasted by a hose held by Matthew Slater.

This year’s fun came with an appropriate soundtrack, as Rose Royce’s “Car Wash” boomed in the background.

With temperatures in the mid 90s and the humidity at tropical levels, it wasn’t necessarily the punishment it’s been in past years. The hilarity level, however, was as good as it gets.

“I think it was supposed to be a fumble recovery thing where we’re supposed to go and grab it,” said first-rounder Cole Strange. “The thing is, as soon as they threw it on the ground, Slater would aim it at the ball, so you would dive and miss — and he’d get an extra five seconds to spray.”

For Slater, now in his 15th training camp, it’s a rite of passage like no other.

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“It’s great to be on the other side of the hose,” he said with huge smile. “I think that, as much as we can, keeping tradition is important. I think things evolve and things change, but there’s certain things that you hope become linchpins of a place. And I think that’s the form of a linchpin.

“Look, we don’t love hazing our guys, because we see them as equals and . . . they’re our peers, but yeah, we’ve got to make it a little tough from time to time. So, it was a hot day out here. They got a chance to cool off.”

With the stifling conditions, the water-logged newbies didn’t seem to mind the extra weight.

“I feel like I practiced better today, so maybe we should do it more often,” said Strange. “I don’t know if anybody else would be a fan of that, though.”

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Blazing rookie Tyquan Thornton, who is listed at 182 pounds (soaking wet), also wasn’t affected, as he turned in another solid day. He also said he successfully corralled the loose piggy, despite the conditions.

Jalen Mills, a seven-year veteran, enjoyed the theater, as it reminded him of his rookie baptism with the Eagles.

Tyquan Thornton adjusts his headband as he takes a breather after Thursday's workout.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

“I got taped to the goalpost,” Mills said. “Malcolm Jenkins was one of my vets, him and Rodney McLeod. They had the automatic water squirter and put it in my jersey and just left it on. I was stuck out there for like 30 minutes soaking wet.”

Quick on the uptake

While all the rookies are wet behind the ears at this stage, one of the pups showing marked improvement is quarterback Bailey Zappe.

The fourth-rounder has taken advantage of recent absences by Brian Hoyer and improved his accuracy and poise seemingly every practice.

“He’s making progress every day,” Bill Belichick said. “Every day’s a learning day for him. Every day is a good day; he does some things better, then we put some new things in. Sometimes that’s a process, depending on what it is and how familiar he is with it and how comfortable he is with it.”

Zappe, who likely will see his snaps dip when Hoyer is back to 100 percent, will get a big test next Thursday when the Giants come to town for the first exhibition game. Belichick is interested to see how that plays out.

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“He works hard, and he’s smart, and he has a good skill set and, I would say, good anticipation in the passing game,” the coach said. “But we’ll see what happens when we start playing and he gets hit a couple times and all that.

“There are things that we just can’t see out here that will be a factor. But, going in the right direction.”


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