FOXBOROUGH — The Swamp is located in Gainesville, Fla., but you’d be hard pressed to convince anyone baking behind Gillette Stadium of that fact Sunday afternoon.
After two days off the field, the Patriots held one of the stickiest practices in recent memory, going through the paces for more than two hours with the heat index hovering around 105.
With the Bears arriving in town Monday for a pair of full-padded practices, plus a Wednesday walkthrough, the workout was held in shorts and shells. But that was of little consolation to the participants.
“It’s a really big day for us in terms of installation, getting caught up on the install that we haven’t put in that we need,’’ coach Bill Belichick said before practice. “We need to grind it out here and have another good week.’’
So grind it out they did, working on many things with an emphasis on punt return coverage, the two-minute offense, and red-zone work. In between, there were plenty of water breaks.
“It was hot today. It was a humid day,’’ said Tom Brady. “August is pretty unpredictable. We’ve had some colder days, some rainier days, some windier days, but today was pretty hot and humid.’’
Brady said days like Sunday help with conditioning, and practicing in extreme conditions prepares the team for unpredictable game conditions.
“Coach practices us outside basically every day unless we’re playing somewhere warm late in the year,’’ he said. “It’s just good to get out here and experience all these elements. We’ve got to get used to playing in whatever [the conditions are].’’
Devin McCourty also thinks practicing in the heat has benefits, plus he knows what’s right around the corner.
“We’re out here so we gotta just push through it,’’ he said. “I think it’s big for us . . . this always kind of prepares us. It was good man. I like these days, I’d rather this than the cold. I’m not gonna complain about the heat being up here, we know we’re gonna get that cold weather.’’
Ninkovich takes field
The big surprise of the day was the presence of defensive end Rob Ninkovich, who tore his triceps in last Monday’s practice.
Ninkovich was in his helmet, shells, and shorts and participated in stretching and light running before heading off to the lower conditioning field with some teammates.
There’s no indication Ninkovich will be ready to be a full participant any time soon, but his appearance on the field just five days after suffering the injury is a positive sign.
Fellow defensive end Jabaal Sheard was a notable absence. Sheard was seen consulting with medical personnel a couple of times during the Saints game for an undisclosed ailment but appeared fine postgame.
Receiver Julian Edelman wasn’t quite a full participant Sunday but did stay on the upper fields the entire practice — an encouraging sign after he left Tuesday’s practice after experiencing discomfort in his surgically repaired left foot.
Edelman took part in passing drills and punt returns — he showed some excellent jump-cut moves during his reps — but did not participate in any full-team drills.
On a related note, fellow receiver Chris Hogan shed his red, noncontact jersey — he had a minor shoulder injury two weeks back — and was a full participant. Jonathan Freeny (shoulder) also was out of his red jersey.
Ebner due back
Nate Ebner is expected back on the practice field Monday after returning from Rio de Janeiro where he played rugby for Team USA. To make room, the team released rookie offensive lineman Kyler Kerberson . . . The team spent a lot of time on punt return coverage during practice. Belichick said “it was not good at all” against the Saints, when the team yielded several big returns, including a 48-yarder that set up a New Orleans touchdown. “We’ve practiced it,’’ said the coach. “We just didn’t do it very well. We’ve obviously got to coach it better, got to execute it better. Hopefully we’ll be able to do that.’’