By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The above photo is from early on in the New England Patriots’ ninth practice of 2018 training camp, but the sky looked much different by the end. As the practice wound down, the skies opened up for an impeccably timed torrential downpour. That didn’t stop the team from doing their end-of-practice hill sprints, though.
Overall, the practice was noticeably light in terms of intensity. They ran some 11-on-11 drills, but only the second team played with full contact. Tom Brady got back to work with the first team offense, but not with his newest target. The newly acquired Eric Decker is probably going to need some time before he can get real reps in those drills.
But there were still some things to take away from today’s relatively shortened, simple session. Here’s what we got…
— Absent: OT Marcus Cannon, RB Sony Michel, LB Marquis Flowers, OL Jason King
— PUP: S Nate Ebner, CB Cyrus Jones, CB Jonathan Jones
— WR Kenny Britt warmed up in full pads for the second straight day, and this time participated in some early drills with the rest of the receivers. But he soon departed for the lower field to work with players on PUP, and at one point made his way back to the main field to spend time with his kids while 11-on-11 drills went on. He’s gradually working his way back.
— WR Malcolm Mitchell returned to full pads, but only warmed up with the team before departing. Good sign that he’s stretching with the team, however, making progress amid continued injury concerns.
— Per Jeff Howe, RB Sony Michel is dealing with a minor knee issue. Unclear when he’ll be able to return to practice.
— Decker worked with Brady and Brian Hoyer with Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, and Phillip Dorsett while special teams drills took place on the adjacent field. Caught a couple of passes from Brady. He also had a nice 1-on-1 chat with No. 12 as he gets up to speed with his new team. Decker has, in the words of Bill Belichick, a long way to go.
— While that was going on, the return units got in some more work. Rex Burkhead, Braxton Berrios, and Riley McCarron alternated reps. McCarron muffed one in the end zone, but caught others. Burkhead looks to be tracking the ball well as a punt returner and could have a legit shot at that role.
— RB Mike Gillislee got most of the reps running the ball, with Ralph Webb mixed in. Rest for Burkhead, James White, Jeremy Hill, and Brandon Bolden.
— Deatrich Wise and Adrian Clayborn again got starting reps at defensive end. Trey Flowers has had a relatively quiet camp so far, but he’s also been dealing with a cut on his head. He told reporters after practice that he had to get three stitches.
— Brady completed passes to Hogan, Dorsett, Edelman, McCarron, Gronkowski, and Jacob Hollister in non-competitive team drills.
— More situational work in team drills ahead of their first preseason game against the Washington Redskins next Thursday at Gillette Stadium. They ran a couple of end-of-half Hail Mary plays, one of which Dorsett caught. They also practiced kneeing the ball to center it for a field goal attempt.
— The one true highlight play came from the second unit in the only competitive 11-on-11 drills of the team. Tight end Ryan Izzo reeled in a nifty one-handed catch from Danny Etling, pinning the ball to his side. Not to be outdone, defensive back A.J. Moore laid the wood on him, but Izzo was able to hold onto it as he fell. Nice moment for the seventh-round pick, who’s fighting for a roster spot, as well as Moore, an undrafted rookie.
The Patriots get days off on Sunday and Monday before getting back to work on Tuesday in Foxboro. More practice coverage coming then.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.