Patriots practice 22: Observations

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Student assistant Mike Rodak files some of his observations from Wednesday morning’s practice, the Patriots’ 22nd of training camp and the third and final joint practice with the New Orleans Saints. The session was held in full pads and in hot conditions:

Attendance steady. There were no changes in attendance from Tuesday afternoon’s session. Linebacker Marques Murrell returned to practice after being carted off at the end of the previous session. Six players were on the field but out of uniform: defensive lineman Ron Brace; cornerbacks Leigh Bodden and Terrence Johnson; wide receivers Matthew Slater and Torry Holt; and linebacker Gary Guyton. Players not seen on the practice field were safeties Josh Barrett and Bret Lockett; defensive lineman Ty Warren; and offensive lineman Nick Kaczur.

Players get heated. There were multiple instances of players getting tangled up with opposing players during punt returns. Patriots wide receiver Brandon Tate made the first move during practice, pushing Saints cornerback Reggie Jones into the Patriots sidelines after a punt return. Patriots cornerback Terrence Wheatley was involved in three others, getting heated with Saints wide receiver Montez Billings twice and Saints cornerback Leigh Torrence on a separate play.

Welker hauls in touchdown pass. During 11-on-11 work, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady rolled out to his left, with wide receiver Wes Welker tracking into the back corner of the end zone. Brady fired a pass to Welker, who came down with the catch along the side of the end zone. It was unclear whether Welker was able to get both feet in bounds; the official closest to the play made no indication on whether the catch was made.

Mistakes continue. After some subpar performances during Tuesday’s set of practices, mistakes continued through Wednesday morning. On a crossing route during 11-on-11 work, wide receiver Sam Aiken let a pass from Brian Hoyer hit him in the center of his body and bounce away. On at least one other pass, rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez attempted to make a one-hand catch, only to have the ball bounce off. Rookie quarterback Zac Robinson was also intercepted by Saints cornerback Danny Gorrer during the “opportunity session” at the end of practice.

Clayton returns; fumbles. Running back Thomas Clayton, who was waived by the Patriots last week, was re-signed on Wednesday morning. Most of his action in the practice came during the “opportunity session,” during which time Clayton fumbled on a run up the middle. At this point, he looks to have an uphill battle in order to make the Patriots roster.

Vollmer fully participates. After being on the field but not practicing for most of Tuesday afternoon’s session, offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer was back in the mix with the top unit on Wednesday morning.