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Patriots practice 26: Observations

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Student assistant Mike Rodak files some of his observations from Tuesday morning’s practice, the Patriots’ 26th of training camp, which was held in shorts and shoulder pads on the three practice fields behind the Atlanta Falcons training facility. There was periodic drizzle throughout practice, as well as high humidity; however, temperatures were lower than normal for the area.

13 players not at practice. There were 13 players who were not spotted on the practice fields; this presumably means these players did not make the trip to Atlanta. Those players were linebackers Jermaine Cunningham, Gary Guyton, Tully Banta-Cain, and Dane Fletcher; defensive backs Leigh Bodden, Terrence Johnson, Bret Lockett, and Josh Barrett; offensive linemen George Bussey and Nick Kaczur; wide receivers Darnell Jenkins and Matthew Slater; and defensive lineman Damione Lewis. Meanwhile, linebacker Thomas Williams was on the fields in a t-shirt and shorts and watched the session from the sidelines.

Difference in practice tempo. Tuesday morning’s practice was held in shorts and shoulder pads, but it did not stop the Patriots from practicing at a high tempo. The difference between the intensity of the Patriots’ players and the Falcons’ was noticeable. The Patriots were quick on and off the field, and in and out of the huddle. There was also a high level of communication from the Patriots’ defense, as the Patriots’ coaching staff continued to work on sideline management, using hand signals and helmet radios.

Focus on deep ball. The clear focus of the Patriots’ offense on Tuesday morning was the deep pass. On one such play early in 11-on-11 work, Tom Brady connected with Randy Moss, who beat two defensive backs on the play. The crowd, the largest for the Falcons in training camp, roared. Moss later had a one-handed catch on a long pass down the right sideline. There was also a long pass attempt to tight end Aaron Hernandez, who dove but could not reach an overthrown pass.

Brady uses towel in drill. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady kept a towel with him during skeleton passing drills, but it was not just for drying his hands. He tucked the towel under his left shoulder as he dropped back and threw each pass, working on a mechanics issue.

Dimitroff re-unites. Falcons general manager Tom Dimitroff, who spent six years in the Patriots’ scouting department, spent part of the morning re-connecting with old friends on the team. In particular, Dimitroff and Patriots player personnel director Nick Caserio re-united on the field. At his Monday morning press conference, Caserio recalled his days working with Dimitroff scouting on the road and the relationship the two still share.

Falcons enter “cool zone.” About halfway through practice, the horn sounded for a 5-minute break. The Patriots do not take breaks during their practices, but in the warmer southern climate, many teams like the Falcons play it safe. At the end of the practice fields were three tents with benches and fans, where the Falcons players cooled down during the break. The Patriots players didn’t seem interested in stopping but still took the opportunity for a quick breather.