FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Observations from Tuesday afternoon's practice, the Patriots' eighth of training camp, which was held in full pads and in warm and sunny conditions.
Vereen and Dowling debut. Fresh off signing their rookie contracts, second round draft selections running back Shane Vereen and Ras-I Dowling were in uniform and full participants in Tuesday afternoon's practice.
Sanders returns, Wendell not spotted. James Sanders was a full participant in Tuesday afternoon's practice, signaling that the veteran safety has come off the active/non-football injury list. Meanwhile, defensive tackle Kyle Love returned to action after missing Sunday's practice. Offensive lineman Ryan Wendell was not spotted for the first time this camp, while running back Eric Kettani missed his third straight day of practice. Eight players were in shorts and t-shirts for the session: offensive linemen Kyle Hix, Mike Berry, and Marcus Cannon (Berry and Cannon on active/NFI); defensive linemen Myron Pryor, Ron Brace, and Brandon Deaderick (all on active/PUP); long snapper Matt Katula; and linebacker/safety Josh Barrett.
Linebacker Tracy White, and offensive linemen Matt Light and Logan Mankins all took in the session from the sidelines, kept out of action until Thursday due to CBA transition rules. Other players falling into that category but not seen at practice were running backs Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk; defensive lineman Steve Williams; cornerback Kyle Arrington; and safety Brandon McGowan. Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis and offensive lineman Nate Solder remain out of action as unsigned restricted free agent and unsigned draft choice, respectively.
Depth at offensive line tested. With rookie Kyle Hix and veteran Ryan Wendell missing practice, and returning free agents Light and Mankins not able to practice, the offensive line had only eight players in uniform on Tuesday afternoon. Center/guard Rich Ohrnberger took reps with the top unit in Wendell's place, while defensive lineman Landon Cohen and Darryl Richard were offensive line stand-ins for one half-speed drill early in practice. With three roster spots still open, this could be one area were the Patriots decide to bring in extra bodies for practice.
Patricia's role in focus. Linebackers coach last season, Matt Patricia was named safeties coach this past spring. However, Patricia appears to be continuing to take on more of a defensive coordinator-like role. At one end of the field, defensive backs coach Josh Boyer handled the safeties for a passing drill, while Patricia coached linebackers at the other end of the field in a pass protection drill. Patricia also wore the defensive headset for a practice late last week.
Belichick gets creative with QB distraction. During a 'skeleton' passing drill (no offensive/defensive lines), head coach Bill Belichick used a blocking pad to distract the quarterback. Belichick would stand at the line of scrimmage with the pad, and in some cases, throw it directly at the quarterback. From pouring water on footballs to distracting field goal kickers, Belichick is known for keeping his players on edge with unexpected variables.
Bruschi takes it in. Former linebacker Tedy Bruschi, now an ESPN NFL analyst, took in the first part of Tuesday afternoon's practice, chatting with owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick, and other Patriots players and staff members.