FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Wrapping up the 12th day of training camp and the key storylines:
Officials in the house. For the first time at training camp, officials worked the practice. These were replacement officials (the regular officials are in a standoff with the league) and director of player personnel Nick Caserio said their presence was a benefit to everyone involved.
Spikes among those held out. Middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, who underwent offseason knee surgery and was eased into the mix at the start of training camp, missed practice. His potential injury status bears monitoring.
Prep work for Saints begins. The Patriots altered their schedule, practicing at 9 a.m. instead of the usual 1:30 p.m. time slot. This allowed the coaches to spend parts of the afternoon looking at the Saints' preseason opener, so they could be prepared for meetings with players at night.
Help for the offensive line. With thin numbers up front, the Patriots got a boost as center/guard Nick McDonald was eligible to practice in full pads for the first time. But in a sign of how short they are depth-wise, McDonald was kicked out to offensive tackle. Reserve offensive tackles Darrion Weems (leg/knee) and Kyle Hix (left arm/shoulder), who were injured Sunday, didn't practice. Rookie free agent signee Derek Dennis also practiced for the first time, working at right guard.
Rookie slip and slide. The team's annual tradition of putting rookies through a "slip and slide" before practice continued, with defensive lineman Vince Wilfork doing the honors as designated hose holder. Rookies had to recover a fumble while they got doused by water, with Wilfork liberally keeping the hose pointed in their direction. First-round draft choice Chandler Jones led things off.
Saints arrive in town. In advance of Tuesday's joint practice, the Saints arrived in town and held a walkthrough at Gillette Stadium.
Lloyd holds court. Patriots receiver Brandon Lloyd held court with reporters after practice, and explained how he visualizes making receptions. His most notable comment: "I feel like every ball is catchable."
House works with Brady. Quarterback Tom Brady had his personal throwing coach, Tom House, on the field to work with him. Just another reminder of how Brady focuses on the fundamentals and little things.
Star performer of the day. Jerod Mayo. Probably long overdue that he lands in this category, as he's had a strong camp. The linebacker caught the eye on Monday with disruptive penetration in 11-on-11 work, and overall strong work in the run game.
Tough day at the office. Brandon Lloyd. Receiver drops a long would-be touchdown pass from Tom Brady.
Storyline to monitor. Deion Branch and his place on the roster. He has been limited in practice for the last few days, giving the coaching staff a long look at Donte' Stallworth.
Rookie watch. Defensive end Chandler Jones continues to run with the top unit and is getting a lot of reps. ... Ditto for linebacker Dont'a Hightower ... Saw a lot of safety Tavon Wilson covering tight ends, which could be a niche for him on D.