Big takeaway: Dobson's absence

FOXBOROUGH -- On the first day of training camp, the "big takeaway" from this perspective was the presence of rookie receivers Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce on the practice field.

"Things move fast in training camp and missed time early can set a rookie back, especially a receiver attempting to develop a rapport with quarterback Tom Brady," we wrote.

Then, on Day 2, the "big takeaway" was on the team's youth at receiver, and the meaningful repetitions they were getting with Brady so early in camp. It was different than the norm, and it generated some early momentum for Dobson, Boyce and rookie free agent Kenbrell Thompkins, in particular.

By Day 4, Brady himself was echoing those thoughts.

"I think it’s so critical for the younger players to be able to practice every day, and come out and make the improvements," he said. "Coach talks about that all the time and the only way to get better is to practice repetition, so if you come out and you miss a week of training camp, that’s a big deal. There’s a lot of installation, there’s a lot of learning that goes on."

So on Tuesday's Day 5, the "big takeaway" came to the forefront just as practice began -- it was the absence of Dobson.

The second-round draft choice from Marshall, who was off to a strong start in camp, didn't participate in the session. He ended up showing up, in shorts and T-shirt, about midway through and watched the rest of the practice as a spectator.

Our best guess? Dobson tweaked something in Monday night's in-stadium practice, as those watching him closely recalled that he fell at one point and might have been shaken up. Others have said he was cleated and could return as soon as Thursday.

The best-case scenario for the Patriots is that the athletic training staff, factoring in Wednesday's day off, wanted to give Dobson an extra day to recover as a precaution. As much as Dobson would have benefitted from being on the field for a practice in which red-zone passing was featured (at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Dobson projects as a red-zone factor), this is still the time to take a longer-range view.

So without overreacting, this moves closer to the top of the list of things to monitor when the Patriots are back on the practice field Thursday: Is Dobson ready to return to action?

As Brady said, this time is critical for young players, especially someone like Dobson whom the team is counting on for significant contributions.