FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A daily review of hot topics coming out of training camp:
The team's first practice provided a snapshot of how the team plans to manage tight end Rob Gronkowski as he works his way back from surgery on his torn right ACL on Jan. 9. Gronkowski participated in individual drills, but not in any of the 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 drills. Gronkowski had a brace over the knee, and is still wearing a protective cover over his previously injured left forearm. He didn't seem reluctant running, cutting and planting, and at the end of practice spent some extra time on the field catching passes from quarterback Tom Brady. At the same time, it's clear that this is going to be a gradual process in bringing Gronkowski along.
Receiver Aaron Dobson, the 2013 second-round draft choice who the Patriots hope can provide a downfield thread and size (6-foot-3) on the perimeter, has opened camp on the active/physically unable to perform list after undergoing surgery March 10 for a stress fracture in his left foot. Dobson spent the practice working with strength coaches Harold Nash and Moses Cabrera, at one point doing some pretty aggressive running. This is supposed to be a big year for Dobson after a full year in the system, yet in his absence, second-year receiver Kenbrell Thompkins stepped in and made a few notable catches. One of them -- a diving grab in the back right-hand corner of the end zone, had quarterback Tom Brady heaping praise on him after the practice.
While Dobson is among a small handful of players not yet cleared for practice, it is significant that defensive tackle and captain Vince Wilfork was a full participant as he is coming off a ruptured Achilles on Sept. 29, 2013. Wilfork looks like he might have shed some weight.
Quarterback Tom Brady, Mayo and Wilfork drew huge media crowds on a day that NFL.com, the New York Daily News, the New York Post and the Toronto Sun were on hand to cover the team from more of a national perspective. One of the more notable comments came from running backs coach Ivan Fears, who touched on how rookie James White (fourth round, 130th overall) has made a strong first impression. "I like his running style," Fears said, via the Boston Herald. "He runs like a big guy for a little guy (5-10, 205). He plays big. He works hard. Right now, he's doing everything right. It's hard not to be in love with him."
By the time players and coaches arrived on the field for the 9:45 a.m. ET practice, the bleachers surrounding the two practice fields were filled. The team announced an official attendance of 7,822. This was an increase from last year, when 6,390 fans showed up in a heavy rainstorm. The Patriots' single-session record for a training camp practice is 12,163, set in 2012.