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Rob Gronkowski among 20-plus Patriots held out; Jimmy Garoppolo is up and down

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A few thoughts on the New England Patriots' 22-11 preseason-opening loss to the Green Bay Packers:

What it means: The Patriots didn't dress 23 players, and in addition to that, kept top talents such as tight end Rob Gronkowski, offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer and linebackers Jerod Mayo and Dont'a Hightower on the sideline. So there isn't too much to read into this game in which Tom Brady made a surprise start and played seven snaps. More than anything, it was a good chance for young players to get some game experience.

Stat of note, Part I: I charted Jimmy Garoppolo on the field for 49 snaps, as he came on late in the first quarter and played deep into the fourth quarter. He struggled at times, particularly throwing down the field, which doesn't reflect what we've seen on the training camp practice field. The Packers blitzed quite a bit, and where this wasn't a big, game-planning type of situation, it put Garoppolo in harm's way often. Garoppolo didn't get consistent help from his blockers. Meanwhile, his management of the offense with less than one minute remaining in the second quarter, when he took a sack before Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 56-yard field goal, will be a good teaching tool for him. Overall, he seemed to settle down in the second half and play better than he did in the first half.

Stat of note, Part II: How about cornerback Malcolm Butler getting the star veteran treatment? He played the first series of the game, then remained on the sideline the rest of the way, a reminder of his status as the team's top player at the position at this time. And to think he was an undrafted free agent last year clawing for a roster spot.

Injuries of note: Cornerback Darryl Roberts, the seventh-round draft choice out of Marshall, left the game late in the first quarter and headed to the locker room. Doctors appeared to be looking at his hand on the sideline. Later in the quarter, rookie defensive end Trey Flowers, the fourth-round pick from Arkansas, walked off with athletic trainers and headed to the locker room. In the fourth quarter, promising first-year defensive end Rufus Johnson remained down after a pass rush and walked to the locker room for further evaluation. None of the three injured players returned to the game.

What's next: The Patriots hold their final open practice of training camp on Saturday (9:15 a.m. ET), will travel for joint practices with the Saints on Wednesday and Thursday, then face the Saints in the second preseason game on Saturday, Aug. 22 (7:30 p.m. ET). There's also the ongoing settlement talks between Brady and the NFL regarding Brady's four-game suspension, with attorneys for both sides filing briefs by Friday and due in court again Wednesday.