FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- ESPNBoston.com intern Mike Rodak files some of his observations from Friday morning's practice, the Patriots' third of training camp, which was held in full pads and in sunny, warm conditions:
Sam Aiken returns. Wide receiver/special teamer Sam Aiken returned to the practice field after missing both sessions on Thursday. Elsewhere, wide receiver Matt Slater, safety Bret Lockett, and running back Thomas Clayton, all of whom were hobbled in Thursday afternoon’s practice, were out of uniform. They were joined in rehab work on the side by Wes Welker, Darnell Jenkins, and Ron Brace, all of whom have yet to practice.
Kyle Love, Ty Warren don't finish practice. By the end of Friday's practice, the Patriots were down two defensive linemen. After stretching concluded at the opening of practice, rookie lineman Kyle Love took off his pads and was seen working with the team’s training staff, stretching what appeared to be a lower back or hamstring injury. He was later seen watching the defensive line drills, clipboard in hand. Near the end of practice, Ty Warren was tended to by trainers at midfield during full-team red zone drills. He then walked back to his teammates but did not return to practice.
Punting in focus. The team’s punt units practiced at two separate points during practice, giving rookie punter Zoltan Mesko (2010 fifth-round pick) his first substantial action of camp. The University of Michigan product, who is the only punter on the roster, was inconsistent, shanking some punts while booming others. At gunner, second-year Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington was joined by rookie cornerback Devin McCourty, who broke through a double-team on one punt and was frequently the first player to the returner. Wide receivers Julian Edelman, Brandon Tate, Taylor Price, and Buddy Farnham all saw time at returner.
Defensive line changes. In a departure from Thursday’s sessions, normal nose tackle Vince Wilfork lined up at defensive end for the majority of full team work. Gerard Warren stepped in at nose tackle.
Defense pumped up. For the third straight session, the team focused on the red zone for much of its 11-on-11 work. On one play, rookie linebacker Brandon Spikes and second-year linebacker Tyrone McKenzie combined on a thunderous hit to stop one of the offense’s attempts at the end zone (running back Laurence Maroney was the ball-carrier). On the next play, the unit combined for another goal line stop, leading to celebration among the defense.