Patriots practice 9 observations

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Student assistant Mike Rodak files some of his observations from Monday morning’s practice, the Patriots' ninth of training camp, which was held in full pads. The session was shorter than usual, and most of the drills were not conducted at full speed.

Stephen Neal, Thomas Williams return. After missing Sunday afternoon’s practice, guard Stephen Neal and linebacker Thomas Williams returned to the field. However, 10 players remained out of action. Defensive backs Terrence Johnson and Jonathan Wilhite, defensive linemen Mike Wright and Ron Brace, and running back Thomas Clayton were on the field but in shorts and t-shirts. Offensive lineman Nick Kaczur, defensive lineman Ty Warren and wide receiver Matthew Slater continue to be absent from the practice field, while safety Bret Lockett and linebacker Gary Guyton were also not spotted. Guyton suffered a knee injury in Sunday afternoon’s practice, but it was not considered serious.

Aaron Hernandez and tight ends in focus. Rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez was a frequent target during passing and 11-on-11 work. He made the catch of the day on a pass from quarterback Brian Hoyer, and later in the practice hauled in a deep sideline pass before losing it going to the ground. Meanwhile, fellow rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski continues to see more time as an in-line tight end, with Hernandez seeing most of his reps standing up. During 11-on-11 work, Gronkowski dropped a pass on a crossing route and was visibly frustrated afterwards.

Rookies get soaked. An annual training camp tradition, the team’s rookies and first-year players had to slide though a soaked portion of the far practice field, with Tom Brady and a garden hose making sure each player was completely wet before returning to practice. Last year, second-year players Tyrone McKenzie and Brandon Tate were both injured and were not on the practice field for the "event", but only McKenzie took the plunge this year. Tate successfully stayed hidden behind a group of defensive linemen. Even safeties coach Corwin Brown, in his first year as a coach with the team, got watered down.

Family affair. The two sons of head coach Bill Belichick – Stephen and Brian – are a usual sight on the Patriots’ practice fields during training camp. With the team’s specialists seeing little work, special teams coach Scott O’Brien took about 10 minutes of practice to teach the elder Belichick son, Stephen, how to long snap. Coach Belichick and Brian observed his performance from across the practice fields.