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Camp Observations: Day 2

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Passing along some observations from the Patriots second practice of their 2012 training camp, which was held in light shoulder pads for the second straight day:

Dennard leaves early. Rookie cornerback Alfonzo Dennard was treated by members of the Patriots training staff after suffering what appeared to be a right hamstring injury. He did not return to action and spent the latter portion of practice with an ice wrap.

Brady gets bandaged. Quarterback Tom Brady briefly stepped off the field to work with head trainer Jim Whalen, who appeared to apply some padding to the underside of his right foot. Brady returned to action shortly thereafter, and showed no ill affects.

Hernandez fields punts. Tight end Aaron Hernandez, who has lined up all over the formation for the Patriots’ offense in his first two seasons as a pro, may have added a new role to his game. Hernandez fielded punts during the special teams period (which were focused on the punt team, not the punt return team), appearing fairly comfortable. After practice, when addressing reporters, Hernandez expressed that he has previously worked as a punt and kick returner (he believed the last time he did so was in high school) and a willingness to have the football in his hands – no matter the role.

Gallery gets shot with veteran lineman. Free agent signee Robert Gallery, who worked primarily as part of a line that featured a number of younger players on Thursday, was a part of the more veteran group today. He played right guard, while Ryan Wendell – who worked as a guard yesterday – shuffled back to the center spot with the less experienced group. The Patriots may opt to mix and match with their offensive linemen throughout training camp as they continue to deal with the absences of a number of starters. Versatility will be on display.

Notable plays. Brady hooked up with Brandon Lloyd on two seam-stretching passes. … Ryan Mallett, who was inserted second after Brady during a couple of periods, connected with Julian Edelman on an out-breaking route. … defensive end Justin Francis showed some disruption on a pass rush, which forced a broken play from the offense. … linebacker Bobby Carpenter picked off Brady on a throw over the middle. Brady was trying to hook up with Wes Welker, and had to navigate his throw around a bag that a Patriots coach was holding up to simulate a defensive lineman’s hands in the air. … Brady responded by connecting with Jabar Gaffney in a nearly identical spot on the very next play. … Mallett practically drilled safety Will Allen in the numbers with a throw, which the veteran made the easy interception on.

Punt teams take center stage. Yesterday, the Patriots drilled the kickoff return team extensively during practice. Today, it was the punt team. Situational punting appeared to be on display, with punter Zoltan Mesko practicing punting form the end zone, as well as plus-50 punting. In addition to Hernandez, other players taking punt returns were unchanged from offseason practices: wide receivers Julian Edelman, Wes Welker, and Deion Branch all fielded punts.

Screens aplenty. The Patriots have made their mark as one of the preeminent screen offenses in all of football for much of Bill Belichick’s tenure in Foxboro. They continued to use screens heavily on Friday, which highlighted the ability of their offensive linemen to get out in space, and the productivity of their complimentary blockers (tight ends, wide receivers, fullbacks).

Concentration key for receivers. The receiver group looks like it is working hard at ensuring they drop no passes in 2012. Wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea set up a number of drills that forced wide receivers to focus intensely on concentration, including waving a paddle in front of the players as a ball approached their hands.

All eyes on Brady. Though the Patriots leader on the field didn’t appear quite as sharp today as he did during the opening practice, he still had a productive day of work overall. He also will have resources to study his every move, as a camera filmed Brady and his fellow quarterbacks during team passing drills (both 7-on-7 and 11-on-11). Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has wowed his new organization with his attention to detail, which includes a camera on his feet during practice. Brady, a master of detail himself, and his fellow quarterbacks will likely continue to use this focused film as a learning tool throughout camp.

Gronk looks fit. Naturally, much attention has been paid to TE Rob Gronkowski’s surgically repaired ankle in recent days. From this angle, Gronk looked to be nearly at full go, displaying quite a bit of suddenness in his routes. That’s a positive sign for the 23-year old, who hopes to build off his record-setting 2011 season.

Odds and ends. The Patriots are entitled to practice in full pads starting tomorrow. … Special teams ace Matthew Slater, who sat out offseason activities with an undisclosed injury, was spotted with a sleeve around his lower left leg, as well as an apparatus near his right shoulder. No official word on whether or not these conditions were what held him back this offseason. … Wide receiver Britt Davis, who presents a unique package because of his frame, struggled with some drops today. … Opinion: both back-up quarterbacks logged better days on the field today than yesterday. … Situational football matters to Bill Belichick, and the team worked on its hurry-up field goal unit to close practice. Mastering such details now can pay off big during the season. For some perspective, many believe that a team without a timeout needs 22 seconds on the clock to run a play and rush the field goal team on the field (assuming the play does not stop the clock). The Patriots did not appear to be working with a game clock during the drill.

The scouts are in town. The Patriots area scouting staff was spotted on the sidelines of today’s practice, which is likely the last time they’ll assemble as a group for several months. It’s not uncommon for scouting staffs to congregate during the beginning on NFL training camps (prior to college camps opening up) and review their guidelines for the season while also taking in the scenes from a handful of practices. Though the scouts will have access to the coaches’ film of their team during the season, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to see the team play live. Attending practice now affords them the chance to study the players’ skill sets and body types, an important aspect to scouting. Down the line, when asked to compare college prospects to a player on the Patriots’ current roster, these scouts will likely draw from their experience at camp today.

Attendance list: Guard Brian Waters remained absent from training camp, while a pair of offensive linemen, Jeremiah Warren and recent signee Darrion Weems, made their first appearances on the field. Warren was activated from the PUP list after passing his conditioning test, and Weems was officially signed prior to practice. Guard Logan Mankins, tackle Sebastian Vollmer, offensive lineman Nick McDonald, receiver Jeremy Ebert, and tight end Daniel Fells, who are all currently on the active/PUP list, as well as tackle Markus Zusevics (active/NFI) were spotted on the sidelines during practice. This was the first we have seen of Fells since he was signed earlier this offseason. The only PUP player not spotted during the session was defensive lineman Myron Pryor. Rookie safety Nate Ebner was once again a non-participant with an undisclosed injury. Linebacker Brandon Spikes, who was recently activated from the PUP list, was limited throughout the practice, just as he was yesterday. He was part of a group of players who worked on the sidelines with the trainers doing stretching exercises while the rest of the team ran wind sprints at the end of practice. This group also included the PUP list players, and offensive lineman Jeremiah Warren, defensive lineman Gerard Warren, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, and offensive lineman Kyle Hix.