CB Alfonzo Dennard comes off PUP

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard joined teammates at practice for the first time on Tuesday after opening camp on the active/physically-unable-to-perform list following offseason shoulder surgery.

Dennard’s presence highlights the solid depth the Patriots have at the position, with Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Kyle Arrington (slot), Logan Ryan and Dennard the top players.

The Patriots will be without Browner for the first four games of the season due to NFL suspension. Dennard, who has started 20 games (including playoffs) in his first two NFL seasons, is a top candidate to fill that void, as is Ryan, who started seven games last season and led the team with five interceptions.

Dennard’s on-field presence was the most notable news item from Patriots headquarters on Tuesday morning, as coach Bill Belichick held a news conference before practice.

A few notes from Belichick:

  • With a players off on Monday, Belichick said the coaching staff had a chance to catch up on planning-based things.

  • Third-down, two-minute and down-and-distance situations will be a big part of practice this week as the staff prepares the team for more game-like situations.

  • Belichick on claiming rookie running back Tyler Gaffney (sixth round, Panthers) off waivers: “He had a real good year last year, went to Stanford, and then was in baseball for a year. I think he’s a good all-around back that we want to work with. He was available and we’ll see how it works out.”

  • Asked about veteran defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and his recovery from a ruptured Achilles tendon, Belichick acknowledged there are “a lot of positive signs” before adding that no player or coach is where he needs to be at this point.

  • When asked about players working with others in the offseason, such as Tom Brady with throwing coach Tom House, Belichick said the organization supports those decisions. He lamented that the team’s own coaches don’t have more time with players.

  • Asked about the progression made by center Ryan Wendell over the years, Belichick lauded Wendell for coming as far as almost any player he could think of in his 40-year career. “When he first got here, he couldn’t even make our practice squad,” he said. Belichick sidestepped a question when asked if the arrow is still pointing up for Wendell, who dipped in 2013 after a strong 2012 season, adding that’s what training camp competition will determine for all players.

  • Belichick on first-year offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo: “He’s smart, well-prepared, and he has a good rapport with his players. He’s a good communicator, works hard. Has a good level of experience. I’m definitely pleased with the job he’s doing. … We all have a long way to go.”