Observations from Patriots camp: Day 18

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Observations from the New England Patriots' 12th practice of training camp, which was held in full pads on a hot afternoon on the fields behind Gillette Stadium:

New absences: Quarterback Ryan Mallett; linebacker James Anderson; defensive linemen Chris Jones and Sealver Siliga. Mallett had extended work last week and it should also be noted that he has been wearing a brace over his left knee and had an awkward slide in Thursday's preseason opener. Jones (left ankle) and Siliga (left hand) were injured last week.

Who returned: Tight end Rob Gronkowski (absent at joint practices with Washington); running back Brandon Bolden (unknown, didn't travel to joint practices last week); rookie defensive back Jemea Thomas (had only practiced Day 1 of camp before sustaining an undisclosed injury).

Good sign from Stork: Rookie center Bryan Stork rejoined his teammates at practice, but did not have on any pads. Stork worked on footwork and power on the punching bag and spent a good amount of time on the elliptical. This was a significant sighting because it means Stork's lower leg injury, sustained midway through the fifth training camp practice, is healing and his return to practice is potentially on the radar. Linebacker Ja'Gared Davis and safety Kanorris Davis were also not in pads.

Who else didn’t practice: Receiver Aaron Dobson (foot/PUP), offensive tackle Chris Martin (non-football-injury list), defensive lineman Dominique Easley (non-football-injury list), receiver Jeremy Gallon (unknown/PUP), tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (unknown, participated in first four practices), tight end D.J. Williams (right leg), linebacker Cameron Gordon (unknown, participated in first six practices), Stork (lower leg, left midway through fifth practice), Ja'Gared Davis (undisclosed injury last Monday in joint practices with Redskins), Kanoris Davis (unknown, played in preseason opener).

Full pads, but a quiet practice: Despite being in full pads, the team did not engage in much contact during drills. It was a quiet day with a lot of walkthroughs in the running game and individual drills throughout the first half of practice. The Patriots will amp up the energy once they start joint practices with the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday.

Heavy focus on kickoff returns on special teams: With the practice closed to the public, it was easy to hear special teams coach Scott O’Brien shouting at players during kick returns. Blocking and having returners hit the correct gaps were focal points of the return game. Running back Roy Finch and wide receiver Josh Boyce took the majority of reps as kick returners.

2-minute drill: With Mallett absent from practice, quarterbacks Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo each led two hurry-up drives. Wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins made a nice catch on a pass from Brady as he fell to the ground on the left sideline, with Kyle Arrington providing the primary coverage. Wide receiver Brian Tyms continued to build his rapport with Garoppolo as Tyms caught a pass on a fade route. Wide receiver Danny Amendola was a favorite target throughout the 2-minute drill, catching multiple passes. Garoppolo threw an interception after his pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and landed in the hands of defensive tackle LT Tuipulotu, who rumbled his way down the field as he held the ball in Jerome Bettis-like fashion.

Cleaning out the notebook: Bill Belichick got a quick workout in before practice as he jogged laps and ran on the conditioning hill. ... The trio of new tight ends Ben Hartsock (No. 88), Steve Maneri (No. 86) and Terrence Miller (No. 44) worked on blocking during the early portion of practice. … Defensive end Michael Buchanan stuffed Bolden on a run as the running back fell to the ground. … During special teams drills, Brady, Gronkowski and cornerback Darrelle Revis went back to working together, with Revis shadowing Gronkowski. ... Bolden dropped a pass during a drill in which two defenders close in on the receiver. ... Rookie linebacker James Morris swatted running back Jonas Gray to the ground during the same drill, leading to coaches shouting for players to stay on their feet. ... Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly clogged the middle effectively on a run by James White, leaving White with nowhere to go. ... On another play shortly after, Kelly and linebacker Dont'a Hightower blew up a run by Stevan Ridley. ... Safety Devin McCourty picked off a Garoppolo pass that wasn’t in the area of any receivers. … White showed a great burst of speed as he hit a nice gap around the edge during a run late in practice. ... The entire team took to the conditioning hill for a set of sprints at the conclusion of practice. ... Wide receivers Julian Edelman and Amendola, running back Roy Finch and safety Patrick Chung all returned punts toward the end of practice. ... At various points throughout practice, blaring music could be heard coming from inside Gillette Stadium as there is a Luke Bryan concert tonight.

Who’s talking with the media: Head coach Bill Belichick, tight end Rob Gronkowski, defensive backs Malcolm Butler and Kyle Arrington, wide receiver Brian Tyms, defensive linemen Michael Buchanan, Zach Moore and Joe Vellano, linebacker Jamie Collins.