FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When New England Patriots wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins arrived on the two fields behind Gillette Stadium for a Tuesday afternoon joint practice with the Philadelphia Eagles, he couldn’t believe his eyes.
“That was my first time seeing something like that,” he relayed.
All the seats in the bleachers were filled. The nearby hillside was also jam-packed. Then, because the Patriots’ practice facility couldn’t fit any more spectators, the gates to Gillette Stadium were opened so fans could line the ramps overlooking the fields.
The Patriots later announced that 25,317 fans attended the practice, which was easily a single-session record.
“It was a tremendous atmosphere, seeing the guys hanging over the stadium and the rooftop,” Thompkins said after the two-hour practice. “It was great energy to come out here and compete and get our adrenaline going. It brought our competitive level up.”
Thompkins’ thoughts were echoed by many, including tight end Rob Gronkowski.
The energy brought by the crowd was felt early, as big plays -- such as receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola excelling in 7-on-7 drills -- were met with roaring cheers in the intimate practice setting. Meanwhile, every move was chronicled by an overflowing media crowd. A Patriots official said that 131 media credentials (give or take a few) were issued for the practice, which was more than any day of camp.
Between the fans, the intense media spotlight and the action on the two practice fields, what resulted was a day unlike any other since the Patriots first started holding training camp at Gillette Stadium in 2003.
“To see that atmosphere that we had today was unbelievable,” Thompkins said. “I don’t think there are any fans like we have in New England.”