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Patriots OTAs: Insight from assistants helps complete the picture

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots held their ninth of 10 organized team activities (OTAs) on Thursday, and here were a few of the things that stood out:

Rare day when post-practice was more revealing than practice. Usually the approach is to focus more on what happens on the field because that's the essence of why we're there, but this day was a bit unique in that it was a reversal because post-practice interviews were more revealing. The on-field workout was a slower pace, with fewer 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 sessions, and so there wasn't as much to digest (Bill Belichick called it a review day). But assistant coaches provided insight after practice, with one notable exchange coming from an assistant who reflected on last week and some of the hoopla over Jimmy Garoppolo's five-interception practice. My biggest takeaway was how media members probably viewed that practice differed from coaches, in part because this isn't an all-out practice setting, they're looking more for how players mentally grasp concepts, and also analyzing players' movement skills relative to what is being taught. Also, running backs coach Ivan Fears was on fire. That's filling up the notebook, Bill Parcells-style.

Top visual of OTAs has been tight end tandem. If asked the top thing that caught the eye over the course of watching three OTAs, it's how quarterback Tom Brady and "twin tower" tight ends Rob Gronkowski (6-foot-6, 265) and Scott Chandler (6-foot-7, 260) separate from the team during special-teams drills and work on pass routes into the end zone and/or in the red zone. This happened again Thursday. The two tight ends have a large catch radius which could come in handy in close.

Butler paired with Ryan. Second-year cornerback Malcolm Butler, who said he returned to practice earlier this week, was paired with third-year man Logan Ryan for a good portion of the practice. Could that ultimately be the team's top pairing? This was our first look at it, although it's obviously way too early to say anything definitively at this point. If anything, it was a visual that Butler's "absence" from the field didn't have him at the bottom of the cornerback personnel in practice.

Second kicker on hand. For the first time this offseason, the Patriots had a second kicker on hand to lighten the load on Stephen Gostkowski. The Patriots have two open roster spots, so the question will be if the kicker was a one-day tryout situation or perhaps will stick around through next week's mandatory minicamp and perhaps into training camp.

Extra points: Receiver Brandon LaFell, who was spotted last week at a charity event with a walking boot on his left foot, was once again absent along with the same group that has remained out (linebackers Jerod Mayo and Dont'a Hightower; offensive linemen Sebastian Vollmer and Ryan Wendell; defensive end Chandler Jones etc.). ... Former Patriots running back Sammy Morris was on hand, working in a coaching capacity. Fears, the running backs coach, praised his passion for the game. ... Bill Belichick stood next to Michael Lombardi, the assistant to the coaching staff, chatting with him for a good portion of practice. ... Coaches and support staffers are often experimenting at this time and they worked with a few stationary cameras on tripods, placing them right on the field almost in the middle of the action. Perhaps this gives them new angles and visuals with which to teach. ... Kickoff coverage was the primary focus of the special-teams portion of practice.