Meanwhile, the club has eight running backs and only four finished practice.
Attrition at those skill positions stood out during the team’s two-hour workout, which featured a heavy dose of the running game as players continue to get acclimated to contact.
But the show must go on.
“We’re just trying to grind through camp here,” coach Bill Belichick said before the workout. “This is what we need, to string some days together, good fundamentals, build in a little situational work, build our conditioning and just keeping getting better. It’s not a secret.”
Most notable to me at receiver was the absence of rookie Malcolm Mitchell, the fourth-round pick out of Georgia who showed up in recent practices with some solid work. This is the second of the team’s seven training-camp practices that Mitchell has missed (both in full pads), and he also was held out of a day in the spring.
It wouldn’t be surprising if this was part of the Patriots’ staff managing him to be at his best, as his knee was a concern to some clubs in the NFL Draft. Some around the league believe that is why he slipped to the fourth round (112th overall).
Whatever the reason, Mitchell's practice schedule going back to the spring has been different from the norm.
In addition to Mitchell, fellow receivers Chris Hogan (shoulder), Nate Washington (vomiting on first day of camp) and Keshawn Martin remained out, while Julian Edelman (foot) and Danny Amendola (knee, ankle) remain on the PUP list.
This is the way it goes in training camp at times, with runs of injuries at certain positions, and Belichick will ultimately have to decide whether reinforcements are needed as the preseason opener is a week away.
With the attrition at receiver and running back as the springboard, let’s take a closer look at what we saw (and heard) from Thursday’s practice:
Play of the day: Rookie linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill (sixth round, 208th overall) stripped fullback James Develin of the football in a shed-and-tackle drill. Grugier-Hill’s initial role with the team will be as a special-teamer, but this was a glimpse of his potential disruption on defense. That was his specialty at Eastern Illinois.
What's on the set list?: The disc jockey was busy Thursday offering an eclectic mix of music that helped raise the energy level as the team worked on various situations in full-team drills, tapping into the depth of its music collection:
“One Dance,” Drake, featuring Kyla & Wizkid
“Run This Town,” Jay Z and Rihanna
“Clique,” Kanye West, Big Sean and Jay Z
"Beautiful Day,” U2
“No One To Run With,” Allman Brothers
“Walk This Way,” Aerosmith
“Don’t Stop the Party,” Pitbull
“Encore,” Jay Z and Linkin Park
“Fight Night,” Migos
“Living In America,” James Brown
“Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” Michael Jackson
“Run Like Hell,” Pink Floyd
“Life Is A Highway,” Rascal Flatts
Drawing the ire of Scarnecchia: Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who returned to the staff following a two-year retirement, holds players accountable for the finest details and I watched him give it to right guard Shaq Mason during a 2-on-2 blocking drill. Exasperated after two reps by Mason, Scarnecchia coached him hard before throwing his arms up into the air as if to say, “I give up!"
Extra points. Defensive end Chris Long was the lone player to come to the podium after practice. He reflected on his time at Virginia and how the team wore striped socks like the Patriots, which reminded him of the connection between head coach Al Groh and New England’s Bill Belichick. Groh, of course, was a longtime assistant alongside Belichick with the Giants and Jets. ... Long received some 1-on-1 coaching from Belichick on pass-rushing techniques while the rest of the club worked on special teams. ... Rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett also drew a large media crowd, as did second-year safety Jordan Richards. ... Undrafted rookie tight end Bryce Williams, who had his knee looked at during Wednesday’s practice, did not take part in practice. ... Sixth-round draft choice Ted Karras (Illinois) received extensive work at right guard with the top unit, and he caught my eye twice: pulling during an inside running drill and blasting safety Patrick Chung, then ripping Jabaal Sheard to the ground in 2-on-2 blocking work on what might have been a holding penalty. He plays with a mean streak. ... Center Bryan Stork, who is dealing with the effects of another concussion sustained in practice (per the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe), remains out of practice and that continues to open things up for second-year man David Andrews to take all the top reps at center. ... Linebacker Dont'a Hightower showed up with a strong fill in the run game. ... Tom Brady stayed late after practice for the second day in a row for extra conditioning work, which came after he and Jimmy Garoppolo brought back the bucket drill where they attempt to throw a football into a barrel from a distance. Garoppolo came away with the victory. ... Credit safety Duron Harmon for an interception.
Friday’s schedule: Practice (9:15 a.m.)