Patriots Training Camp Notes 8/7

Foxboro, Mass – The practice field behind Gillette Stadium looked a little fuller on Monday. Five fresh faces were practicing with the team, some for the first time since last season, others since minicamp. The five players activated by the Patriots were; safety Rodney Harrison, defensive end Richard Seymour, defensive lineman Johnathan Sullivan, defensive back Randall Gay and center Dan Koppen.

DL Richard Seymour

The move to activate Seymour was widely expected considering the all-pro spent time practicing with the team during minicamp and was involved during the team's walk through on Friday.  With Seymour working his way back into the mix at end, the Patriots now have Ty Warren, Marquise Hill, Santonio Thomas, and Mike Wright as players who can fill the end position in the 3-4 defense the team likes to run.

Seymour was glad to be back at camp, and felt that he needed some work to get back into the comfort zone.  "I have to work some of the rust off and oil up the wheels a little bit and I guess I'll be alright and ready to roll," Seymour said. 

The 6-foot-6, 310-pound Seymour took part in most of activities at practice, although he did rotate out during many of the contact drills. Working his way back to the starting lineup slowly would be a wise move.  It appears that's what the plan is.

S Rodney Harrison

Sidelined by three torn ligaments in his left knee playing against the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 25, 2005, Harrision had undergone an extensive offseason rehab to get back on the field Monday.

It was something, a lot of different thoughts and feelings and emotions going through my mind," Harrison said of his return. "When I first stepped on the field it felt a little weird, but once I did a couple sprints I felt at peace."

Harrison's teammates were glad to see him back on the field.  The veteran enjoyed a warm welcome from a number of them including quarterback Tom Brady who went up to Harrison and gave him a big smack telling the good-natured  defender, "I'm going to burn you." Harrison's response? "Bring it on."

The Patriots' secondary could use a healthy Rodney Harrison to patrol the deep center of the field and provide toughness in what many experts labeled as a soft defense last season. While Harrison may be back at practice, his return for the season opener is far from guaranteed.

He moved tentatively as if to test the knee before going full speed.  On a couple of pass plays, Harrison could be seen hustling over to the sideline to track down the receiver.  One play in particular caught the attention of those in the media tent.  Troy Brown caught a slant pass headed from right to left. After avoiding the first would-be tackler, Brown took off down the left sideline.  Out of center field, came Harrison. He ran down the veteran receiver on the sideline, preventing what would have been a touchdown. 

When asked about the long pass play after practice Harrison demurred. "That wasn't me. Don't put that on me," Harrison joked. "I was on the other side of the field and I just hustled over."    Even if he's not 100% healthy, the old Rodney was back on the field 100% in spirit.

C Dan Koppen

Koppen who had made only one brief appearance at camp prior to his return, also activated from the PUP list by the Patriots Monday. The 6-foot-2, 296-pound linemen was placed on the injured reserve list on November 15, 2005 with a shoulder injury and hadn't been able to practice since.  He was obviously anxious to return to the field.

"Probably the first time in my life I was happy to be at a training camp practice," Koppen said of his return.  "It's good to be out with the guys and working with them. You just feel miserable when they're out working in the heat and hitting all day while you're just sitting back running a little bit."

Center Russ Hochstein filled in at center while Koppen was out.  Backing up Hochstein was Billy Yates and Brian Barthelmes.


WR Matt Shelton

Matt Shelton saw his brief attempt to make it in the NFL his rookie season come to an end on Monday.  The Patriots officially placed Shelton on the injured reserve list with a knee/groin injury, ending the former Notre Dame product's first year. The 6-foot, 175-pound receiver was signed by the Patriots on May 8, 2006, as an undrafted rookie free agent.

Shelton had worked hard in camp to make the roster.  It appeared that he had gained ground on a number of the other receivers in camp.  The injury reduced an already ailing receiver unit missing the likes of Deion Branch (holdout)  and Chad Jackson (injury).

S Mel Mitchell

Mel Mitchell was placed on the injured reserve list Monday by the Patriots, ending his first season as a member of the New England defense. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound special teams ace signed with the Patriots on April 4, 2006 as an unrestricted free agent.

Mitchell spent time at safety and on special teams for the Patriots during minicamp and the team's training camp.  His size, speed and experience on special teams were some of the qualities that made Mitchell so attractive to the team.  Tebucky Jones appears to be the major benefactor of Mitchell's absence.  Jones spent time participating in many of the same drills at the same position as Mitchell.

DB Randall Gay

Randall Gay's removal from the PUP list by the Patriots Monday allowed him to attend his first practice in nearly eight months. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound defender appeared in five games last season before being placed on the injured reserve list with a nagging ankle injury.

Gay started in 11 of he 15 regular season games he played his rookie season.  He became the team's starting cornerback November 7th against the Rams, holding the job the remainder of the season. Gay also started at cornerback during the postseason including the Patriots victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX.

TE Dan Graham

TE Dan Graham was back at practice Monday after missing all of training camp to date with a shoulder injury.  Graham, talked about how important it was to get back onto the field to establish his timing with quarterback Tom Brady. 

"I was just taking it slow, taking it one day at a time," Graham said of his return to the field. "I've got to get my feet wet, and get back into the swing of things.  I've got a lot of making up to do."

Desperate for another healthy body while Graham was out, signed 12-year veteran Walter Rasby to fill in during drills.  With Graham's return, the team has four tight ends; third-year veteran Ben Watson, rookie David Thomas and Rasby.

Graham wore a red (non-contact) shirt at practice an indication to the defense not to hit the player.  He moved well, with little indication that he had been nursing a shoulder still sore from offseason surgery.

Notes: WR Reche Caldwell dropped a pass that he should have caught. Once back at the sideline, he dropped to the ground and did ten pushups as a form of punishment.  … Rodney Harrison played deep safety on the third team reserves, also known as the scout team with no contact. … David Thomas continued to make impressive catches by diving or leaping for poorly thrown passes. He has made at least one impressive catch per day on average. … WR John Stone limped off the practice field at the end of the session with an apparent lower leg/ knee injury. … Rodney Harrison, Daniel Graham and Ben Watson ran conditioning sprints on the far field during practice.  After the second sprint, Tom Brady joined them for two more sets. … Barry Gardner and Don Davis spent a good deal of time as the team's inside linebackers during 11 on 11 drills.

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