Patriots Notebook: Rookies, Injuries & More

News and notes from Foxboro. Camp Battles, injury report, rookie updates and more...

The Patriots have made few minor moves early in camp, but it's done little to change what are gaping holes at left guard and outside linebacker. With Logan Mankins yet to sign his RFA tender and apparently sticking to his trade demands, the recent injury to possible fill-in Nick Kaczur has put a spotlight a many inexperienced bodies at guard.

The situation is even worse at outside linebacker, where Derrick Burgess' failure to report for camp has left New England with Tully Banta-Cain and not much else for its pass rush.

There's always time to make a move -- either a signing or trade -- but the close September gets, the closer Bill Belichick's team is to a regular season opener that it seems ill-prepared for.

NOTES
--C Eric Ghiaciuc, a sixth-year veteran who's started 42 of his 48 games played, was signed Aug. 4. Ghiaciuc actually started all 16 games in 2008 for the Bengals, but didn't play in a single contest a year ago, finishing the season with the Chargers. At the very least he adds veteran experience to an interior New England line depth chart that seemingly gets thinner by the day.
--OL John Wise, a rookie free agent college wrestler trying to make the conversion to football, was waived Aug. 6.
--WR Rod Owens, a rookie free agent out of Florida State, was signed Aug. 2. The 6-0, 183-pound former Seminole has 61 catches for 729 yards in his senior season. He had a cup of coffee with the Rams this spring.
--TE Carson Butler, a first-year tight end out of Michigan, was signed Aug. 2. The 6-4, 260-pound former undrafted free agent spent time with Green Bay, Detroit, San Francisco, Cincinnati and with the New York Giants in his first year-plus since college but has not made it to a team's active roster.
--S Josh Barrett was claimed off waivers from the Broncos Aug. 6. The 6-2, 225-pound former 2008 seventh-round pick has appeared in 20 NFL games, including 14 last season.
--RB Thomas Clayton was released Aug. 6, to make room for S Josh Barrett on the roster. Clayton had joined the Patriots June 11 but missed portions of camp with an undisclosed injury and had little hope in a crowded New England backfield.
--G Logan Mankins has not signed his RFA tender, remains out of camp and there has been little light shed on the two-time Pro Bowl guard's status moving forward.
--OLB/DE Derrick Burgess remains on the reserve/did not report list as he continues to apparently mull retirement or, at the very least, skip camp.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Darius Butler vs. Devin McCourty for starting CB job -- Many assumed that Butler had the inside track on the starting job opposite Leigh Bodden thanks to an impressive if up-and-down rookie season. But the first rounder McCourty has gotten plenty of reps, at times in Butler's spot, and has been relatively impressive. Both guys ride the inconsistent wave expected of young corners, but this now looks like competitive race that could last up to and into the regular season.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Rookie Brandon Spikes has moved ahead of second-year player Tyrone McKenzie in what could be a battle for a starting job next to Jerod Mayo. Though Gary Guyton returns after starting all 16 games on the inside last fall, both young linebackers seem better suited for the rigors of the position and early on the second-round pick Spikes is making a bid to start from day one. First- and second-year players are also in a tight race at receiver where rookie Taylor Price and sophomores Julian Edelman and Brandon Tate are fighting it out. Edelman is a slot man who saw action in place of Wes Welker at times last fall and is clearly going to be a part of the offense. Price and Tate both started camp hot and are more outside options, though the rookie has faded a bit as camp's worn on. Tate is a big-play threat with spectacular potential, although consistency may be an issue.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: WR Wes Welker -- The NFL's receptions leader from last year is amazing most with his comeback from a torn ACL and MCL suffered in last season's finale. He opened camp on PUP, but joined his mates on the field shortly thereafter. He worked into team drills slowly last week, and then took his first hit on a crossing pattern courtesy of inside linebacker Jerod Mayo on Aug. 5. Welker seems on track for opening day and return to his key role on the offense. And New England fans at training camp have vocally let him know that they're enjoying every minute of his return to action.

ROOKIE REPORT: LBs Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes, both second-round picks out of Florida, have been getting an impressive number of reps with the first defense in training camp. Cunningham is battling for a vacant starting job at outside linebacker, while Spikes ascended to the spot next to Jerod Mayo on the inside after returning starter Gary Guyton went down with a knee injury last week. ... TE Aaron Hernandez, who's been used primarily as a slot-type receiver in many of New England's spread sets early in camp, has caught ton of balls in practice action. The fourth-round pick has also been on the receiving end of a lot of one-on-one tutelage time with Tom Brady. ... CB Devin McCourty is already showing why he was a first-round selection as he rotates in for first-team defensive reps. The Rutgers grad has shown a physical style and fearless confidence against the Patriots receivers, including Randy Moss. ... TE Rob Gronkowski looks like he's the future of the in-line tight end spot in New England, and has already become a red zone favorite in practice for both Brady and backup Brian Hoyer. ... DL Kade Weston is one of many youngsters getting reps on the defensive front, and has held his own more often than not. Weston was part of a goal line front that stonewalled the first offense in one practice drill.


New England Patriots corner back Leigh Bodden, right, knocks the ball away from wide receiver Taylor Price, left, during NFL football training camp, Sunday, Aug. 1, 2010, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)

INJURY REPORT: DL Ron Brace has yet to pass his physical, which for New England includes the conditioning run, and has already missed the first week-plus of camp in a follow up to a disappointing rookie season. ... OL Nick Kaczur has been sidelined since July 30 with what ESPNBoston.com is reporting is a "significant" back injury. Kaczur, who's had back issues in the past, has not been seen in well over a week. ... LB Gary Guyton slipped in his back pedal in pass coverage and went down with an apparent left knee injury Aug. 1 and has not attended practice since. ... DL Ty Warren has been absent from practice since July 30 with an unknown injury. ... CB Leigh Bodden injured his left hip in a pass rush drill Aug. 5, slipping on a damp field. He has not practiced since.

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