The weather was much more mild by the end of practice in the evening session as the heat and humidity from earlier in the day gave way to a slight breeze.
NFL Television announcer Randy Cross is in the press tent. Patriots owner Robert Kraft stopped by to watch practice.
This Isn't College Anymore
Linebacker Corey Mays knows that making the final roster isn't going to be easy, even though he came from a big football program at Notre Dame. Mays is one of two young undrafted rookie linebacker holdovers from 2006 – Pierre Woods is the other – to make the roster. Mays understands that staying in Foxboro is all about working hard and making plays, not what college he attended.
"The biggest thing that will help you (as a rookie) is to just forget college," Mays said after practice. "This is no longer college, this is the pros," he continued. Being a pro is hard enough for many players, being one in New England is a step above. "This is the top of the top," Mays said of being on the Patriots' roster. "There are no redshirts, no scholarships."
Mays has been a contributor to the Patriots' special teams units, although the stats may not necessarily tell the whole tale. Mays has 9 career special teams tackles, and 2 team tackles (1 solo).
The Big Four
The Patriots continue to run with linebackers Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi, Adalius Thomas and Rosevelt Colvin as the first unit starting linebacker group. The acquisition of Thomas has enabled the Patriots to let Vrabel slide back to the outside, his more natural position. Although he's played both positions well, the addition of Junior Seau gives the team the depth needed at the interior position.
"We always give each other a hard time," Bruschi said of his teammates. "That's our way of telling each other there's a lot of work to be done even besides what you do out here on the practice field."
Not Ready To Quit
Chad Brown thought about retirement in the off-season, but he just couldn't bring himself to call it a career. Invited to take another spin in New England by Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, Brown just couldn't say no. "I love the game," Brown said. When somebody gives you the opportunity to play it, you take it." Brown recounted his retirement speech for those how hadn't heard it before. "I think you've heard my speech on this," Brown began. "When you're done playing football, you'll never play again. There's no old man league, there's no rec center football games. The last time you put on the pads is the last time you put on the pads."
Brown played for the Patriots in the 2005 season and was signed to play in 2006. He injured his hand during training camp and was released.
Having A Nice Camp
Both wide receiver Jabar Gaffney and tight end Ben Watson continue to have excellent camps. During team drills, Gaffney was Tom Brady's intended target on a deep route after being his sideline target two other times. In the series Gaffney had nearly 50% of the passes thrown his direction. The chemistry between the quarterback and the two targets has continued to grow since the 2006 season. Both Gaffney and Watson made fingertip grabs at various points, and have shown the ability to create separation from the defender.
With Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth and Troy Brown not participating, more balls are being thrown in both Watson and Gaffney's direction. They appear to be up to the challenge of handling the increased attention.
The evening practice showed more reasons why the young players still have a way to go to get on track. Although they've seen more reps in team drills, rookies are rookies. On one play, linebacker Oscar Lua got caught biting on a play-action fake while the pass went to the receiver who filled the void behind him. On another, defensive back Larry Anam allowed far too much space between himself and the receiver for a wide open completion. Matt Gutierrez struggled with consistency.
It's early in camp, but the rookies still have a long way to go.
Pulling For Bam Bam
Bam Childress continued to have an excellent camp. The shifty little receiver spent time returning kicks during the special teams drills showcasing his impressive ability to outmaneuver defenders. Each time he touched the ball, Childress put at least one move on the defender to gain extra yardage. During 11-on-11s, Childress reeled in a long bomb from Matt Cassel in the midst of triple coverage.
Although Childress may be a longshot to land one of the coveted roster spots at the receiver position, his ability in special teams elevates his stock to the point where he might make a run for the final 53. If not, Childress still has eligibility for the practice squad.
Jon Scott has covered the NFL since 1995. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long time contributor to the Scout.com network. A New England native, Scott has followed the Patriots for over two decades and covered the team since 2001. He can be found in the Insider's Lounge under the handle JSinCT.