Belichick said the team was allowed to be in full pads for a third straight practice but opted to go with shells anyway. It’s possible that he didn’t want to face a situation where the team wasn’t in pads on Thursday ahead of Friday night’s in-stadium practice that typically features a lot of situational work in a walkthrough setting. That would mean two straight days without contact before Saturday’s off day.
Either way, the lower intensity practice is offered a chance for some fine-tuning, particularly on offense. There seemed to be an emphasis on the zone running game, both inside and out, which has been a problem in the early going as the players get adjusted to some new schemes. There looked to be some progress made in that regard as Damien Harris, Ty Montgomery and rookie Kevin Harris saw a little more daylight than they have in recent days. Of course, without pads on evaluating the running game can be next to impossible.
One item to note with regard to the ground game is the limited nature of Rhamondre Stevenson. He appears to be dealing with some physical limitations and hasn’t gotten much work lately, and on Wednesday he wasn’t part of any of the full 11-on-11 work. He’s been spotted in uniform so whatever it is doesn’t seem to be too serious.
Beyond the low-key nature of the workout, here are one man’s observations of Day 7 of training camp.
*I have to call myself out for omitting an absence during Tuesday’s practice as Dalton Keene was not in uniform. Unfortunately for the third-year tight end he was not spotted on Wednesday either. For a young player who has dealt with injuries throughout the start of his career, missing two straight days is not ideal. In addition, Jabrill Peppers and Malcolm Butler missed practice while Brian Hoyer remained out for the fifth straight day. Butler and Hoyer were seen getting some rehab work in on the lower field and Belichick said the veteran quarterback would be back soon so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in uniform Thursday. Peppers told reporters on Tuesday that he wasn’t completely at 100 percent so his absence was likely just a chance to get some added rest. James White (PUP), Chasen Hines (NFI) and Andrew Stueber (NFI) all remain out as well.
*Like Stevenson, Devin McCourty was in uniform but didn’t do much beyond stretching during practice. McCourty wasn’t involved on defense during 7-on-7s or 11-on-11s. That allowed young players such as Josh Bledsoe and Myles Bryant to get some added reps.
*Another safety who got some work was undrafted rookie Brenden Schooler. Schooler has spent most of his time working on special teams techniques with veterans Matthew Slater and Justin Bethel, but on Wednesday he was in the lineup for the first rep of 11-on-11 work. His presence with the regulars likely was an indication that the team likes his chances of developing as a special teamer and if that’s the case and he gets a game day roster spot then he would need to be prepared to work as a backup in the secondary. It’s similar to how Belichick has used players like Nate Ebner during camp in the past.