FOXBORO (CBS) - The New England Patriots have had four practices at training camp and four different days as far as the weather is concerned.
Here are some thoughts and observations from Day 4 Sunday:
+ Lots of rain falling on the practice fields at Gillette Stadium and it poured towards the end of the session. So far, Bill Belichick has had sunny/humid, cloudy/showery, sunny/dry/hot, and rainy over the course of four days. There were plenty of drops, fumbled snaps, slips, etc. on Sunday and I'm sure Bill loved every minute of it. It's a chance for the Pats to experience some of what Mother Nature may throw at them during the regular season and postseason. In fact, Belichick was asked Friday before practice if his team would possibly be heading indoors and he quickly responded, "not a chance."
+ The Patriots and their roughly 7,000 fans got a good dose of Gronk being Gronk Sunday. It started with a fan screaming "Marco" as Gronk walked out onto the field for practice. Gronk wouldn't bite with any "Polo" response (this, of course, from the Gronk/David Ortiz Dunkin' Donuts commercial). Then, during 11 vs. 11 red zone situations, Gronk shook off Patrick Chung for a TD reception from Tom Brady. As Gronk does, he celebrated like it was the first TD he's ever scored and this time he whipped the ball into a community relations VIP tent. Luckily no one got hurt. A few plays later, Gronk made a ridiculous over-the-shoulder TD catch on a pass from Brady that wowed everybody. Gronk flipped the ball high in the air and went over to the community relations tent and high-fived all the fans. The passion and energy number 87 brings is amazing. A few players later, Jimmy Garoppolo hit Martellus Bennett with a similar TD pass on a play where Bennett made a nice catch. Of course, Gronk ran out to Bennett for a chest bump while Brady came over for a big high-five. Then, to cap it off, Bryce Williams caught a TD pass in the same corner and one final celebration ensued!
+ Those TD's said a lot about Sunday. 1) It was a good day for the tight ends. Gronk and Bennett look like they could be a handful for opposing defensive coordinators this season. Bennett is a huge potential upgrade over Scott Chandler, who never really settled in here in New England, perhaps because of injury. Meanwhile, Bryce Williams, the 6'-6", 260-pound rookie out of East Carolina, had a good weekend and stood out. Here's a name to keep in mind - A.J. Derby. He had a few nice catches as well. 2) energy is contagious. On a miserable rainy day, Rob Gronkowski woke up his offense and the crowd. It carried through the rest of the day as the offense had the upper hand. You also have to appreciate the passion that Gronkowski has for the game of football.
+ Speaking of Gronkowski, as the Boston Herald and NFL Network report, his reps are in town with perhaps an eye towards a new contract. Gronk is in the midst of a team-friendly deal and after overcoming all sorts of injures he has showed that he's one of the best, if not the best, weapons in the league. He's earned a raise that will likely put him at or near the top of highest paid tight ends.
+ One question about Gronk and a new contract will be how/if it will affect his teammates? Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Jabaal Sheard, Malcolm Butler, Duron Harmon, and Logan Ryan all have expiring deals at the end of this season. Gronk does not. Personally, I don't think it would, but you never know. It's something to pay attention to.
+ What an opening stretch of weather for four days for Bill Belichick as the Pats begin camp. He's had humidity, showers, hot scalding sun, and rain. At 64, Bill continually shows his passion for teaching and coaching when he's in camp. And under these conditions it shines through. Belichick seemed to enjoy Sunday more the harder it rained - and it poured at times. Tough conditions, as we know, can and will come up as the season progresses so to have the ability to practice in them has to be huge for Bill.
+ The offense clearly had the better day on Sunday. The defense was beaten all over the field in both the passing and running game. After practice, Belichick gathered the team to introduce them to Patriot Hall of Famer Kevin Faulk (to be inducted Monday), but he first took the opportunity to say a few "not-so-kind" words to the defense.
+ I thought rookie wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell had a good weekend. He made some nice catches and looks like he belongs. Also, I thought it was interesting to see Brady and Mitchell walk out for practice chatting it up. Could have been talking about anything but like to see it as Mitchell tries to find his way.
+ By the way, as we've mentioned before, in years past we've watched as Tom Brady worked on the side with Darrelle Revis/Gronk, Gronk/Scott Chandler and Gronk/Martellus Bennett. Sunday, it was Brady with Gronk/Bennett as well as Aaron Dobson and Malcolm Mitchell.
+ Day two in the pads produced lots of good battles all over the field. Those who stood out at times? Shea McClellin easily shedding a blocker in running game drill. Jonathan Freeny getting an appreciative hand slap from Bill Belichick after making a nice play.
+ Jacoby Brissett hooked up with WR DeAndre Carter on a nice deep completion that would have perhaps been the play of the day if not for Gronk. Meanwhile, on the very next play, Brissett made a poor throw on what should have been an easy completion over the middle to a wide open Devin Lucien. A great example of life as a rookie QB in the NFL. Consistency is hard to achieve.
+ Some youngsters who made some nice pass defense plays - safety Cedric Thompson, DB Brock Vereen, and DB Justin Coleman (strong camp so far).
+ Those missing from practice - Stork, Cooper, Martin while Harper, Washington, Branch, Edelman and Amendola were out there but not in pads.
+ Monday brings a different day as Kevin Faulk gets inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame at 5 p.m. on the plaza outside the Hall (free and open to the public) and then the Pats practice at 7 p.m. inside Gillette Stadium for season ticket holders and Foxboro residents.
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