A little of this and a little of that for you today:
– The Patriots open training camp practices come to an end this week with a pair of joint practices with the Philadelphia Eagles. Both are scheduled to start at 2 p.m. and run until about 4:30 p.m.
The Patriots play the Eagles at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at Gillette in their second preseason game. I would expect the starters to play in that game.
– NFL officials will also be on hand in practice this week to work with the teams, especially on the new points of emphasis that they will be addressing this year – the hand-contact of defensive backs past the 5-yard no-touch zone. Brandon Browner, known as a physical cornerback, was called for one such penalty in the loss at Washington last Thursday.
Bill Belichick, in a press conference Sunday, said he wasn’t sure how much that would help: “We try to monitor ourselves, but obviously we’re not the ones throwing flags, they are. So we’ll get a little better feel for what they call in the practices. But I don’t think it’s a question of knowing the rules. I think we just have to be more disciplined and play with better technique.”
– After a dreadful showing by the tight ends in the opening preseason game last Thursday, the Patriots made several moves at the position. They released rookie free agent tight ends Justin Jones (who many thought had a chance of sticking on at least the practice squad) and Asa Watson (the brother of former Patriots tight end Ben Watson). Rookie free agent running back Stephen Houston, who lost a fumble in the preseason game, was also released.
They signed 10-year veteran Ben Hartsock, who last year played for Carolina, and Steve Maneri, who spent the 2010 season on the Patriots practice squad, along with rookie free agent tight end Terrence Miller, a former Arizona player who was released by the Jets last June 19.
The Patriots are obviously looking for some depth at the position, with Rob Gronkowski still recovering from knee surgery, and both Michael Hoomanawanui and D.J. Williams currently sidelined with injuries.
Gronkowski spoke with the media on Sunday and said the week off last week – he didn’t accompany the team to Richmond, Va., for joint practices with Washington or play in the game – was good for him.
“Basically, I went hard during the practices all last week and just a little time off to let the knee heal up a little bit more,” he told the media. “You know, you can’t always be grinding on it 24/7 coming off an injury. You’ve got to let it heal. You’ve got to hit it hard and let it heal.”
He said he felt like he was improving every week and hasn’t had any setbacks thus far. It is unlikely he will play Friday against Philadelphia, or perhaps in any of the preseason games.
– A lot was made of the performance of wide receiver Brian Tyms, who caught five passes for 119 yards and a 26-yard touchdown against Washington. Tyms, undrafted out of Florida A&M in 2012, had previously spent time with San Francisco, Miami and Cleveland.
He has been a bright spot at wide receiver throughout training camp and appeared to be fighting for a roster spot.
He will also have to sit out the first four games of the season while serving an NFL-mandated suspension for a violation of the league’s performance-enhancing drugs policy. The suspension was announced on April 21 and the Patriots signed him on July 27, obviously knowing about the suspension.
Tyms said he took Adderall, for which he has a prescription. But, according to a release from his agency, Tyms did not receive an exemption to the league’s policy until after he tested positive for it, thus the suspension. After he failed the test, according to the release, he received the exemption.