BOSTON (CBS) — Vince Wilfork was back on the practice field for the Patriots last week, and on Tuesday, another one of their big bodies on the defensive line returned.
Both veteran defensive tackle Tommy Kelly and Wilfork participated in 11-on-11 drills Tuesday at Gillette, as the Patriots kicked off their mandatory three-day mini-camp. While there were no pads or contact Kelly said just lining up to his teammates was a big step forward in his return from a torn ACL, and he’s confident he’ll be healthy for the upcoming season.
“I’m very happy, but you can’t get too high about it or can’t get too low about it,” Kelly told reporters. “Just keep working and whatever happens, happens. But I’m going to be OK.”
Kelly joked that he’s been at Gillette Stadium since he underwent surgery in December, and he could probably be considered a resident of Foxborough.
Kelly was signed last off-season to bring more depth, and size, to the New England defensive line. The 6-6, 330-pounder recorded 22 tackles and 2.5 sacks in the five games he played in before tearing his ACL in Week 5.
Now, Kelly says he has some unfinished business to tend to this season. But he knows he’ll also have to prove himself on the field to earn his spot.
“You have to go through the process of proving to Bill [Belichick] that your knee is healthy enough, prove to your coaches that your knee is strong enough and getting your teammates to trust you,” he said.
While Kelly and Wilfork were on the field, receiver Aaron Dobson, corner Alfonzo Dennard, first-round draft pick Dominique Easley and offensive lineman Jesse Armstead were all absent for the Patriots. Tight end Rob Gronkowski, receiver/special teamer Matthew Slater and receiver Jimmy Gallon were all limited with injury on Tuesday, along with quarterback Ryan Mallett. With Mallett out, rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was able to take the majority of the snaps at QB.
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