By Dan Roche, WBZ-TV SportsBy Dan Roche

BOSTON (CBS) – The Patriots and Eagles held their first of two scheduled joint practices here at the Gillette Stadium fields before a crowd of over 25,000 fans. The turnout was amazing with fans filling up the bleachers, hills, and even the Gillette Stadium walkways overlooking the two practice fields. Well done.

Here are some quick thoughts:

–The crowd gave the place a great atmosphere, but the Pats didn’t seem to be as sharp as they were last week in Richmond, Virginia against the Washington Redskins. Brady seemed a bit more fired up down there, but still it was a good 2-1/2 take……

–Ryan Mallett and Brandon Browner returned to practice after missing Monday’s workout. Rob Gronkowski was out there for the 3rd straight practice, but didn’t do much. The one glaring absentee was linebacker Jerod Mayo……

–There was some nice throws, routes, and catches made on the individual 1-on-1 battles featuring the wide receivers and the defensive backs. The highlight for me was an incredibly “only Tom Brady can do that” throw from Number-12 to Julian Edelman that just eluded Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin. You also realize just how hard it is for the defensive backs on these drills as they try to stay with the wideouts……

–Special teams work saw rookie Taylor McCuller and Brandon Browner each throw a big hit while Philly’s Curtis Marsh popped Malcolm Butler pretty good….

–The practice featured NFL officials and they threw numerous flags. This will be the way in preseason games as the NFL looks to crack down on DB’s doing some extra pushing, grabbing, and holding beyond the permitted five yards. Expect the number if flags thrown to temper down once the season begins…..

–Brady looked to have some route issues with Kenbrell Thompkins and Brandon LaFell. Brady also had a pass batted down….

–The Pats used numerous combinations on the offensive line as we saw Dan Connolly, Josh Kline, Ryan Wendell, and Marcus Cannon moving around….

–Lots of late game situational work going on……

–Keep an eye on linebacker Darius Fleming……..could be a pass rusher to watch down the road……..

Watch: Patriots Ice Bucket Challenge

–Finally, loved the Kraft-Belichick led Strikeout ALS Ice Bucket Challenge the Pats performed as a team after practice…….and then subsequent challenge to the Dolphins, Jets, and Bills…..well played! And, don’t forget to head to to donate….

–Don’t forget to tune in Friday night to WBZ-TV Ch 4 for all your Patriots coverage. We start with Patriots All-Access at 7pm…then the Pats-Eagles game at 7:30pm… followed by our 5th Quarter postgame show…….


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