BOSTON (CBS) — After months of virtual meetings and homework assignments away from Gillette Stadium, the Patriots are inching closer to playing some real football in Foxboro. Bill Belichick said that Friday marked the first “team” practice of training camp, as the Pats gears up to put on pads for the first time on Monday.

“We’ve had endless Zoom meetings, then in-person meetings and walk-throughs since training camp started, some individual drills the last couple days, and then today will be the first opportunity we get to really have any full-speed or high-tempo team drills,” Belichick told reporters Friday morning before the team took the practice field behind Gillette.

The offense and defense had been spending their practice time apart, going through various drills and, of course, lots of stretching. That changed Friday, when they added shells to the mix and the two sides finally had a chance to go against each other — and did so at full-speed. It’s the point players have been ramping up for over the last few weeks.

“This is when it’s most exciting,” veteran cornerback Jason McCourty said of the practice. “You’re excited to go out there and compete with your guys on your side of the ball to compete against the guys on the other side. We’re not in those dog days of camp yet. Right now, it’s fun to get out there and compete.”

Patriots players will get Saturday off before returning to the field on Sunday. But it’s Monday that everyone is looking forward to, when players finally put on pads for the first time since the 2019 season came to an end.

“We’ll get through the weekend and then start padded practices on Monday, so that will be another phase in the ramp-up process,” said Belichck. “But I feel like we’re taking those steps as we’re allowed to take them and the players are ready to move forward at the appropriate times. We’ll continue to do that, and as they say, take it as it comes.”

“We’ve come along way away in the past week, week in a half. We just have to keep stacking days, putting in good days of work,” said McCourty. “It was nice to go against the offense for once today. Get a little friendly competition there.”

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