By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Football was BACK on Monday morning in Foxboro, as the Patriots hit the practice fields in full pads for the first time of 2020. After a whole lot of uncertainty, this moment was a long time coming.

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While Monday was as much of a baby step toward the regular season as it was anything else, it was nevertheless a critical juncture in the unique offseason that saw no rookie minicamps, no full-team minicamps, no OTAs and no preseason games. When it comes to getting ready for the regular season — which is less than four weeks away — these days are the critical building blocks toward being ready to go once the cameras are rolling and millions of fans are tuned in.

Reporting on site was limited, as the Patriots abide by various COVID-19 protocols to ensure the safety of everyone around the team. Here’s what stood out from those reporting from the practice field.

QB TALK

All eyes were, naturally, on the QBs, as the Patriots enter a training camp without Tom Brady for the first time since 1999.

That’s insane.

Anyways, NFL Network’s Mike Giardi said that Cam Newton’s arm looked “lively.”

Cam, who’s been through a lot in terms of injuries over the past three years, was excited to be out there.

The work was split fairly evenly among Newton, Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer.

The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, who is always the master of tracking practice stats for QBs, even did some math that showed that Newton and Stidham evened out in terms of starting reps.

KICKER TALK

Speaking of change, there’s a new kicker in town. With the Stephen Gostkowski era officially over, the Patriots drafted Justin Rohrwasser out of Marshall in the fifth round.

Rohrwasser’s first day with the full team was … not great. The kicker missed two of his five field-goal attempts, and of his makes only barely made it through the uprights.

It’s far too early to sound any panic alarms, of course. But kicking has not really been a preseason concern at all for the Patriots, dating back to … 1997? So Rohrwasser’s kicking will be monitored for sure.

UNKNOWN PLAYER TALK

Every year, someone with a less-than-well-known name stands out on the practice field in training camp. The early leader in the clubhouse for that would be wide receiver Devin Ross.

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Ross, 25, was on the Patriots’ practice squad last year, after spending time in previous years on Tennessee’s practice squad. He’s never played in an NFL game. The 5-foot-9, 192-pound receiver had 143 receptions for 1,643 yards and nine touchdowns while at Colorado from 2013-17. His best season came in 2016, when he caught 69 passes for 787 yards and five touchdowns.

DAMIEN HARRIS SZN

Everyone wants to see Damien Harris play, after he was essentially kept in bubble wrap as a rookie. NESN’s Doug Kyed said it was a good day for Harris on Monday.

ROOKIES ROOKIES ROOKIES ROOKIES

Some rookies — like Harris last year — don’t get to see the field much. Other rookies play a lot.

This year, there may be a few more rookies getting more playing time than usual, what with the high number of free-agent departures and opt-out decisions up and down the roster.

For instance, second-round pick Kyle Dugger’s first year may have been an apprenticeship under a healthy Patrick Chung. But with Chung opting out, Dugger’s sure to see much more action. Likewise, linebacker Josh Uche (also a second-round pick) figures to get some run with Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins all gone.

Phil Perry mentioned Devin Asiasi there, as tight end figures to be another spot with significant contributions from rookies. That’s out of necessity, as Ryan Izzo was the lone veteran on the roster prior to the addition of two more vets on Monday.

You’ve just got to love those rookie numbers that the Patriots stick on their young players every summer. They look so unnatural.

ABSENCES

Beau Allen, one of the few real free-agent signings made by the Patriots, was not present.

Rookie receiver Jeff Thomas was also absent.

ODDS AND ENDS

The big boss was in attendance for the first day of football in a very long time.

Julian Edelman’s bright yellow undershirt — a staple of training camp — was present for the practice.

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To be clear, not too much can be made about the goings-on at practice in mid-August. But this year, training camp has a slightly different sense of urgency, as players know they won’t have their usual preseason to prepare for September. With just 27 days (and counting) until the Dolphins visit Gillette, Monday was a little bit more important than the usual first day of pads.