FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Cleaning out the New England Patriots notebook on the first day off from training camp with 10 random thoughts/notes:
1. It is often said that "sports are a business," which, of course, is true. But that doesn't mean they can't be fun, and that's one reason why fans love tight end Rob Gronkowski. I followed Gronkowski as he approached the fired-up crowd after practice on Monday night, and the first sign he chose to autograph was a classic: "Gronk, make me scrambled eggs." Why scrambled eggs? Because when it comes to who scrambles better between Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo, Gronkowski had answered this way: "No one makes better scrambled eggs than me." Fun stuff, all around. Could a scrambled-egg endorsement be far behind?
2. Receiver Chris Hogan was held out of Monday's in-stadium practice after appearing to hurt his right shoulder in Sunday's full-pads session. Hogan watched the remainder of Sunday's practice from the sideline before joining Sirius XM NFL Radio for an interview, which was an early indication that the injury wasn't overly serious. But the Patriots probably want to be cautious, as they generally are with all players at this time of year.
3. Four-year veteran Josh Kline was back with the top unit at right guard to open Monday night's shorts-and-shells practice. He's coming off shoulder surgery this offseason and isn't fully participating in practice yet, but his insertion into the top group Monday could be a sign that he's ready for a full workload when the team returns to practice Wednesday. He split reps with sixth-round pick Ted Karras (Illinois) on Monday night, as two of last year's starting guards — Shaq Mason and Tre' Jackson — aren't yet fully practicing.
4. The Patriots devoted one day apiece to the four core units on special teams through the first four days of camp — kickoff return, kickoff coverage, punt coverage and punt return — and linebackers Ramon Humber and rookie Kamu Grugier-Hill were among a small group of players who were part of each top unit. It is too early to read into that as it relates to roster spots, but Humber, an under-the-radar player who was the team's first unrestricted free-agent signing (Saints) this year, shouldn't simply be overlooked in that regard.
5. One offensive play that stood out from Monday's in-stadium practice: In 7-on-7 passing drills, Brady couldn't find an open receiver and moved within the pocket to keep the play alive until someone was uncovered. (With no live pass rush, Brady might have been sacked otherwise.) Knowing Gronkowski was running along the back line of the end zone, left to right, Brady kept his body positioned toward the middle of the field to keep defenders honest before snapping his body to the right at the last moment, delivering a gem of a pass to the back right-hand corner that Gronkowski hauled in.
6. One defensive play that stood out Monday: In 7-on-7 passing drills, Garoppolo fired a pass to receiver Chris Harper up the left side that cornerback Logan Ryan got his hand on, popping the football into the air. Safety Devin McCourty gathered it in and returned it for what would have been a pick-six. Ryan's ball skills were one of his best assets coming out of Rutgers, and that has carried into the NFL through his first three seasons.
7. I see a notable drop-off at the Patriots' off-the-line linebacker spot after Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower. Next on the depth chart is five-year veteran Jonathan Freeny, who, after practicing through the first four days of camp, was not on the field Monday night. To this point, free-agent signing Shea McClellin hasn't been a big part of that mix, working mostly at defensive end.
8. When Bill Belichick was asked his favorite Kevin Faulk moment, he listed many of them. But he started with Faulk's two-point conversion run on a direct snap in Super Bowl XXXVIII against the Panthers.
9. Belichick paid his respect for Faulk by attending his Patriots Hall of Fame induction Monday, devoting a solid 45 minutes out of his schedule despite having an in-stadium practice to prepare for. That stood out to me because it had a "proud papa" type of feel to it. Belichick's final line in his remarks were decisive: "Of all the things I could say about Kevin, to me the one thing that stands out above everything else is — even though his role changed and even though he was always there for us — the biggest contributions from Kevin Faulk always came in the biggest games, in the most critical situations. That's when he played his best football. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why he's in the Patriots Hall of Fame. He deserves it."
10. The Patriots are off Tuesday, then return to the practice field Wednesday. The team's training camp schedule is updated through Tuesday, Aug. 16.