ATLANTA — The New England Patriots held a walkthrough practice Thursday afternoon at Georgia Tech’s indoor practice facility, focusing on situational plays during the one-hour, 20-minute session.
Every player was a full participant except for starting linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who did not attend the workout due to an illness.
“We’ll evaluate him tomorrow,” coach Bill Belichick said when asked about Hightower’s prognosis.
Defensive tackle Malcom Brown, who was limited on Wednesday with a calf injury, did everything in the Thursday session. Belichick expects him to practice Friday and be available moving forward.
“If something happens tomorrow, that will be a different story, but I’d say he looks all right,” Belichick said.
Players were dressed in sweats or workout clothes (no jerseys) and did not wear helmets, except for the quarterbacks and defensive players who have the coach-to-player communication systems. Most players wore sneakers, though quarterback Tom Brady was in his cleats. Belichick noted that the team has already gotten in five practices since the AFC Championship Game and will have another full-speed session on Friday, so he opted for the walkthrough on Thursday.
“We got a lot out of the walk-through today and were able to run more plays at a slower tempo,” Belichick said. “So that’s the advantage. Practicing (at full speed) you get better tempo, you just get fewer plays (this way).”
The starting offense and defense worked at opposite ends of the field against the scout team, focusing on third-down, red-zone and goal-line situations, in addition to some review.
The team was relaxed but also focused, with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels rattling off play calls and Brady calling out adjustments to his receivers’ splits and routes. The Patriots also reviewed all of the kicking situations — field goal, kickoff and punt — in between the periods when the offense and defense were working. The specialists did not kick in the walkthrough; they kicked Wednesday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where Super Bowl LIII will be played, and will do so Friday as well.
Right guard Shaq Mason was wearing a long-sleeve dri-fit shirt with the logo of Georgia Tech, his alma mater. Georgia Tech hung a “Welcome Back, Shaq” sign outside the locker room at their facilities, and Belichick also had Mason give the team a welcome message on Monday, similar to what linebacker Elandon Roberts did when the team practiced at Roberts’ alma mater, the University of Houston, before Super Bowl LI.
“The Georgia guys are not thrilled being at Georgia Tech,” Belichick quipped, referring to starting center David Andrews and running back Sony Michel, who both played for the University of Georgia. “But that’s all right. They’ll get over it.”
–Jenny Vrentas, Pro Football Writers of America