The Patriots held their first morning practice of training camp to save a little energy before Tuesday's joint session with the Saints on the lower practice fields at Gillette Stadium. The practice was a little lighter and shorter than normal.

No Spikes: The Patriots were without starting middle linebacker Brandon Spikes for an undisclosed reason (he had been favoring his right knee in the preceding practices). First-round pick Dont'a Hightower split time between MLB and his usual SLB spot, with Mike Rivera spelling him at MLB. Dane Fletcher, the normal backup at MLB, did not take part in team drills. S James Ihedigbo was also out for an undisclosed injury, and that allowed two rookies -- Tavon Wilson (second round) and Nate Ebner (sixth) to play together on the second unit.

Woe line: The Patriots were without four OTs (Sebastian Vollmer, Darrion Weems, Kyle Hix and Matt Kopa) because of injuries, so Nick McDonald, who is normally a G/C, had to move out to LT with the second unit. McDonald, who was signed from the Packers last season, hasn't played LT since his senior year at Grand Valley State in 2009.

Dowling surging: CB Ras-I Dowling, the 33rd overall pick in 2011, has been making steady progress. He had an interception on Sunday and then had a terrific break on a pass from Tom Brady to Brandon Lloyd.

Too many drops: The receivers had too many drops of easy passes, including a would-be touchdown from Brady to Lloyd that he just dropped behind the defense.

Wet rookies: The Patriots held their annual hose soaking of the team's rookies, with Vince Wilfork taking over for Brady as the hose man. Included were newcomers to the staff like special teams assistant Joe Judge and coaching assistant Steve Belichick.

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