FOXBORO, Mass. (WPRI) — As Tom Brady and the Bucs get ready to kick off the new NFL season against the Cowboys on Thursday, his former team hit the practice field as they prepare for Week 1.

The Patriots host the division rival Dolphins at 4:25 p.m. Sunday, and Gillette Stadium will be filled with fans for the first time since January 2020.

The team had perfect attendance during the portion of practice open to the media, but the injury report issued later in the day listed wideout Nelson Agholor and safety Jalen Mills as non-participants.

Players who took the podium Thursday said they’re anxious and excited to once again play in front of fans.

Linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who opted out last season, discussed the matchup between rookie QB Mac Jones and his former Alabama teammate Tua Tagovaiola.

“I’ve watched both guys, and both are obviously very talented, but obviously I’m running with Mac Jones on this one,” he said. “Both guys are really special and obviously mean a lot to both team and organizations. I want to wish them both the best, but Tua not so much this week.”

Wednesday Practice Report

FOXBORO, Mass. (WPRI) — The Patriots are four days out from the start of their 2021 campaign and preparations for the season opener against Miami are underway.

The team on Wednesday named their captains for this season: David Andrews, Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater and James White.

This roster is completely different on both sides of the ball than the one that went 7-9 a season ago. That includes two former Dolphins on defense, Davon Godchaux and Kyle Van Noy, who both spoke with the media Wednesday.

“Tua’s a good guy. I got to know him well over the year that I was with him and I think his growth in one year is a lot,” Van Noy said. “The progressions of his reads, just a really good football player, and he’s getting great coaching.”

Godchaux said a key for the Patriots defense will be stopping the Dolphins’ run game, something they defense struggled with in 2020.

“Stop the run to have some fun,” Godchaux said, a mantra he picked up from LSU head coach Ed Orgeron.

It’s not just Godchaux and Van Noy who are familiar with this Miami team. Dolphins head coach Brian Flores was on Belichick’s staff in New England from 2008 to 2018.

Belichick was asked about his rookie quarterback, Mac Jones, and the biggest challenges he will face starting his first NFL game: “I don’t know. We’ll see. There’s a lot of things that happen in a football game.”

“Mac has a lot of strengths, but we’re working on a whole different level than what he was at,” Belichick added. “We’ll see how it goes in the NFL.”