Sports Sportsin partnership with NESN your connection to The Boston Globe

Minicamp ends with max effort

FOXBOROUGH -- The Patriots concluded mandatory minicamp yesterday at Gillette Stadium, capping off a three-week stretch of various team-building workouts, and coach Bill Belichick was pleased with the progress.

"I think that we have a lot of our system installed; we've done a lot and we're a lot further ahead than we were three weeks ago when we started coming off of the offseason program," he said.

The next key dates are June 22 (the final day of the offseason program) and July 27 (the start of training camp).

Belichick said it's up to the players to build off what they accomplished the last three weeks.

"This is still an important time coming up between now and training camp for the players to train and be in top condition and work on some of the things that we've gone over," he said.

Belichick ran many of the veterans through sprints, and he was particularly tough on the offensive line, which in a show of solidarity went through one set of the sprints holding hands, leading Belichick to crack a smile.

Playing footsie
Playing for the Dolphins in 2004, receiver Wes Welker was called on as an emergency placekicker against the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. He nailed a 29-yard field goal and an extra point, but the Dolphins lost, 24-10.

Fast forward to yesterday's practice. Belichick has been known to throw unexpected twists at the team, and he summoned Welker to kick a short field goal.

Welker missed the first kick, wide left, before splitting the uprights with his final attempt, drawing a cheer from teammates.

"He looked pretty good, it was impressive," said placekicker Stephen Gostkowski. "I doubt he'd kicked in a while. Maybe next time I can line up and get a catch from Tom [ Brady] at receiver."

Practice make perfect
After having his minicamp field goals charted by the media last year as a rookie, Gostkowski flew under the radar this year. Yet despite not having another kicker in camp (last year it was Martin Gramatica), Gostkowski feels as if he still has much to prove.

"I try to put just as much pressure on myself, whether it's my first year or my 15th year," he said. "I'm still new to the game. I still haven't been anywhere close to half the kickers in the league. You don't want one year to be a fluke."

Gostkowski said hitting 8 of 8 field goals in the pressure-packed playoffs helped his confidence and gave him something to build on. He believes the way the Patriots practice field goals helped him in games.

"Coach Belichick has a good way of making you feel antsy when you're out there," he said. "He'll stand right next to you or throw a hat in your way, anything to break your concentration. Rosevelt [ Colvin] and all of them talk. It helps, because in the game, you don't get half of that. I think they do a good job putting us in situations we'll be prepared for. Even when we're kicking by ourselves, we do game-winning field goals every day. I feel like there is one second left and I got to go."

Mills catching on
Second-year tight end Garrett Mills made one of the toughest catches of practice, hauling in a tight throw from Matt Cassel with linebacker Tedy Bruschi in coverage. Mills, a fourth-round draft choice who spent his rookie season on injured reserve, has impressed veteran tight end Kyle Brady.

"He was a very prolific pass catcher in college [at Tulsa] and you can see he's polished as a receiver," Brady said.

Miller time
Punter Josh Miller, who was paid a $100,000 roster bonus this offseason, said he's recovered from a shoulder injury that landed him on injured reserve after 10 games last season. One of the oldest players on the roster at 36, he believes his age is less of a factor because of the position he plays.

"You have guys punting -- [Jeff ] Feagles is 41, Sean [ Landeta] is 45, and my legs still have good pop," he said. "I'm not worried about it. I know I'd love for it to be here, but if it's not here, I feel like I'll have a helmet somewhere else."

Miller was prepared to be in camp alongside veteran Todd Sauerbrun, but Sauerbrun signed with Denver. Miller's main competition comes from NFL Europa punters Danny Baugher and Tom Malone.

Present and accounted for
Safety James Sanders, who missed the first two days of minicamp, was present yesterday . . . Running back Laurence Maroney was on the field for practice, but remained limited . . . The following players did not practice on the field: receiver Chad Jackson; safeties Mel Mitchell and Brandon Meriweather; cornerbacks Eddie Jackson and Antwain Spann; linebacker Eric Alexander; tight end David Thomas; and defensive lineman Richard Seymour . . . After being limited to four games last season with hamstring and groin injuries, safety Eugene Wilson wanted to see how he'd feel after three days of minicamp. The verdict? "I felt pretty good the whole camp," he said. "I feel like I'm moving well. I know my responsibilities and I feel like I'm right back into the groove." Wilson lined up at safety and cornerback during camp . . . The Patriots signed free agent receiver C.J. Jones, who entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2003 with the Browns. Jones, who played at Iowa, spent two seasons on the Browns' practice squad and was out of football for most of the last two seasons . . . Boston College defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani was a guest at practice.

Mike Reiss can be reached at; Christopher L. Gasper of the Globe staff contributed to this report.