FOXBOROUGH - A decade ago, Tom Brady says he wasn’t nearly as appreciative of organized team activities, the no-pads, on-field work teams do in May and June, as he is now.
On Thursday, after the second of three OTA workouts the Patriots opened to media (but the seventh for the team), Brady was quick to correct a reporter who said he was 35 (that won’t happen until Aug. 3) when asked if he appreciates these practices more than he did at 25, but he acknowledged how important these days are to the development of a team.
“I appreciate it every day. I think one thing my [torn left ACL] injury taught me a few years ago was how fragile this game is, and to be able to take the field every week is really a blessing,’’ Brady said. “Maybe at 34 I feel a little differently in that sense. I love it just as much now as I ever have. I love being out here for the OTAs. When I was 25, I was probably [complaining] about the OTAs.
“But when you’re 34, you’re not. You’re saying, ‘All right, let’s see what kind of team we’ve got.’ ’’
Brady’s hair was still damp from his helmet as he met with reporters for the first time since the moments after Super Bowl XLVI.
While Brady talked about this being a new team, there’s quite a bit of familiarity for him: Josh McDaniels has returned as offensive coordinator, Wes Welker and Deion Branch have signed on for 2012, and Jabar Gaffney and Donte’ Stallworth were added to a crowded group at receiver.
“We’ve brought in quite a few guys,’’ Brady said. “Hopefully the mix of guys that we had last year along with the new guys can create some different options for us. It’s a very competitive position. All of our days of practice have been very competitive.
‘When I was 25, I was probably [complaining] about the OTAs.’
“The more good players you have, the better team you’re going to be. We obviously have a lot of work to do before the season starts but it’s been a lot of fun being out there and seeing Donte’ and Jabar, who I’ve played with before and I really loved playing with those guys and obviously Wes, Deion, Chad [Ochocinco] and Julian [Edelman], we’ve got a very competitive position.’’
As Brady heads into his 13th season, Branch said his friend and longtime teammate has more control of the team.
“A quarterback should have a presence about him,’’ Brady said. “You’re the coach on the field. The quarterback is always the checks and balances of the team. Everyone else can do something wrong but if the quarterback is holding the ball we can ultimately determine a lot of what goes on over the course of the game.
“Hopefully those guys trust in me. I have to trust in Deion and Wes and all those guys out there to be in the right spot so I can play fast and anticipate what they’re doing. If everyone is not on the same page, then it doesn’t work. A lot of what these practices are about is everybody getting on the same page. You have a lot of new guys from other teams, rookies. The faster we can get up to speed and get better as a unit, the better we’re going to be.’’
Welker, who signed his franchise tender last month, is looking for a long-term deal, but contract talks appear to be status quo.
Brady didn’t offer much more when it came to Welker’s contract and future.
“There are always contract situations and it’s not my contract situation, so I don’t really comment,’’ Brady said. “I just try to support Wes and his role and what he’s asked to do. You see what kind of commitment he makes by coming out here and practicing. He’s always worked his tail off. I love having him out there with me and he’s one of my great friends. Hopefully everything works out.’’
Brady’s mood turned somber when asked about the death of former teammate Junior Seau. Seau played for the Patriots in his final four seasons before retiring after 2009. He committed suicide May 2, at 43 years old.
“I was hoping it wasn’t true,’’ Brady said. “It’s just very unfortunate. Everyone has so much respect for him by the way that he approached the game, by the way he approached life. He was a very good friend of mine. It was a very sad day. I’m sure it’s sad still for his family and for all his friends who really loved him so much. He’s certainly missed.’’
Brady also talked about Best Buddies and the annual events he’s been involved with for several years. On Friday night, he’ll quarterback both teams in a touch football game at Harvard Stadium; Saturday is a bike ride from Boston to Hyannisport.Shalise Manza Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.