FOXBOROUGH — Even when his players are in shorts and T-shirts, not allowed to tackle one another, and months away from their first meaningful game of the year, Bill Belichick wants everything done to his exacting standards.
Just listen to Tom Brady.
The Patriots quarterback was asked Wednesday about the importance of the work the team has done since early May, and Belichick’s statement that it is the base the team will build on when training camp begins.
“[Belichick] talks about, ‘You think it’s just an OTA in the springtime and it’s not that important,’ and all those things that probably could enter your mind,” Brady said. “The truth is, this lays the foundation for the start of training camp, and if you have a good training camp, it usually means a good start to the season. A good start to the season leads to good position entering the second half of the season, which leads to [playoffs].
“Everything ends up having some significance to it. You’re not just out here running plays and going through different things that aren’t going to mean anything. We’re out here trying to get a lot of things accomplished. I think we have done that, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
Belichick estimated that more than 50 percent of the playbook has been installed since OTAs began, and even though it’s a learning process for many players, it doesn’t sound as if the coach gives much leeway for mistakes.
“It’s really never-ending, especially when you play for Coach Belichick,” said Brady with a smile. “Especially in practices when the offense goes against the defense, because if the offense makes a play, then the defense sucked, and if the defense makes a play, then the offense sucked.
“So someone is really going to get yelled at on every play. There’s always lowlights when we come in on the next day.
“We’ve become a bit used to that now, and that’s part of the learning process and also learning how to play for the Patriots and understand the criticism that you’re getting and hopefully use it constructively so you can improve as a player.”
The big story for the offense is the overhaul at wide receiver, with Brady having to get used to working with what is essentially an entirely new group. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is preaching patience as it all comes together, and Brady noted that there has to be near-constant communication — discussion about defensive looks and coverages, alignments, and route adjustments.
But he sounded pleased with the effort thus far.
“Really, there hasn’t been anyone that we’ve thrown to in any game action,” he said, “That’s going to be really important as the process develops. The only thing we can really work on is what we’re doing now. Guys have really tried to do exactly what we ask them to do, whether they’ve been out there or not through the meetings, the walk-throughs.
“It’s really been a fun group that’s been open to learning and open to understanding how we do things, because how we do things is quite a bit different than how other teams do things, on the field and off the field. To try to come in and fit in and do their job, I give those guys a lot of credit for really stepping up to the challenge.”
On Tuesday, Brady got particularly fired up after a play to Danny Amendola, happy with the decision his new teammate had made on which route to run.
Brady explained that Amendola had taken a recent correction and put it into practice properly, more evidence that he and the former Ram are getting on the same page quickly.
“That’s how you make improvements,” said Brady. “That’s how you can exceed expectations, is to continue to do the right thing over and over.
“We talked about something, and the first time he didn’t quite get it and the second time he got it a little more but not quite and finally we nailed it. Hopefully once you get that feeling of nailing it, you can understand it.
“I’ve developed some great chemistry with receivers over the years. Body language is really important: when to sit, when to move, when to give me your eyes, when to give me your hands, all those little cues that you’re using to try to anticipate things as players are very important.
“That’s why some guys really pick things up and why you develop a chemistry with certain players. Like Aaron [Hernandez] and Rob [Gronkowski], they got it so quickly and they were very talented players.
“Danny has come in and he’s been fun to play with. He’s come in and worked so hard. He’s diving out there for catches. He’s really done everything that we’ve asked him to do.”
Without any meaningful snaps, Brady said, he isn’t quite ready to put Amendola into the same category as Hernandez and Gronkowski; training camp is when players and teams really develop chemistry and toughness, both mental and physical.
Brady, of course, was asked for his thoughts on Tim Tebow. He said he hadn’t been around Tebow before his arrival in Foxborough, but he respects Tebow, as he does all NFL players, knowing the talent it takes to play in the league.
“I don’t really make decisions and transactions — whether we cut players or sign players or trade players,” he said. “My reaction is very much like everyone else on the team. Just trying to focus on what I need to do and what I need to do to be a better player, and certainly anytime a new teammate comes in, you welcome them, try to do whatever you can to help them fit in and understand what we need to do.
“It’s been a fun couple days.”
And as to whether he worries that Tebow and the hoopla that follows him will become a distraction, Brady said, “I don’t worry about much these days.”