FOXBOROUGH — Tom Brady has plenty of reasons to be motivated to put in a little extra work this offseason.
He’s entering his 15th year with the Patriots (14th as the starter), and who knows how much time he has left? He’ll be 37 this fall, and though he is signed through the 2017 season, the Patriots drafted a quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, in the second round, just in case.
It would be easy to envision Brady putting in a little more work, and practicing with a little more intensity, given that his window for winning another Super Bowl is starting to close.
But as the Patriots begin four weeks of full team practices this week, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels doesn’t see any changes in his star quarterback.
“I think his preparation and the way he comes to work and approaches his job has always been incredibly consistent,” McDaniels said Friday. “He’s always at the top of his game in that regard.
“He’s going to work hard, he’s going to spend a lot of time here, takes incredible care of his body, he’s ready to practice every single day — mentally and physically — and obviously it’s a pleasure to coach him.
“I see the same guy. Obviously a very gifted player with a great attitude and great leadership skills and traits, and nothing’s really changed.”
Friday’s voluntary organized team activity was the first one open to the media this offseason. The players weren’t allowed to wear pads or conduct full-contact drills, but they practiced 11-on-11 situations with Brady and backup Ryan Mallett taking turns running the offense. Garoppolo missed the practice to appear at the league’s Rookie Premiere in Los Angeles.
“Everybody was working with everybody. We don’t have any units, 1, 2, 3,” McDaniels said. “We’re really focused on trying to teach our system to players again. There’s always new things you’re adding, and we want them to be experienced before we go to training camp.”
McDaniels is pleased with the progress of the trio of second-year receivers: Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins, and Josh Boyce. Dobson has not been practicing as he recovers from foot surgery, but McDaniels said he could tell the game has been slowing down for Thompkins and Boyce. Those two will probably be among several receivers battling for one roster spot.
“They’re not rookies — you can see that right away,” McDaniels said. “Now we’re not in Stage 1 anymore, and those guys have kind of hit the ground running. Their minds have slowed down so they can process a lot of information. We can count on them to do things after the snap. It will be exciting to see how far we can go with them.”
McDaniels raved about Julian Edelman, who returned on a new four-year deal after catching a career-high 105 passes for 1,056 yards and six touchdowns.
“He’s a tireless worker and a guy we can do a lot of things with,” said McDaniels. “He’s very unselfish, doesn’t care what is asked of him.
“I think just his presence, the way he works, his ethic, how he studies and prepares for OTAs for games for practices and the way he keeps his body in great condition, I think it’s a great example for all of our players on offense and defense.”
This week’s practices are the first time the receivers are facing new cornerback Darrelle Revis in competitive situations. But the Patriots downplayed the impact Revis will have on improving the offensive players.
“Coaching against him a number of times, I’m glad he’s on our team,” McDaniels said. “But we’ve got a lot of good players that have played a lot of good football in that secondary.”
The Patriots had good attendance at the voluntary workout, although a handful of players were missing for undisclosed reasons: cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, guard Logan Mankins, receiver Brandon LaFell, and special teams ace Matthew Slater.
Several other players participated in warmups but then rehabbed injuries on their own — tight end Rob Gronkowski, tackle Nate Solder, and defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly — and others were presumed to be rehabbing, including first-round pick Dominique Easley and Dobson.