FOXBOROUGH — New Patriots receiver Brandon LaFell has two goals during organized team activities: Learn the offense and don’t get embarrassed by cornerback Darrelle Revis.
“It’s hard. You don’t want to look like a dumb butt on film,” LaFell said Thursday after a soggy practice at Gillette Stadium. “He’s a guy that’s seen it all. None of your tricks that you’re going to do is going to work on him.”
LaFell, 27, comes to New England after four productive seasons in Carolina, in which he caught between 36 and 49 passes each year and had between 613 and 677 yards in each of the last three seasons. He caught a career-high 49 passes for 627 yards and five touchdowns last year, and signed a three-year, $9 million contract with the Patriots to serve as a versatile weapon who can play on the outside or in the slot.
But LaFell said that his transition to the offense is going slowly.
“I’m used to running a number system, and now I’m back to code words, so it’s a lot,” LaFell said. “The quicker I can learn this offense the quicker I can go out there and be reliable, to play fast and know what I’m doing — instead of now, I’m kind of playing at half-speed because I’m thinking so much.”
LaFell was absent at the first OTA practice open to the media last Friday, but said he had an excused absence — he returned home to Houston where his coach at Lamar High, Tom Nolen, was being honored.
LaFell doesn’t care where he plays, as long as he earns his way onto the field.
“Inside, outside it doesn’t matter. It’s just getting in the rhythm with these guys,” LaFell said. “The main thing I want to get out of it is learning this playbook so I can play fast and building enough confidence so [Tom] Brady can come to me with the ball. I’ve learned a lot, man, but I’m nowhere near where I want to be yet.”
Stevan Ridley is happy to be reunited with LaFell, one of his teammates at Louisiana State.
“Man, that’s like a brother for me. When I was out in California this offseason he told me he was on his way up to New England and I thought he was joking with me,” Ridley said. “But he really came up here. I’ve been telling coach [Bill Belichick] for the longest time to get more LSU guys up here and they went and got a good one.”
Braving the elements
The Patriots held practice for just under two hours, and there was a steady rain throughout. Even in June, Belichick wants his team to practice in adverse conditions, because there’s no way to control the weather once the season starts.
“Coach says with the conditions, rain, sleet, hail, or snow, we’re playing in them,” Ridley said with a blade of wet grass on his cheek. “I think we experienced a little bit of that last year with the weather that we had toward the back end of the season, playing in a monsoon out there [in Cincinnati], cold weather. You just never know. Whatever it is, it’s no excuses, we just have to play good football, so that’s what coach stresses to us, in and out, every week.”
LaFell also saw the benefits.
“It’s going to be like that in the games,” he said. “So go out there, no complaining, get your wet ballgear on, get your different gloves, get your cleats on, go out there and work, man, because there’s going to be games like this that we can’t control the weather and we’ve got to play in it, so what’s a better time to do it than now?”
The wet weather meant the passing game wasn’t crisp, with some drops and off-target throws.
Vince Wilfork took part in about half of Thursday’s workout, a positive sign as he recovers from a torn Achilles’ suffered last season. Fellow defensive tackle Tommy Kelly also took part in some of the workout. Rob Gronkowski, Nate Solder, Matthew Slater, and Will Smith were among those in the rehab group. Alfonzo Dennard, Aaron Dobson, and Armond Armstead were not spotted . . . Patriots rookies sang “Happy Birthday” to team owner Robert Kraft Thursday morning while heading to practice. Kraft turned 73. Backup quarterback Ryan Mallett also celebrated his birthday Thursday, turning 26, as did former running back Kevin Faulk (38) . . . Linebacker James Anderson, signed on Wednesday, was issued No. 55, worn most recently by Brandon Spikes. Anderson’s one-year deal is for the minimum $855,000 and includes a $15,000 signing bonus and $50,000 roster bonus. LaFell, who played with Anderson in Carolina, praised the veteran: “It was surprising. He texted me a few weeks ago and then yesterday I came in the locker room, I’m seeing they’re putting ‘James Anderson’ up and he comes walking in the door. I’m like, ‘I thought you were joking.’ He’s a great guy, man. He’s a hard worker, he’s a guy that’s going to do everything the coaches ask him to do.”