RICHMOND — It’s not a news flash to say that Tom Brady loves to compete.
But it isn’t just game situations that bring out the best in Brady. Over two days of joint practices against the Washington Redskins, when Brady and his offensive unit have been on the field against the opponents’ best defensive players, he has been at his best, leading his group down the field with impressive efficiency.
During one hurry-up 11-on-11 drill Tuesday afternoon in the heat and humidity, midway through a three-hour practice, Brady carved up the Redskins, hitting Danny Amendola, Amendola again, Brandon LaFell, and then Julian Edelman in quick succession before the field goal unit was brought onto the field and Stephen Gostkowski converted his attempt.
It was one part of a stellar day for Brady and the receivers, but after the long session, he was predictably deferential to the Patriots’ hosts.
“I think it’s always challenging out there,” he said. “I don’t think we have everything figured out. They have a great pass rush, which really doesn’t come into play in those team drills that we’re doing. I have to drop back and find the open guy and get rid of the ball quickly because it’s usually not very good things happening when I’m holding the ball.
“So I try to get it out as quick as I can and get it to somebody who can actually do something with it because I can’t actually do anything with it other than throw it.”
Brady may have downplayed the offense’s excellence and his role in that, but Washington coach Jay Gruden gushed about the quarterback’s performance.
“It was good, efficient,” Gruden said. “It was fun to watch. He does a good job and he’s very quick with his calls, and their communication is on point.”
Then Gruden, the brother of known hyperbolist Jon Gruden, said of Brady, “He looks good. It’s fun to watch — poetry in motion. He’s obviously a Hall of Famer and the best of all time.
“When you get a chance to watch him in a setting like this, it’s a great learning experience for everybody. It’s really good for our defense, the tempo, just to see how he operates.”
Brady was asked about his relationship with the receivers; last year, that group was almost entirely new, but this year the bulk of them have returned, with the addition of LaFell.
“I think the more experience you have, typically the better it goes, and I think that we’ve had a lot of growing pains, you know?” he said. “But that always happens, and it happens with different parts of your team every year.
“Just the way football is now, it’s not going to be the same group every year and there’s going to be some part of the team that hasn’t really advanced over the other part of the team based on the way a team turns over.
“There’s certainly more familiarity within the skill group, but now we have an opportunity to go out there and try to get a lot of good work done in the preseason games to prepare us for the opener.”
After a rocky ending to the season with Amendola last year —
Brady also clearly likes working with Kenbrell Thompkins, and fellow second-year receiver Josh Boyce is getting his share of opportunities after an injury-shortened rookie season.
“The experience is very helpful, and I think having the opportunity to play with Danny and ‘KT’ [Thompkins] and Aaron [Dobson] and Josh,” Brady said. “Brandon LaFell comes in this year and he’s done a great job since he’s come in and done things. James White has done a great job.
“The more guys that we have on the same page, doing the right thing, that do their job really well, dependably and consistently, the better we’re going to be. We’ve got to have an offense where you can dish the ball to really anybody and that person is going to make the play.”
After some early hiccups and difficulty holding onto balls, LaFell has settled in nicely.
“He keeps making more plays,” Brady said. “He’s done a great job. Today he made a lot of plays out there. He’s understanding [the offense] better and better. He’s a veteran; he’s savvy, knows how to run the routes, big body, big frame, makes a lot of tough catches.”
And LaFell has one other thing going for him.
“I’ve got some little pygmies out there like Julian and Danny, and it’s nice to have a bigger guy out there from time to time who has a bigger catch radius,” Brady said, smiling.
“Hopefully Danny and Julian don’t get mad at me for saying that. They won’t. They know I’m joking.”Shalise Manza Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.