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East-West Shrine Bowl

Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien looks comfortable as he takes the field to help coach the West team at Shrine Bowl

Bill O'Brien, pictured here coaching the Texans in 2020, has joined Bill Belichick at the Shrine Bowl in Las Vegas.David J. Phillip/Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — If Saturday morning’s practice at the Fertitta Football Complex was any indication, Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien sure seems comfortable in his return to the organization after more than a decade away.

Just two days after the Patriots officially announced his hiring, O’Brien took the field with coach Bill Belichick and other colleagues for the West team’s opening practice ahead of the annual East-West Shrine Bowl. While O’Brien’s listed role for the week is a supervisory one, he certainly maintained an active coaching presence throughout the 90-minute session, barking out instructions during offensive drills and telling receivers to pick up the pace. He also took an extended time to chat with the group’s three quarterback prospects.


O’Brien primarily worked with Belichick and Patriots assistant coach Ross Douglas, who is the West offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Also on hand for the offense Saturday were wide receivers coach Troy Brown, who is the West head coach; running backs coach Vinnie Sunseri, who is working with the offensive line; and offensive assistant Evan Rothstein, who is working with the running backs. Joe Judge, who will be reassigned after working with the quarterbacks last season, stayed involved on the offensive side of the ball, too.

Saturday marked the first of four practices for the West ahead of Thursday’s game — and the first opportunity for O’Brien to work alongside his new staff, full of fresh faces since he last worked in New England in 2011.

“It’s great to have him on board,” said director of player personnel Matt Groh. “All our coaches are trying to get these guys ready for the game. I look forward to seeing what they can do.”

The Patriots normally attend the East-West Shrine Bowl festivities in a scouting capacity, but the week is even more beneficial this year because their staff is coaching the West team. Groh, who was promoted to director of player personnel last February following the departure of Dave Ziegler, extolled the chance to work so closely with the prospects.


“Obviously, the physical part of football is a massive part,” Groh said. “But the mental is massive as well. And also there’s the personal part. We get to really see them more in a natural setting, more relaxed with their teammates. Being a good teammate is really important to me. It’s really important to our organization.

“Seeing the guys who are good teammates, the guys who — all right, these guys have all just come together — well, who’s risen as the kind of leader of a group? Sometimes that happens pretty quickly and, you know, hey, that guy has to really have something as far as leadership qualities that these other guys, who are at the top of their groups from their schools respectively around the country — why are they gravitating toward that guy?”

There are plenty of prospects for the Patriots to evaluate — and that’s exactly the focus of the personnel department, according to Groh. He didn’t seem inclined to discuss other roster building matters facing the Patriots now that they have hired an offensive coordinator.

As O’Brien continues to become re-acclimated in New England, the Patriots will have some choices to make regarding the direction of the offense. Asked how a new offensive coordinator, and, in turn, new offensive scheme, may affect his overall approach this offseason, Groh — in typical Patriots fashion — kept his remarks focused on the upcoming game.


“We’re just trying to go out there and beat the East team right now, so we’ve got a long way to go before that happens,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for [the prospects] to get to know a pro system and pro coaching staff and a pro way of going about things. Football for them has always been between school and football, and this is their introduction to football all the time.”

Nicole Yang can be reached at nicole.yang@globe.com.Follow her on Twitter @nicolecyang.