SAN DIEGO — Brandon LaFell already had surpassed his career high for receiving yards going into last Sunday’s game against the Packers, but with five receptions and two touchdowns in Green Bay, he has season-best marks in all three categories.
Signed by the Patriots as a free agent in the offseason, LaFell has 53 receptions for 712 yards, both of which are third on the team, and he has seven touchdowns, second to Rob Gronkowski’s team-high of nine.
Considering LaFell had zeros across the board after his first two games, his achievements are all the more impressive.
A third-round pick of the Panthers out of LSU in 2010, LaFell had modest numbers with Carolina. Combined with the Patriots’ spotty history with free agent receivers, his signing didn’t generate a ton of hype.
Determined to pick up the playbook and perform to Tom Brady’s exacting standards, LaFell has put in the time — and plenty of overtime — to do both.
LaFell learned quickly: If you’re not where Brady wants you to be, you’re not getting the ball.
When asked how he has avoided becoming another of the team’s poor veteran receiver signings, LaFell said, “Learn this playbook, because that’s been the toughest challenge. My coach has been telling me, the guys that [were] here, they couldn’t learn the playbook. And being on the same page with Tom, just seeing things out of his eyes, meeting with him, talking to him: ‘Hey, man, where do you want me to be on this?’ or ‘What did you see from the defense that I really didn’t see, that you want me to do?’, stuff like that.”
LaFell will ask to stay on the field to repeat plays until they’re right.
“I’m all about — if we miss something in practice, let’s get it. Let’s not, hey, we’ll get it tomorrow — let’s get it now, while we’re out here. It’s no need to complain or do something till tomorrow when you can do it today,” he said.
Brady has targeted LaFell 86 times, which the receiver said is making the season “a lot of fun. Plus we’re winning, so it’s great.”
LaFell was upset to see receiver Aaron Dobson land on injured reserve this week — he said Dobson helped him learn the playbook when LaFell arrived in New England.
And of friend and former LSU teammate Stevan Ridley, who is recovering from ACL surgery, LaFell said, “I talk to Rid at least twice a week. Rid, that’s my boy, that’s my college teammate.”
10 in question
The Patriots listed 10 players as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Chargers: LS Danny Aiken (concussion), CB Kyle Arrington (ankle), OL Dan Connolly (ankle), DL Dominique Easley (knee), WR Julian Edelman (thigh), OL Cameron Fleming (ankle), LB Dont’a Hightower (shoulder), DL Chandler Jones (hip), LaFell (shoulder), and RB Shane Vereen (ankle). All were limited in practice on Friday.
Brady (ankle) and OL Marcus Cannon (hip) are probable after full practices all week, and LB Chris White (ankle) is doubtful, though he did not practice this week.
For the Chargers, NT Ryan Carrethers (elbow) is out, and three players are questionable: RB Donald Butler (quad), OT D.J. Fluker (concussion), and C Chris Watt (calf). Watt was added to the practice report on Friday and did not participate.
LB Andrew Gachkar (knee), DT Corey Liuget (knee) and QB Philip Rivers (chest) are probable.
Heaven help him
Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano (brother of Colts coach Chuck Pagano) will be looking for some divine intervention against the Patriots. Asked how to defend Gronkowski, Pagano said, “Pray a lot.” . . . There was a small but vocal group of fans outside of the University of San Diego’s Torero Stadium Friday, greeting players and coaches. They serenaded RB LeGarrette Blount with “Happy Birthday” (he celebrated his 28th), one yelled “on to San Diego!” as Belichick walked off the riser from his news conference, and one female fan even convinced defensive coordinator Matt Patricia to take a selfie with her . . . One fan was allowed inside the barriers: Pebble Beach golf course CEO Bill Perocchi. A Lawrence native, Perocchi chatted with Brady before the quarterback walked to the practice field. Brady and Bill Belichick have played in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.Shalise Manza Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.