FOXBOROUGH — Not long after the Patriots drafted Malcom Brown 32d overall last month, the defensive tackle from Texas sent a message to fans during a conference call:
“You’re about to get the best player you’ve ever drafted, so just be ready for when I touch the field.”
It was a bold proclamation, the kind a young man makes when his dream has just been realized. It’s also what Patriots owner Robert Kraft said Tom Brady told to him the first time the owner crossed paths with the sixth-round pick in 2000.
But on Wednesday after receiving his ceremonial No. 1 jersey from Robert and Jonathan Kraft, Brown wasn’t making any more bold statements.
“I just really want to work hard and just become the best player I can be,” Brown said when asked where his self-confidence comes from. “Wherever that may lead me, that’s where it leads, but right now I’m just trying to work hard.”
The 6-foot-2-inch, 320-pound Texan smiled when he was reminded of his bold words on draft night, but he quickly showed that he’s in Patriot mode, just one part of a larger machine.
“You know, there’s a lot been going on with all that but I can’t focus on it and I’m not really trying to. Like I said, I’m just trying to work hard, contribute to the team and do whatever I’m asked to do,” Brown said.
The Patriots held their first on-field organized team activity practice Tuesday, with several more scheduled for the coming weeks before mandatory mini-camp June 16-18. Since arriving at the team facility May 7, Brown has been focused on learning from his teammates, coaches, and playbook.
“Right from the get-go you see the hard work and you see everything thrown at you, so you just have to grab it and go,” he said.
Brown has found that he’s been able to get help from any defensive teammate as he works to get acclimated.
“There’s not just one [player I’m leaning on],” he said. “Everybody is contributing to me learning, everybody on defense — I can talk to anybody and they’ll give me advice on something.”
That may include how best to stay on Bill Belichick’s good side.
“Great guy,” Brown said of the coach. “He’s my new coach and he shows everybody a lot of love — tough love — and sometimes you need that.”
The 21-year-old, who is married with two children, does not yet know what number he’ll be wearing, though he doesn’t need one just yet. In recent years, Belichick’s players don’t wear their numbered jerseys during OTA work, just gray T-shirts for the defense and navy blue for the offense.
With rosters undergoing numerous changes from year to year, the tactic is meant to stress communication.
“It just forces you to learn everybody’s name,” Brown said. “It forces you to know people because how are you going to communicate with people you don’t know?”
The Patriots announced on Tuesday that Willie McGinest, the first draft pick of Kraft’s ownership tenure, which began in 1994, had been selected for induction into the franchise Hall of Fame. Kraft joked he hopes he’s around in another 21 years to see Brown’s induction.
Brown was asked about being drafted by the team while it was embroiled in Deflategate and whether he’s been given advice on how to deal with it.
“I haven’t really been focusing toward that. Like I said, I’m just here to work,” he said. “That’s all I’ve been focusing on is getting better every day and learning the material and getting better and working hard.”