FOXBOROUGH — It was Kevin Faulk's night, but Tom Brady crashed the party. And he nearly brought the house down.
Faulk reprised his draft day tribute to Brady by wearing his former quarterback's jersey on his way out to his Patriots Hall of Fame induction ceremony Monday night before Brady one-upped him.
Emerging at the stage near the end of the ceremony, Brady showed up in a sweat jacket and shorts. As the crowd buzzed he slowly unzipped his jacket to reveal a Faulk No. 33 jersey.
After giving Faulk a hug, Brady turned to the crowd and asked, "How's that look?"
When the crowd finally quieted, Brady took the mic.
"I feel a lot faster in this jersey already,'' he said with a smile. "Such a great night to honor one of the greatest players, certainly, that I've ever played with.''
This was the first time Brady has spoken publicly since his decision last month to not appeal the four-game suspension he received as a result of the Deflategate scandal.
He didn't make mention of it during his brief remarks but when a "Brady, Brady" chant broke out, he did remind the crowd that "this is about Kevin.''
"Thank you for supporting him and thank you for supporting us,'' said Brady. "We've got the best fans in the world.''
Faulk was clearly moved by Brady's gesture.
"Oh man. Wow,'' he said after the ceremony. "Respect — something that we're losing sight of in America — in the world — right now. That's what that was to me. Respecting me as an individual. Respecting the thing that I did [wearing Brady's jersey] and showing it right back.''
It was evident how much Faulk meant to Brady.
"His commitment to our team was exceptional,'' Brady said. "You guys saw it and appreciated it, but when you were standing 2 feet from him and you knew he had your back on every play, you really knew what was going on.''
Faulk was asked if he's given any thought to reconnecting with Brady to help keep the quarterback sharp during his looming sabbatical.
"I would love to. I would love to come back and catch for him. But I got a job now . . . I got to be back at practice tomorrow,'' said Faulk, who serves as the offensive coordinator at his alma mater, Carencro High in Lafayette, La. "That's where my heart is right now. I'm trying to bring the kids together. Just like we did here.''
Brady even provided a chuckle when he directed a comment about what a special night it was for Faulk to the Patriots owner.
"What's not very special is when the guys going into the Hall of Fame are your age,'' said Brady, who will turn 39 on Wednesday. Faulk is 40.
"So, hopefully that doesn't happen again, RKK.''
Faulk later said Brady is trying to make the Patriots his team "until he's 45!"
Faulk said the key to Brady's success and longevity is a simple one — hard work.
"He's not the best athlete on the football field. He's not the fastest. He's not the strongest. But he works on it like he is,'' he said. "That's why Tom Brady's Tom Brady.''
Dobson standing out
With a plethora of receivers in camp and not a lot of open spaces, coach Bill Belichick touched on the subject during an appearance on Sirius XM.
"I think our competition at receiver is good, it's probably as good as it's been since I've been here,'' he said. "All of those guys are capable at whatever it is. They have different styles at different positions — slot guys or outside guys — but whatever it is, they're very competitive and capable players that, I think, have a lot to offer and are going to be very competitive. Obviously we can't keep all of them, but it should be a good battle. They all have skill.''
The batch is currently shorthanded with projected starters Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola on the PUP list. Additionally, veteran Nate Washington has been out since becoming ill during the first practice of camp, Keshawn Martin has missed the last two days, and Chris Hogan missed Monday night's in-stadium practice after suffering an apparent shoulder injury Sunday.
Aaron Dobson, Malcolm Mitchell, DeAndre Carter, Chris Harper, and Devin Lucien — all candidates to be the fifth receiver — have performed well through five practices.
Dobson's solid summer comes on the heels of a stellar spring in which the fourth-year receiver made highlight catches a daily occurrence during OTAs and minicamp. Dobson has been oft-injured in his three previous seasons, playing in just 24 games. He ended each of the last two seasons on injured reserve.
"Aaron's had a good spring, good training camp. I think we've seen that before,'' Belichick said prior to practice. "Aaron, just, for whatever reason hasn't been able to consistently get on the field and do it . . . I know he's trained hard and he's in good condition so hopefully he can stay on the field and continue to improve.''
Dobson continued to show his skills in front of the jam-packed stadium Monday night.
"I feel good,'' said Dobson, who has 53 catches for 698 yards and four touchdowns for his career. "I can't complain about anything so I'm going to keep stringing good days together.''
As for the competition in his group, Dobson said everyone is on the same page.
"I think we all have sense of urgency,'' he said. "We're all trying to make the 53-man roster. Everybody's competing.''
Many of the players stuck around well after the practice to sign autographs and interact with the 24,546 fans who showed up. It was supposed to be for season ticket-holders and Foxborough residents but anyone who attended the Faulk ceremony was allowed in . . . The best sign in the crowd? "Gronk make me scrambled eggs.'' The big tight end didn't oblige, but he did autograph the sign . . . There were more than a few signs bearing the name "Goodell" but none we can share . . . Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia spent time speaking with Patriots and Pro Football Hall of Famer Mike Haynes. I think the subject of defense may have come up . . . Final Faulk thought: Belichick summed up his former back's career nicely when he said, "So many of his plays were just, third-and-6 and he got 7; third-and-4 and he got 5; third-and-3 and he got 4. He just had a great knack [for making plays].''