FOXBOROUGH — While there is a gaping hole at quarterback with Tom Brady serving his four-game suspension, the Patriots are becoming whole in other areas, and that includes wide receiver with the return of Danny Amendola to practice.
After missing the entire preseason while recovering from offseason knee and ankle surgeries, Amendola declared himself ready to play in the season-opening game against the Cardinals in Arizona Sunday night.
The game will be a significant test for the Patriots, not only because of Brady’s absence, but because the Cardinals are widely considered favorites to reach the Super Bowl. Having Amendola as an option will enhance their offense against one of the league’s better defenses.
Amendola has caught 146 passes (six for touchdowns) in his three seasons with the Patriots as the third receiving option. He said Tuesday that he is prepared for Sunday.
“I feel good,” he said. “I’ve been preparing a lot. So I feel strong, feel fast, so I’m ready to roll.”
The Patriots could have placed Amendola on the physically unable to perform list, meaning he would miss the first six weeks. But he showed enough progress over the past few weeks to make the active roster. And the Patriots have just four wide receivers on the roster, waiving Keyshawn Martin and Aaron Dobson.
“They’ve always had a plan and so have we, so I’m excited to be ready to go and look forward to this weekend,” Amendola said. “I’ve been ready, so doing my job, trying to get ready for my teammates, for this offense, for whatever my role will be on special teams and just like every other year, just get ready for Week 1.”
Belichick spent Tuesday morning complimenting the Cardinals defense, which was fifth in yards allowed and seventh in points allowed last season.
“They are all big-play type of players, and defensively this is a team that turns the ball over very well,” he said. “They have a good pass rush, a lot of big guys up front. They’re hard to block. [Deone] Bucannon, [Tyrann] Mathieu, [Patrick] Peterson are all good ball-disruption players.
“They cause fumbles, intercept passes, sack the quarterback. They’re very fast. The team has good speed. It’s hard to outrun these guys. They track everybody down.
“It’ll be a big challenge for us down there opening on the road against this quality of a football team and the way they play there.”
Amendola said he has worked over the past two years with Jimmy Garoppolo, who will start the first four games in Brady’s absence.
“We’ve been working a lot, even the past years,” Amendola said. “We’ve got a lot of reps together, and same with all the guys on this team. So it’s no different, just get out there and practice as much as we can, get ready, prepare as hard as we can each week, and it’s no different this week.”
Of course, the atmosphere is different at Patriot Place without Brady, who isn’t allowed on the premises during his suspension.
“Tom is such a great teammate and a leader, obviously his presence is missed in the locker room,” Amendola said. “With that said, we’re focused on the future. We’re focused on preparing with the guys that we got now. Everyone here has a job to do.”
What’s heartening for the Patriots faithful is that Amendola says he’s ready for the Cardinals, despite not playing any live snaps during the preseason.
He has missed six games over the past three years because of injury but said he has recovered from those offseason procedures.
“Those are live reps and those are reps that I value,” he said.
“I love playing every rep whether it be practice or in a game. I’m going to work extra hard, this week, every week, just to get ready, get my body ready for the opener. I played a lot of football in my life and I know the tempo and the speed of the game, so I’m ready to get out there.”