Thursday, April 24, 2014
The Associated Press
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady celebrated his completion by throwing his hands into the air and shouting as if it was a game-winning catch.
New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola keeps his eyes on the ball on a pass play during NFL football practice in Foxborough, Mass., on Tuesday.
The Associated Press
Whoa, calm down.
It was only a pass to newcomer Danny Amendola at minicamp more than a month before training camp and with no one allowed to hit the quarterback.
But to Brady, it was a sign that he and his likely top wide receiver are making progress as he tries to develop chemistry with a new group. In the offseason, the New England Patriots parted with Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd following a season in which they were the team's top two pass catchers.
"Danny has come in and he's been fun to play with," Brady said. "He's diving out there for catches. He's really done everything that we've asked him to do."
That excites the two-time NFL most valuable player entering his 14th season with the Patriots but with just one wide receiver who has ever caught a pass from him. That's Julian Edelman, who had 21 receptions last season but missed minicamp with a foot injury.
Brady knows it will take time to develop chemistry with his new receivers but was excited when Amendola made a catch over the middle during an 11-on-11 drill on Tuesday, the first day of minicamp.
"It was only one play, and we're trying to stack as many of those up as we can," Amendola said.
Brady said he had told the receiver what to do.
"The first time he didn't quite get it and the second time he got it a little more, but not quite. And finally we nailed it," Brady said. "Hopefully, once you get that feeling of nailing it, you can understand it.
"I've developed some great chemistry with receivers over the years that body language is really important — when to (stop), when to move, when to give me your eyes, when to give me your hands, all those little cues that you're using to try to anticipate things as players are very important."
Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez were quick learners as rookies in 2010 and developed into an excellent tight-end duo. Welker began playing with Brady in 2007 and their communication and precision were outstanding.
Amendola, signed as a free agent from the St. Louis Rams, still hasn't caught a pass from Brady in a game.
"We haven't really had any meaningful action," Brady said. "You learn the most about players when it's the hardest and training camp is a good time to develop some of that chemistry and mental toughness as a team. So the more of those guys we have, the better we're going to be."
One of them could be Michael Jenkins, another free-agent addition after seven years in Atlanta and the past two in Minnesota. He's averaged 39 catches per season and played with the first team during minicamp. The final scheduled practice on Thursday was canceled.
With Brady, it's important to be "where you're supposed to be because he's going to get it there," Jenkins said.
Two rookie draft choices are missing valuable time doing that. Second-rounder Aaron Dobson and fourth-rounder Josh Boyce have been nursing injuries.
"Any player that's not out there is behind," coach Bill Belichick said.
But they can keep up in the meeting room.
"It's really been a fun group," Brady said. "It's been open to learning and open to understanding how we do things because how we do things is quite a bit different than how other teams do things, both on the field and off the field."
There are the highly organized practices, the intricate offensive system and the intolerance for mistakes.
Bad plays get a lot more attention than good ones.
"Someone is really going to get yelled at on every play," Brady said. "There's always lowlights when we come in on the next day. Even if it was a great offensive play, (Belichick's) going to yell at someone on the defense. We've become a bit used to that now and that's part of the learning process and also learning how to play for the Patriots."
Belichick couldn't have been upset with Amendola's catch. The quarterback certainly wasn't and showed the same passion he's displayed encouraging teammates on the sideline during games.
The foundation built in organized team activities and minicamp carries over to training camp and sets the stage for the regular season.
"Everything ends up having some significance to it," Brady said. "You're not just out here running plays and going through different things that aren't going to mean anything. We're out here trying to get a lot of things accomplished."
That explains Brady's joy when he and Amendola made their connection.
"Watching Tom and being on the outside, you see that fire. You see him get amped up in games. That's the type of guy you want to play for," Amendola said.
"For him to do that in practice, in OTAs (when) we're going against each other, our own team, and to have that fire and desire to win is really uplifting."