FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quick: What do Buddy Farnham and Taylor Price — two relatively unknown wide receivers trying to make the New England Patriots — have in common with All-Pro Randy Moss?

Well, for one day, they shared the spotlight with Moss in front of the thousands of fans who attended the opening practice of the Patriots’ training camp on a rainy, then hot and humid Thursday.

Farnham, a rookie free-agent wide receiver from Brown University (and nearby Andover, Mass.), made a tumbling, inches-off-the-ground, fingertip catch of a Tom Brady short pass, prompting the first loud applause of the day.

Price, a rookie receiver from Ohio University, caught the first long pass of the day from Brady, prompting fans to chant his name.

And Moss? Well, all he did was run under a long rainbow by Brady — the crowd oohing in anticipation — and make a fingertip catch as he ran past the defense.

This is what it’s like on the first day of training camp. Everyone has a chance to make the roster. Every team has a chance to make it to Dallas for the Feb. 6 Super Bowl.

Optimism abounds. Right?

“When you’ve been with the same team for a number of years, not really,” said defensive end Ty Warren, entering his eighth season. “Not for me.”

If not optimism at the start of camp, Warren was asked, then what? Dread?

“It’s not dread,” he said, laughing. “I’d choose a better word; it’s excitement. It’s like a little kid, like the first day of school. That’s the way I would explain it. It’s just fun to be back out here.”

It is fun for the Patriots this year. For the first time in many years, they are not carrying the burden of being the preseason AFC East favorite. Depending on who you read or believe, the New York Jets and/or Miami Dolphins have passed the Pats with some bold offseason moves.

“That’s why we play the game of football,” said running back Laurence Maroney, in rare form as he joked around with members of the media. “If we (were) doing paper stats, then maybe they would win. But at the end of the day, everybody still has to play the game. No matter who they have or how good they look on paper, they still have to come and play and perform on Sundays.”

Sammy Morris, another of the stable of running backs, said even though the team has had mini-camps and other activities, the start of training camp is different.

“It’s a chance to officially put last season behind you,” he said.

Or maybe the last decade, in this team’s case. Bill Belichick, the coach always looking for a new way to motivate his players, had all the photos of the team’s three Super Bowl championships last decade removed from the training facility. It’s a new era, one where the Patriots again must prove their worth.

It won’t be easy, not with wide receiver Wes Welker currently on the physically unable to perform list coming off his knee surgery, and standout guard Logan Mankins holding out.

A healthy Welker and a present Mankins are vital to the Pats’ success.

But as offensive tackle Matt Light said when asked about Mankins, “At this point, it’s about everybody who’s here at camp and you let that stuff work itself out.

“Hopefully they’ll get things worked out.”

Belichick at least acknowledged both, if minimally, in his morning press conference. Of Mankins, he said, “All of the players that are here are under contract and Logan is not under contract.”

Of Welker, he said, “There’s a long way to go and we’ll see how that whole process takes place. I think the last 10 to 20 percent on those injuries is the hardest part to get back. We’ll see how it goes.”

This is Light’s 10th training camp with the Patriots, so he knows what to expect.

“I think the longer you’re in this game, the more you appreciate this time of year,” he said. “When you’re younger, there’s a lot of anticipation. You’re a little nervous about how things are going to go.

“As you get older, you really appreciate this time of year. It’s really unique to see it all unfold. We’ve got a lot of young guys, a lot of veterans. And this camp is going to be interesting on a lot of levels.”

Stay tuned. The fun is just beginning.


Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

[email protected]