Danny Amendola is entering his 11th NFL season after signing with the Detroit Lions in March. He played five seasons with the New England Patriots, from 2013-17. Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

During the joint practices in Allen Park, Michigan, last week, Detroit Lions receiver Danny Amendola watched Tom Brady drop back and throw to practically an entirely new cast of targets, many of them rookies.

Amendola saw some plays, including a few missed connections, while he was waiting for the Lions’ offense to take the field for their 11-on-11 sessions against the New England Patriots’ defense.

Brady’s former go-to-guy recalled what it was like his first year, trying to learn the Patriots’ offense and get on the same page with No. 12.

Listening to him lay out some of the dynamics, it’s clear it wasn’t easy.

He knows exactly what N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers, Maurice Harris and even second-year pro Braxton Berrios are undergoing.

“They’re going to have to learn quickly, you know what I’m saying?” Amendola said. “At this point I know they’re 100 percent focused in on what (Brady’s) saying, because he is who he is. They’re going to do their best to give themselves the best chance to succeed. But Brady is a huge helper. He’s a coach on the field. He understands how the process works, the operation of an offense. That’s the most important thing.”


Brady will provide instruction and coaching on what he demands from a receiver, and what’s expected. The more a player learns and adapts, the more he’ll get in sync with Brady and see the football delivered his way.

Mistakes happen at the outset, but repeat offenders don’t sit well with Brady, or last very long.

After a few weeks of camp, some bonds already have started to form. Brady and Meyers have advanced to the point where Brady trusts the rookie receiver enough to deliver the football before Meyers has made his break. Brady wouldn’t do that if he didn’t trust Meyers would get to the spot.

Harry isn’t quite to that point but is making plays in tough spots down the sideline and in the end zone. That will win over any quarterback.

Berrios had trouble getting open the first few weeks of camp, but enjoyed a bit of a break-through the second day of the joint practices, so Brady kept coming back to him.

What would Amendola’s advice be to first-round pick Harry, where much is expected?


“There’s a couple things. The two-minute drill, all the situational football, that’s all new to a rookie. The learning curve is a little different for him,” said Amendola. “But once you get an understanding how the NFL works, how situational football works, you’ll get a pretty good understanding how the game works. Teams like the Patriots stress situational football moreso than a lot of other teams in the NFL.”

It might take awhile for Harry to process and learn all of the nuances of the playbook, but if he gets down what’s expected in the no-huddle, in the red zone, etc., he’ll be well on his way.

And the second piece of advice?

“Pay attention to your coach,” Amendola said with a smile.

That would be head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Between Belichick, McDaniels and Brady, all of the new guys are getting a wealth of information.

Taking the time to process, learn and understand all of it will make every one of them better. But it’s also important for the receivers to not only grasp the playbook and know who’s running what route, but to know on sight what the defense is doing.


Amendola famously called off one of the Patriots’ trick plays – the one with Julian Edelman throwing him a deep pass for a touchdown – during an early-season game against Kansas City prior to using is successfully against the Baltimore Ravens during the 2014 playoffs because he knew the play wouldn’t work against the coverage he saw. So he got Brady’s attention and the quarterback changed the play at the line.

In the Patriots’ offense, receivers do more than just run routes. They need to be able to read the defense and know what that means for the play that’s been called.

“Certain routes, on certain plays will demand more reading than others. Different concepts give you option freedom within your route, and stuff like that,” said Amendola. “That comes with time, too. We all have to be seeing the same coverage at the same time. Even if they’re trying to disguise it, we all have to know they’re trying to disguise their coverage. We all have to be on the same page. That comes with time. That’s what everyone is doing out here now.”

And once you get the playbook down, receivers still have to get in tune with the quarterback.

Back in 2013, after signing a free-agent contract, it took him awhile to build that chemistry with Brady. But before long he was out in Montana with Edelman at Brady’s place, catching passes during the offseason and building their connection.

Amendola agreed it was good Harry spent time jump-starting the process by catching passes in Brady’s back yard.

“Yup, that part takes time, too,” said Amendola. “During the offseason I went out to California, got some reps in with (Matthew Stafford). You’re always talking, always coming up with new ideas to try and get open, and try to make plays.”

While Brady didn’t play in Thursday night’s preseason opener, he did get in some good work, fine-tuning connections with the new guys, who later performed well in Thursday night’s 31-3 blowout. He’ll do the same in Tennessee this week with joint practice sessions against the Titans.

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