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Brady back for more, heads Patriots' heavily attended practice
BOSTON -- Tom Brady has done plenty of traveling this offseason -- to Brazil for Carnival; to Mexico, where he navigated a water slide; to the Kentucky Derby, where he sported a Panama hat over his long locks.
All captured, of course, on camera.
Now the New England Patriots' globe-trotting quarterback is back in Massachusetts with teammates at informal workouts.
"Oh," wide receiver Wes Welker told them with a smile as he left, "you found us."
Just 20 miles north of his home stadium in Foxborough, Brady helped lead the session at Boston College's Alumni Stadium on Thursday.
More than 40 players, including several draft choices, attended. There was no hitting -- since injuries wouldn't be covered by the team -- uniforms or football pads. Most players wore T-shirts and shorts. Still, they were together while the NFL lockout kept them from practicing at Gillette Stadium.
"We're running around, and we're just doing some basic stuff," linebacker Rob Ninkovich said after the two-hour session, "but it feels good because we're together and everyone's out there having fun. So we're just waiting for all this stuff to be over with and then we'll be back, hopefully soon."
The workouts began Wednesday and were expected to continue Friday.
While many players have regularly worked out in the area, Brady has done it elsewhere.
The quarterback returned for the workouts and activities of Best Buddies International, which supports programs for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He'll participate in a Friday touch football game at Harvard and a Saturday charity bike ride that Patriots coach Bill Belichick is expected to attend.
On Thursday, though, there weren't any coaches -- the lockout forbids them from running team practices. So Brady took charge of the offense, and linebacker Jerod Mayo ran the defense.
"The best thing about it is just that we get to hear some plays again," running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis said. "Everybody got familiar with the sounds and the terms."
There were positional drills, pass routes run at slow speed and sprints from sideline to sideline on a sunny, breezy morning.
Brady walked without a noticeable limp 4 1/2 months after undergoing surgery for a stress fracture on his right foot. At one point, he dropped back, pumped his arm toward the middle, then threw a completion on the right side to another quarterback, Brian Hoyer.
Hardly typical of a disciplined Belichick practice.
"It's just good to be around all these guys," Hoyer said. "That's the main thing."
During the closed workout, several reporters stood behind a locked gate and peered through binoculars at the players.
While Hoyer conducted a 23-second interview as he left, Brady passed by, smiled and said, "Come on, Hoy, no media interviews."
Among those attending were wide receiver Deion Branch, tight end Rob Gronkowski, center Dan Koppen and defensive backs Devin McCourty and Brandon Meriweather. The draft picks included first-rounder Nate Solder, a tackle from Colorado, and third-rounder Ryan Mallett, a quarterback from Arkansas.
Several players who were sidelined for most of last season -- running back Kevin Faulk, defensive end Ty Warren and defensive tackle Mike Wright -- also participated.
Faulk has spent 12 seasons with the Patriots, although he played in just two games in 2010 because of a torn ligament in his right knee, and is unsigned. Danny Woodhead took over his role as the third-down back and also was at the workout.
"I'm fine, just trying to get back into form, that's all," Faulk said. "Right now, you can't say anybody's ready. We're just trying to get back into football."
Ninkovich said he has regularly worked out with Mayo and about 10 other players who remained in the area after the season ended with a 28-21 playoff loss to the New York Jets.
The large turnout this week showed "team camaraderie," Ninkovich said.
"Last year, we didn't end it the way we wanted to, so this year, we've got to start all over again," he said. "I'm just getting ready to play ball, and whenever they tell me to play, I'll be ready. That's all you can do."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press