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Amendola leads new group of receivers

Veteran Danny Amendola got some special attention from his QB during Tuesday's Organized Team Activity practice.


School's in session here in Foxborough – in the form of spring practices known in the business as organized team activities (OTAs). It's the part of the football calendar when teams begin to teach their new players, young and old, their system and get to see them execute it on the field.

For the Patriots, wide receiver Danny Amendola is one of those veterans who concedes that he feels like the new kid in class.

"Sometimes, yeah," he chuckled. "Walking around, I got lost in the building a couple times. I feel good though. It's good to be here."

Better to get lost in the stadium than on the field, where much will be expected of Amendola this season. As New England's first major free agent signing of the offseason, he arrived in Foxborough just as well-liked and highly productive veteran Wes Welker was leaving town.

Media had their first opportunity to see Amendola in a Patriots uniform Tuesday, when the team allowed reporters and photographers to watch practice. Amendola looked sharp in his route-running, quick getting into and out of his breaks, and sure-handed when the ball was thrown his way.

He appeared quite comfortable overall in his role with his new club, looking anything but lost.

That may be in part to his relationship with Josh McDaniels, the offensive coordinator with whom Amendola worked briefly in St. Louis.

"It's familiar," Amendola told reporters after practice. "When Josh was in St. Louis, I got to know it pretty good. It's a little more intricate out here. It's something to grasp. I'm learning every day. It's the verbiage. That's the most important thing, the vocabulary of the offense. I'm learning, day in and day out, studying at night."

If language is the most important thing for Amendola right now, developing his on-field relationship with Tom Brady is a close second. Already, the two have worked together out in California on their own, and during special teams periods Tuesday, Brady and Amendola, along with veteran free agent receiver Michael Jenkins, went to another part of the practice fields to work together on routes and timing.

"Anytime you get a jump and get to work with each other is good. We're getting a lot of good work in right now," said Amendola of his extra reps with Brady.

"The more work is the best in this OTA period. It's something we're working on. It's good to have all the guys out here. Everybody looks good so far."

It was difficult to assess just how well New England's wide receivers, as a whole, performed Tuesday. Difficult to assess how any individuals did, for that matter, as none of the players was wearing a jersey number.

Amendola, though, stood out. Particularly when he and Brady were working together on their own.

When offense and defense lined up opposite each other, Amendola was featured quite often in bubble screen plays. The new receiver came away impressed with the guy throwing him the football.

"He darted me in the chest with one ball. Inside my head, I was like, 'Wow, this guy can really wing it. That's why he's Tom Brady.'

"He's a really good quarterback. Everybody knows that. I'm just trying to be on the same page. So far, so good. It's very important. It's something you work on every day in the meeting rooms, outside of the building, forming relationships. You play better on the field that way."

As for the inevitable comparisons to Welker, Amendola brushed those aside like a season pro.

"That's not something I need to worry about," he stated. "I'm worried about the playbook and getting the routes down and getting on the same page with my teammates. The good thing is, I don't have to worry about that stuff."

Amendola is one of 12 Patriots at the receiver position, only two of whom – Julian Edelman (who wasn't on the field Tuesday as he recovers from a foot injury) and Matthew Slater – have experience on the field with New England. The rest are rookies or veteran free agents. They also have Kamar Aiken, a practice squad holdover in his third NFL season.

As head coach Bill Belichick acknowledged recently, the team is undergoing a "re-do" at wide receiver, with a number of jobs up for grabs.

"I feel like we have a really good group [of receivers]," Amendola declared. "I feel like there are some guys coming from other teams with a lot of experience and it's exciting to see what we're going to be able to do."

OTA attendance

In addition to Edelman, tight end Rob Gronkowski, linebacker Brandon Spikes, and running back Brandon Bolden were not seen on the field.

Tight end Aaron Hernandez, right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, defensive back Devin McCourty, right guard Dan Connolly, rookie receiver Josh Boyce were seen in uniform but either riding an exercise bike or taking part on what looked like a limited basis in team drills. All of them are reportedly coming off surgeries this offseason.

OTAs continue this week, but the next media opportunity to watch and report will come next Wednesday, May 29.

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