Amidst the fresh faces on the practice field for Day One of training camp, a familiar sight could be spotted stalking the sidelines.
After leaving the club in 2009 for coaching stints with the Denver Broncos and St. Louis Rams, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels found himself back in Foxboro on Thursday and once again at the helm of one the NFL's most potent offenses. If he had any reservations about hiding his enthusiasm, he didn't show them.
"Josh thinks he can still play or something," joked wide receiver Deion Branch after practice. "He's a young guy; I think he really loves being around the game, loves coaching these guys," added Branch.
McDaniels appears to have no trouble acclimating to his once-familiar surroundings. With the team's first official practice in the books, the 36-year-old coordinator noted that it felt like he never left.
"My body doesn't feel like I never left," admits McDaniels. "I feel older."
McDaniels certainly gained experience in his time away from New England. In 2009, McDaniels left New England to take on the head coaching job for the Broncos. The former offensive coordinator struggled to take hold in Denver, getting involved in a dispute with quarterback Jay Cutler and compiling an 11-17 record over two seasons before being fired by the club at the end of the 2010 season.
After a one-year stint as offensive coordinator with the St. Louis Rams, McDaniels is back in his element as head of the Patriots offense. He will be working with familiar faces such as quarterback Tom Brady and receiver Jabar Gaffney, who also played under McDaniels in Denver during the 2009 season.
"He's a great coach," says Gaffney, who reunites with his former coach after one year with the Redskins. "In my opinion, he's one of the best offensive coordinators out there, and he's a good person. Doesn't ask you to do anything that he doesn't expect you to do. He puts you in spots to succeed."
The Patriots offense should have many opportunities to succeed this season. With nearly all of its main contributors returning from 2011, McDaniels' unit enters the year with high expectations. Exciting additions such as tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and wide receiver Brandon Lloyd (who also played under McDaniels in St. Louis in 2011) make this offense even more intriguing. McDaniels says he's up to the task.
"It's a new season. [It's] training camp. You come out and you make some exciting plays, and there are a lot of mistakes that we have to correct, but that's the fun part."
"You get to go in now and watch the film with the players and correct some of the things we didn't do well today, and hopefully we'll have a better day tomorrow, but it was good to be out there," added McDaniels.