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New Patriot Holt playing catch-up

Torry Holt and Tom Brady chat during training camp. (Bill Greene/Globe Staff) Torry Holt and Tom Brady chat during training camp.
By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / August 3, 2010

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FOXBOROUGH — As Torry Holt enters his 12th NFL season, the veteran receiver accepts that this year might be different. He is the most-targeted wideout since 2000 and once built a career in St. Louis based on stretching the field.

Yet even with his reputation and proven history, Holt is looking for a job with the Patriots that may not be the high-profile role he has had in the past. A player who has made a career of gobbling up receptions and yards, Holt is looking for a place among a host of pass-catchers in New England.

The moment Wes Welker returned to practice Sunday after months of rehabbing from knee and shoulder surgery, the Patriots’ receiving group became one of the team’s deepest. And that leaves a player like Holt, 34, vulnerable.

“I’ve always taken the approach that I’m fighting for the football team,’’ Holt said. “From my first year in the league to now, I’ve always taken the approach that I have to go out and make the football team. I have to go out and prove and earn my starting spot.

“That’s no different this year. I have to go out and prove myself for whatever that spot may be on this football team. I’m looking forward to that. Mentally, I’m prepared for that.’’

Last season, the Patriots were looking for options for quarterback Tom Brady to complement Randy Moss and Welker. When the Joey Galloway experiment didn’t work out, chances were given to special teams guru Sam Aiken. Julian Edelman impressed in his rookie season, finishing with 37 catches and a touchdown and adding six more catches and two TDs in the playoff loss to the Ravens. Another rookie, Brandon Tate, had his season cut short because of a knee injury.

Galloway was released early in the 2009 season, but Moss, Welker, Edelman, Aiken, and Tate are all in camp this season. Holt has joined the group, along with rookie Taylor Price out of Ohio, a third-round pick who is gaining attention.

“There’s a bunch of competition,’’ Edelman said. “There are a bunch of guys out there that are great at different areas of the game. You’ve got Tate, who’s out there and got speed. You’ve got Wes being Wes, you’ve got Randy Moss; I mean, that’s Randy Moss.

“You got Torry Holt, who is a veteran that runs great routes, so it’s going to be tough and it’s going to be a great situation. We’ve got guys that are working their tails off and there’s competition every day.’’

Last season, Holt found himself learning a playbook with a different organization for the first time in his career. He signed with the Jaguars after 10 seasons with the Rams, who drafted Holt in the first round in 1999. But the 2009 season ended without Holt scoring a touchdown for the first time in his career.

And now Holt is studying another playbook to see if he can fit into the Patriots’ system. Holt said he isn’t afraid to ask questions.

“You’ve got to humble yourself,’’ Holt said. “You have to learn a new scheme, you have to learn multiple positions in this offense. They have guys they’re already dependent on. They got starters already. So if you’re trying to make this squad you’ve got to humble yourself and learn everything as much as you can.

“If you don’t learn everything, learn something to give them something to evaluate you on. Give them something to feel good that you can do something. That’s the approach I’ve taken.’’

Holt enters this season with a streak of 168 games with at least one reception. To add another season would mean that he will have to carve out a place for himself.

“It’s an adjustment. They have their established guys here. My role is to come in and create a role for myself,’’ Holt said. “Who knows what that will be?

“It’s going to be an adjustment for me, and that’s fine. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the guys that start here and those guys that have been here. I’m just looking to work my way in and fit in where I see fit.’’

So far, coach Bill Belichick has seen everything he’s expected.

“I think Torry is a good veteran receiver,’’ Belichick said. “He’s smart. He’s crafty. He certainly understands route-running techniques and coverages and adjustments and things like that. He catches the ball well. [He’s] a pretty experienced guy. I think he’s done all right.’’

Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com.

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