FOXBOROUGH – Five observations from the Patriots’ organized team activity at Gillette Stadium:
1) Tom Brady the star attraction. The practice tempo wasn’t overly high, and Brady, wearing sweatpants that covered a knee brace, went through all drills. At one point in 11 on 11 work, Brady connected with receiver Randy Moss on a long pass down the left sideline (Leigh Bodden in coverage), a delivery which was under-thrown and which Moss made a nice adjustment to come back and snare. Earlier in practice, Brady and Moss communicated using hand signals, which reflected how this time of the offseason is used to work on the little things. After practice, Brady said he felt rusty. Brady drew a major media crowd, with television cameras positioned in the bleachers and Brady standing below them on the field. What a scene.
2) Laurence Maroney on kickoff returns. The Patriots spent some considerable time on special teams, and when it was time for kickoff returns, running back Laurence Maroney was back as a returner. Maroney had 28 kickoff returns for 783 yards (28.0 avg.) as a rookie, but hasn’t been used in that role since. Other returners were Darius Butler, Terrence Wheatley, Julian Edelman and Terrence Nunn. Elsewhere on special teams, it was interesting to watch as the return team adjusted to the NFL’s new rules, which prohibit wedges of three players or more.
3) Leigh Bodden vs. Randy Moss. After practice, cornerback Leigh Bodden talked about how beneficial it is to go against a top receiver like Moss in practice, as it can only make him better. At one point in 11 on 11 drills, Bodden broke up a Tom Brady pass intended for Moss as he showed nice timing to tip the pass as it arrived. Bodden, who lined up at right corner, also showed up later in practice when he broke on a Matt Gutierrez pass and would have returned it for a touchdown if not for dropping it. Cornerback Jonathan Wilhite had one of the day’s interceptions, picking off a Brian Hoyer pass intended for receiver Robert Ortiz.
4) Strong arm for Kevin O’Connell. In 11 on 11 work, backup quarterback Kevin O’Connell displayed his strong arm by unloading a long, arcing pass across the middle, which receiver Greg Lewis dove to catch as Shawn Springs was in coverage. While O’Connell might have been sacked if the rush was allowed to bring down the quarterback, the play reflected O’Connell’s ability to get the ball downfield. While O’Connell continues to work on his accuracy, arm strength doesn’t appear to be much of an issue.
5) More repetitions for Gary Guyton. The Patriots were a bit light with inside linebackers Jerod Mayo and Tedy Bruschi not on the field for practice. That created an opportunity for second-year man Gary Guyton to perhaps take more reps than he normally would have. Free-agent Paris Lenon, who signed with the Patriots on Wednesday, was present at practice and donning jersey No. 47 although he probably has some catch-up work to do before he takes regular reps.