Aaron Dobson speaks to reporters Wednesday at Gillette Stadium. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)
FOXBORO — Aaron Dobson has been battling his own health. Now he can begin the battle for his job.
Dobson suffered a stress fracture during his rookie season of 2013 and never fully recovered, eventually having surgery on the foot in March and missing OTAs and minicamp.
In the time he spent healing from his surgery and trying to get back up to full speed, the received watched as other downfield threats such as Kenbrell Thompkins and Brandon LaFell passed him on the depth chart, taking valuable reps in practice and the first two preseason games.
Now, since returning this week to practice, he can begin the task of winning back a job that was his before his foot issues.
“Definitely, competition is always a good thing, just all of us being out there, pushing each other, holding each other accountable,” Dobson said. “Competition is good. It’s going to bring the best out of us.
“It’s feels good just to be out there, just practicing and running around a little bit, catching the ball. It just feels good to be back into it.”
When he stayed on the field last year, he was a legitimate downfield threat for Tom Brady, arguably his best. Dobson caught 37 passes for 519 yards, four touchdowns and a 14.0 yards per catch average. To get back to that point, Dobson knows he has to get back into game shape.
“It’s just going to take repetition, just me getting used to catching his balls, him getting used to throwing me the ball again so it’s just going to take repetition,” Dobson said of Brady. “That’s all it’s going to take.
“I’m feeling good. I’ve definitely got a little bit to go. I haven’t been out there in a while. Getting my wind back up is definitely a thing I need to do.”
If Dobson can get on the field Friday against the Panthers, that would be a good start.
“It’s a big part,” Dobson said. “Definitely practice is not the same as a game so I just feel like you have to get both, in practice and in a game, to [get] where you want to be.
“I feel like I’m doing well. How it was this week, I felt good. I caught the ball well so I feel like I’m doing well. I just have to keep progressing. I’m excited just to get back out there as soon as I can, just get back out there with my teammates and get back in the game plan.”
Dobson played through the pain after initially hurting his foot in Week 12 against the Broncos last season. He reinjured it in Week 17 against the Buffalo Bills and eventually returned in the AFC Championship Game before having surgery in March. That’s when the Patriots signed Brandon LaFell and Kenbrell Thompkins was given new life in the offensive structure.
“Competition is competition,” Dobson repeated. “Competition brings the best out in you. You definitely don’t want it to be easy or anything handed to you. It’s all fun out there. We’re all teammates out there, trying to push each other.
“I feel like mentally I stayed in there. Like OTAs, all that beginning of training camp, when I wasn’t practicing, I stayed in there with mental reps, just doing everything I can to stay ahead of the game.”