FOXBORO — There’s nothing like one of the greatest quarterbacks in history to help you get acclimated to new surroundings.
To Brandon LaFell, Tom Brady has been the ultimate security blanket as he has gone from being overwhelmed in May to feeling like a confident, productive receiving weapon in the Patriots offense.
“From OTAs, if I had to put it on a scale from 0-to-10, it’s like an ’8′ now,” LaFell said when asked about his comfort level with the Patriots offense. “In OTAs, I was shellshocked. I didn’t know what to expect. Everything was all new to me. I was in Carolina for the last four years so I got used to that routine, got used to that playbook. Everything is new here and since the beginning of camp, I feel way more comfortable, just being in the huddle with Brady, hearing him call the plays and stuff like that, I’m way more comfortable.
“For me, it was just language. Everybody in the league pretty much runs the same plays, just terminology, different language.”
“It’s going to be a little weird, just going out there and seeing some of my old teammates and looking at those jerseys and knowing I was just in those jerseys last year. It’s going to be a little weird but I have to do my job.”
LaFell, who signed for three years and $9 million in March, said he’s been paying close attention and that focus has paid off in the last two weeks, including four catches and 45 yards, including a TD grab in the back of the end zone last week from Jimmy Garoppolo.
“We’ve been getting better and better, each and every day, each and every week,” LaFell said of working with Brady. “The more and more reps I get with this guy, our timing is better and also, he’s trying to find me more.”
As tight end Steve Maneri found out last week, if you run a route a yard off, he can cost the team dearly, when Brady threw a pick-6 to Cary Williams.
“He expects you to be exactly where he wants you to be every route, not a yard off, not a yard too deep, not a yard too short,” LaFell said of Brady’s precision. “He expects you to be exactly where he wants you to be because he’s going to put the ball placement exactly right.
“In practice, you have the coaches out there on the field but on game day I’m listening to Tom. What he says in the huddle is the only thing that matters.”
“I learned in this game when you force, force, force, every time you force something, something bad happens. If you go out there and do your job, be patient, things are going to happen for you.”
LaFell is going from one of the most athletically gifted quarterbacks in the game in Cam Newton to one of the most decorated in Brady. LaFell considers himself a lucky guy.
“I’m blessed, man. I’m real blessed, man. I go from Cam, who’s doing his thing. He’s up and coming, real good quarterback, a top quarterback. Then I come over here with Brady, it’s great, man. I’ve been blessed.”
“With Cam, everybody always says a football play is about eight seconds but with Cam, he is a big body, he can move, he can get up there and stiff arm a defensive end and that eight seconds turns to 12 seconds because he broke the pocket. You turning back the play or you’re running deep because he’s rolling out. He always extends plays. With Brady, he’s not the fastest guy out there but he has a little elusiveness in him also to make a play extend.”
LaFell is looking forward to catching up with Newton this Friday night when the Patriots host the Panthers in Foxboro.
“If you were around that guy through all those injuries, [you knew how tough he was],” LaFell said. “When I first got there, he tore his ACL in OTAs and that’s a guy, you never see him down. He was always around, always kept everybody else motivated and the made the guys behind way better, just being around them and giving them the knowledge that he knows.
“It’s night and day. When he first came in, he just did everything off talent. Once he got with Coach [Mike] Shula, he really worked on his game, his fundamentals, that guy started to blow up. Now he’s one of the best in the game.”
“I tell everybody the same story – he has everything you wish for in a football player. He has size, he has speed, he has ability, toughness, he can do it all.”