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Patriots get back to work

03.15.10 at 9:22 pm ET
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A young Tom Brady used the offseason workout program between the 2000 and 2001 season to his advantage. (AP)

“Early Bird gets the worm … Weightroom.”

That tweet from cornerback Darius Butler early Monday morning was the first public acknowledgement the Patriots’ offseason workout program had begun in earnest in Foxboro.

Monday marked the earliest day NFL teams are allowed to start their offseason programs. While many NFL veterans choose to work out at their alma mater or with personal trainers, a large portion of the team convened at Gillette Stadium as a group Monday for the first time since the day after the playoff loss to the Ravens in January.

The 14-week program which is run by strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik and his assistant Harold Nash, it can be a positive experience on a number of levels — no one knows that more than quarterback Tom Brady. As a youngster, he realized quickly that attendance and a willingness to throw yourself into the program were paramount if he was going to succeed in New England. The offseason workouts were a chance to catch up with the rest of the field, and in the end, it was clear he took advantage of the opportunity that was presented to him — the Patriots held 60 offseason workouts between the 2000 and 2001 season, and Brady was in attendance for all of them. His businesslike approach that offseason was a sign to the coaching staff that the youngster was serious about his professional development.

Only time will tell if any younger players will approach Brady’s attendance that offseason, but when it comes to younger players, the coaching staff definitely pays attention to who is working out at the facility and who isn’t. Attendance and attitude at these offseason sessions are great ways to gauge how interested a young player is in succeeding.

For many veterans, even though attendance isn’t mandatory, it is encouraged, and many players have workout bonuses that kick in after so many appearances. Workout warriors are singled out, and get special perks — award winners receive small considerations from the coaching staff, such as the right to choose music during stretching periods at training camp practices and preferred parking spaces in the players’ parking lot.

In the end, the offseason workouts — which can run for as long as 14 weeks — are the first step on the road back to football. A successful offseason program can often lay the groundwork for a good year on several levels, first and foremost by fostering team unity — Brady has noted on several occasions that these workouts are where bonds are forged among teammates.

Veteran nose tackle Vince Wilfork hopes this year’s offseason workouts are the first step in a return to accountability for the 2010 Patriots.

“We’re going to have to start in the offseason training,” Wilfork said last week. “Everybody has to be accountable.”

Read More: Darius Butler, Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork,
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