For Jabar Gaffney, nothing has changed
|07.26.12 at 6:59 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The pass from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was artfully thrown down the near sideline. As it hung in the air, the crowd — all 12,163 of them, an attendance record for training camp — realized they had a great chance to see the first highlight-reel play of the new season.
The pass, which traveled roughly 50 yards, hit Jabar Gaffney in full stride, and the receiver cruised into the end zone. It wasn’t more than two hours into the first full training camp practice of the year, but it was clear that the old rhythm between Brady and Gaffney — one that had produced 85 receptions for 1,059 yards from 2006 through 2008 — is still there.
There were some rough patches on the afternoon, including an early drop, but Brady and Gaffney spent most of the day making New England’s defensive backs look foolish. Ultimately, Thursday marked a great start to Gaffney’s second act with the Patriots.
‘It still feels the same,’ Gaffney said after practice when asked if it felt like he never left. ‘We get great crowd support out here and seeing the faces everywhere, it feels good.’
Gaffney was in New England from 2006 through 2008 before spending some time in Denver and Washington. Despite the fact that he caught a career-best 68 passes last season with the Redskins, Washington cut him, looking to go in another direction. As far as the Patriots were concerned, it was a no-brainer that they bring him back, and Gaffney didn’t think twice when he was asked if he wanted to return.
After spending last year catching passes from Rex Grossman, it also helps that he has Brady working as his quarterback.
‘Yeah, he’s still the same: full of energy, loves to compete, wants to win on every play,’ Gaffney said of the quarterback. ‘That helps us out, when you see a quarterback like that who wants to win every play in practice.’
Gaffney said the relationship — one based on unspoken communication — between he and Brady is the key to success for a wide receiver, especially in the New England offense.
‘It’s real important. It’s real important,’ said the 31-year-old Gaffney. ‘You have to be able to be on the same page with your quarterback and the quarterback has to be on the same page as his wide receiver. See things the same. That’s how plays get made on the field.’
And like Brandon Lloyd, Gaffney can rely on his previous relationship with Josh McDaniels, who worked as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator before leaving for a head-coaching job with the Broncos and a position as offensive coordinator in with the Rams. (Gaffney and Lloyd were with McDaniels in Denver, and Lloyd also spent time with McDaniels in St. Louis.)
‘Josh, he’s a great coach. He’s a great coach. And he’s a guy that all the players love to play for. He gets us coached up and brings it out here onto the field and coaches us up and puts us in position,’ Gaffney said. ‘In my opinion, he’s one of the best offensive coordinators out there — and he’s a good person.’
Gaffney and Lloyd are now part of an imposing passing game that includes Wes Welker and young tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. It’s caused some to wonder if the Patriots’ current offense can match the stats put up by the 2007 team, a squad that routinely piled up 30 and 40 points a game on the way to a 16-0 regular-season record.
‘We have a lot of talent. We have a lot of talent,’ he said. ‘We have a lot of work to do. If we can hone in on the stuff that we need to and clean up some stuff, we’ll [have] ourselves in a great [situation] this year.’