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Tom Brady pumps up Kenbrell Thompkins and pumps the brakes on Rob Gronkowski

07.24.14 at 5:14 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tom Brady had his favorite target back on the field on Thursday for the first day of Patriots camp.

But Rob Gronkowski was limited to cutting drills and catching passes in the red zone from Brady. Gronkowski ran several short patterns alongside Julian Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins and Danny Amendola but was just an observer during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. In other words, it wasn’t the “Full Gronkowski.”

That didn’t disappoint Brady too much. As a matter of fact it reminded him of the need to rely on others in the passing game.

“We’re always try to bring it, regardless of who is out there,” Brady said. “If he’€™s not out there, then we still have to find a way to do it, and I think really that’€™s a lesson that we’€™ve learned. You’€™ve got to try to win, no matter who is out there. You’€™ve got to try to compete at a high level. When you have great players like that that are on the field, it helps you a lot. Your margin of error goes up.

“But you’€™ve got to prepare for both. We’€™ve had different times over the offseason where certain guys have been in there, certain guys haven’€™t, but I don’€™t think the expectations have changed. You’€™ve still got to go out and execute the play the best way you know how to and try to do it at a high level on a consistent basis.”

Still, with Gronk on the grass fields, there was a certain electricity in the air.

“The more guys we have out here healthy, the better we’€™re going to be,” Brady said. “Everyone is working with whatever situation they’€™re in. You could be coming off injury, [or] you could be coming off a good offseason. Everyone is starting at the same place. It’€™s the first opportunity to put shoulder pads on, and now the real physical aspect of the sport comes out. In the offseason, when it’€™s just shorts and t-shirts and you’€™re throwing the ball, it’€™s about a quarter of the game. So we’€™re going to see what we’€™re made of, and we’€™ve got a lot of big tests ahead.”

That first big test is this weekend when the team gets into full pads for the first time. Next up, are the full scrimmages with the Redskins down in Richmond, Virginia prior to the preseason opener Aug. 7 at FedEx Field.

If Rob Gronkowski isn’t ready for game snaps out of the gate this preseason or regular season, Kenbrell Thompkins figures to get plenty of looks like he did early in 2013, when he hauled in three TDs in the first four games and four scores in the first six games. The second-year receiver out of Cincinnati opened camp Thursday by making two diving touchdown catches on back-to-back corner fade patterns from Brady and rookie Jimmy Garoppolo.

“Yeah, he made some great plays,” Brady said. “I think he’€™s certainly capable of it. It’€™s exciting for a quarterback when you see a guy make those types of efforts and lay out and catch the ball like he did. He’€™s been doing that since he got here, and he’€™s another guy who’€™s put a lot of work in and fought really hard. It’€™s fun to be out there with him. I have a lot of confidence in him, a lot of trust. He’€™s a great guy. It’€™s fun to be out there with him.

“He works his tail off, so I think that’€™s one of his best attributes. There is nothing that has ever been given to him, so it’€™s great to see a competitor like that. And when your guys make plays like that, it just elevates the rest of the team. Not every play are you going to be open by 10 yards. Sometimes you’€™ve got to lay out and make the play, and that’€™s how you get to be a great offense. The plays that maybe are a bit unexpected ‘€“ if you make those, then it just elevates your whole team.”

Here are the rest of the highlights from Brady on Thursday:

Q: Last year, you had a lot of new guys on offense. Are the expectations higher now that those guys have been through a year? Are some of the mistakes they made no longer acceptable?

It’€™s about making improvements, and I think it goes from the guys who are newest on the team to the guys who are oldest on the team. I don’€™t think you ever have it all figured out. You try to come out here and you work hard to put yourself in a good position and to compete, and when you get a chance and you get your opportunity, you’€™ve got to go out and make it happen. It’€™s really everybody. There’€™s nobody that’€™s immune to it. You’€™ve got to put the work in. You’€™ve got to give it everything you’€™ve got, and like I said, hopefully on a daily basis you continue to make improvements. This game is a very humbling game. You can’€™t ever think that you’€™ve got it all figured out. You’€™ve got to go out there and prove it every single day.

Q: Is there a lot of work to do to get used to this year’€™s offense as compared to other years? Are there a lot of changes?

TB: There is a lot of work. I don’€™t think there is ever a day you can take off, especially with the limited amount of practices we have. You’€™ve got to make them all count. You have to make the walk-throughs count, you have to make the practices count, you have to make the meetings count, and each one of them becomes more valuable the longer you get into the camp because you have less of them. There is really not a play that’€™s not important, or else we wouldn’€™t be doing it. I think that’€™s really a great point of emphasis that all the offensive coaches give us offensive players, that we can’€™t be error repeaters. We can’€™t make a mistake today, correct it and then come back and make it again tomorrow because then you’€™re never going anywhere. You just tread water.

Q: Talk about the competition you’€™re having with Darrelle Revis in practice and what it’€™s like having him on your team.

TB: He’€™s a great player. He challenges us, he challenges the receivers, and it’€™s nice to go against someone like that. We’€™ve had great corners here in the past, but he’€™s a great competitor. Having the chance to compete against him on another team, I certainly appreciate having him on our team.

Q: How have you evolved as a leader over your time here? I’€™ve noticed you being vocal with a lot of guys during OTAs and here at practice.

TB: Communication is a really important part of the quarterback position. It’€™s how you communicate, and hopefully I can bring real positive leadership and energy to the team. If the quarterback won’€™t do it, then who else will? That’€™s kind of how I’€™ve always looked at it. It’€™s fun to be in this position. I don’€™t ever take it for granted. I appreciate the opportunities that I get. It’€™s a great group of guys most importantly. It’€™s the guys who really want to work hard and put the time in and have really made so much improvement over the time that they’€™ve been here. So you look at a guy like Julian [Edelman], who just continues to get better, and he’€™s another guy who has really fought his whole career. I’€™m proud of him and him coming back and getting another opportunity to work with him.

Read More: 2014 training camp, Gronk, Kenbrell Thompkins, New England Patriots
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