Patriots fans shower Brady with love on first day of padded practices
Two things were certain when the New England Patriots put on pads for the first time at training camp on Saturday: The home fans sure do love Tom Brady, and the quarterback's suspension and court case haven't affected his accuracy.
In between raucous cheers that started when he ran onto the field, Brady was strong and precise with his passing. He completed 12 consecutive passes during 11-on-11 work, and lofted a nifty touchdown pass to Danny Amendola during a goal-line drill.
"Tom's our leader," Amendola said.
And he's loved by Patriots fans, many of whom donned No. 12 jerseys and chanted "Brady! Brady!" as he jogged onto the practice field. Brady raised his hand and acknowledged the crowd. He later signed autographs, then once again shunned the media.
Since the NFL upheld the four-game suspension for his role in allegedly tampering with football air pressure in last season's AFC title game, Brady has remained mum outside a Facebook post in which he maintained his innocence.
The issue is expected to be decided in a New York court before the start of the season. Meanwhile, coach Bill Belichick and the Super Bowl champs are insisting it's business as usual.
"You're just trying to do what you have to do for that play at that particular time," rookie guard Tre Jackson said, "no matter if Tom Brady or Jimmy Whoever is behind you."
That would be Jimmy Garoppolo, the 2014 second-round pick who would likely replace Brady if the suspension holds. Garoppolo took some snaps with the first team, although continued to do the majority of his work with the backups.
Garoppolo also looked sharp, with Aaron Dobson a trusty target.
"Jimmy's continuing to improve," Amendola said. "He's learning the ways of the NFL."
The Patriots also had a new look in the backfield, as LeGarrette Blount made his debut. The running back worked with the starters after being on the physically unable to perform list for the first two days of camp.
Blount, who will serve a one-game suspension in the season opener Sept. 10 against Pittsburgh for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, failed his conditioning test, according to The Boston Globe. But Blount declined to specify why he was out.
"I don't know," he said.
What, exactly, does the conditioning test entail?
"Conditioning," Blount said.
Combine that with Belichick not speaking to reporters and it seemed like a normal day for the Patriots: Tight-lipped and led by their dynamic quarterback.
"He's been doing it for a long time on a very high level," Amendola said of Brady. "He gets a lot of guys going and we love playing with him."