Tom Brady is still the hardest working player at Patriots OTAs

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – At one point during the New England Patriots' organized team activity on Thursday, quarterback Tom Brady brought four of his friends to the red zone and got to work.

It was a segment of practice in which Brady was focusing on work with the group that would be considering "pass-catching running backs", with James White, Dion Lewis, D.J. Foster and Rex Burkhead lining up to Brady's left and running 15-yard routes to the left-hand corner of the end zone.

If executed well, the running backs would combine the perfect mix of tempo on the route, sure hands to catch the ball on a wet day, and footwork to remain in-bounds along the sideline.

Watching the drill unfold, it was hard to miss how Brady was part-quarterback, part-coach. Seemingly after each repetition, he would talk to the running backs about the finer points of how they ran the route as they worked to create a more efficient connection between them.

The drill also showed how Brady, approaching his 40th birthday on Aug. 3, is still hard at work on the fundamentals of the game just as he was as a 21-year-old rookie in 2000.

"He's the same person," offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said, when asked about how Brady keeps his fire burning as the years pass by. "I haven't seen anything change in that regard, and I wouldn't expect it to."

Brady, who didn't answer questions from reporters on Thursday, arrived at practice alongside Danny Amendola with a hop in his step, greeted media members who lined up at the entrance, then put together his typical ultra-competitive practice.

At one point, after he connected with Foster by delivering a high-arcing pass to the left corner of the end zone in team drills, he greeted him with an emphatic embrace. There was more emotion after he found tight end Rob Gronkowski for a touchdown.

Prior to the practice, Bill Belichick talked about how Brady brings it every day, which players like fellow captain Devin McCourty have pointed out sets a tone for everyone else on the team because when the best player is also one of the hardest working players, others can't help but follow along.

The drill with pass-catching running backs was one example of this, which had McDaniels, before the practice, repeating something he's seemingly mentioned each spring.

"Very consistent, great condition, works very hard, great attitude, comes out prepared every single day, has done a great job of taking care of his body and being ready to go into the spring," he said.