FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- There was a two-play sequence in Thursday’s rain-soaked organized team activity that highlighted how the New England Patriots' offense could be lethal in 2017.
Quarterback Tom Brady first found receiver Brandin Cooks in the back right-hand corner of the end zone (cornerback Malcolm Butler was closest in coverage). Then on the next play, Brady lofted a high-arcing 20-yard rainbow to streaking tight end Rob Gronkowski up the right sideline, with Gronkowski beating safety Jordan Richards for a touchdown.
Everyone knows not to read too much into a voluntary organized team activity in May, as there is no contact and players aren’t in full pads.
But players are fully invested, as the emotion on the field showed.
That Gronkowski was in the middle of it is naturally one of the top storylines of the day. His recovery from back surgery has progressed to the point that he is a full participant in all drills.
“He looks like Gronk,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said with a laugh before practice. “He’s involved in everything.”
McDaniels added that Gronkowski is also “doing a good job of being a leader and a positive influence” in the tight-end room with new players Dwayne Allen, James O'Shaughnessy, Jacob Hollister and Sam Cotton.
McDaniels stressed that coaches aren’t truly in evaluation mode at this point, with the purpose of OTAs to build a foundation heading into training camp. At the same time, players were spirited in their work Thursday, with Cooks’ touchdown producing a notable reaction of excitement.
“The competition level here is amazing,” Cooks said after the practice. “When you’re scoring touchdowns and going back and forth, of course it’s going to be exciting. That’s the competitive nature.”