FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The day before the New England Patriots held their first practice of training camp, tight end Martellus Bennett changed his jersey number from 83 to 88. That brought him right next to Rob Gronkowski on the team's roster, as Bennett reminded his Instagam followers after Thursday's opening workout.
As it turned out, the two spent notable time together during practice Thursday, at one point breaking away to the second field with Tom Brady to work close to the goal line. The pairing brought a smile to Gronkowski's face.
"He’s great, a great guy to work with. He’s football smart. He came in and has picked up the playbook very well, which is super, super beneficial here in our offense. So that’s super good to see," he said.
"It’s another guy who is super talented and just wants me to push harder too. Seeing his athleticism and how he gets off the ball, I can bring it in my game, use some of his routes. He can use some of mine, so it’s great to work off each other.”
This is similar to what the Patriots did last year with Gronkowski and Scott Chandler, but the results weren't what the team was hoping for, in part because Chandler battled a nagging knee injury.
So they're trying it again this year, with Bennett representing an upgrade in talent alongside Gronkowski. Thursday marked the start of them building a foundation in camp, although each of them had some uncharacteristic drops in different parts of practice.
Still, the side work with Brady was hard to miss.
“The primary focus is just getting everyone on the same page. It’s the first practice, it’s the first time we truly get our feet wet all together, everyone gets the same chemistry, get our body flows, our body movements, see how fast we are, see where Tom throws the ball," Gronkowski said.
"I’ve been doing it with him for seven years now, so we kind of have the same chemistry right when he hit the field. I know where he’s going to usually put it, I know he knows where I’m going to be. But obviously my rookie year, I didn’t know that. Marty being kind of a rookie in this offense, it’s cool to see everyone work together, help each other out, go over and get some extra work. There’s no such thing as not enough work.”