On the far side of the Gillette Stadium practice fields, quarterback Tom Brady stepped back to pass and sought out wide receiver Julian Edelman, who was running a route near the right sideline. Once Edelman turned toward the ball, cornerback Darius Butler swooped in and swiped it away, pulling off an impressive interception and providing a burst of energy for a defensive unit that whooped and hollered for a few moments of celebration.
The Patriots appear to be having plenty of fun during their organized team activities, and the defensive players — particularly the guys in the secondary — lead that charge more often than not. Safety Brandon Meriweather is typically the leader in that department, excitedly yelling throughout practice and making things a lot more enjoyable for his teammates.
Even though there's some pretty good competition for roster spots (read: paychecks) right now, the Patriots have found a way to keep the tempo high and the camaraderie higher.
"It's competitive," safety Pat Chung said of spring practices. "We make it real competitive. It makes it fun, makes practice fast, and when you get fast practice, it makes the games come easy. I like it."
Good defensive plays always create the most noise. The Patriots have 86 players on the roster and as many as 82 have participated in the media portion of OTAs, so it's not always possible to see every drill of practice. Plus, there are often two sets of 7-on-7 drills happening at once — first-team offense against the scout-team defense, and scout-team offense against the first-team defense — which makes it tough to pinpoint every big play.
But when there's an interception, such as Butler's, the excitement can be heard from Fenway. Defensive back Bret Lockett, who is on the roster bubble, soared to rip away a pass at an earlier point of the Patriots' OTAs, and he returned it across the field and down the sideline, with the cheers growing louder with each of his strides.
Then, there's Meriweather, who is like a firecracker at practice. The Patriots were conducting special teams work during Monday's practice, and the defensive backs split off to work on gunning drills. One player, who would be working as a member of the punting team, would try to run past two players, who would try to block him as simulated members of the receiving team.
Each time Meriweather stepped onto the field, he was talking trash about one thing or or another, and the intensity level increased as a result. This isn’t exactly anything out of the ordinary in New England, but it's always entertaining to watch a big play, or some friendly trash talk, liven up a practice session.
"We try to have fun every day," Meriweather said. "Whenever you get a chance, you want to have fun and do all the little things that make you have fun."