FOXBORO, Mass. — Making the same mistake twice can be the death knell for a New England Patriots newcomer.
Head coach Bill Belichick preaches making improvements in every practice and fixing mistakes made in past sessions. Free-agent addition Brandon LaFell did just that in Wednesday’s joint practice with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The wide receiver got a big rise out of quarterback Tom Brady when he made a catch down the right sideline in team drills. LaFell had fixed a mistake he made earlier in training camp.
“It was one of those plays where we ran it against our defense, I think the first week of training camp,” LaFell said Wednesday at Gillette Stadium after practice. “And I ended up falling at the top end of the route. So, it was a heavy emphasis today — ‘Hey, keep your feet underneath you, just get out there and make a play.’ “
LaFell made the play, and it’s moments like those that have Brady raving about his new big-bodied receiver.
“I’ve really enjoyed being with him,” Brady said Wednesday after practice. “He’s added a lot. He’s got a real love for the game, and he does a great job out there getting open. He just keeps making more plays. It’s really fun for a quarterback to see guys out there really working hard to make the improvements and then really do it, and hopefully it continues to carry over. It’s been a lot of fun to be with him.”
LaFell, who had some issues with drops as he was getting accustomed to the Patriots’ offense, has been sure-handed in recent weeks. He’s seeing more and more time with Brady, and he can add a big, physical element to the Patriots’ offense, especially near the goal line.
“I know in the red zone, you kinda need that bigger body, and I’m hoping I can be that guy,” LaFell said.
LaFell has shown impressive leaping ability in the end zone for the Patriots this year, and his 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame comes in handy when he uses his strength to fight for contested balls in the air.
LaFell can add a physical presence to the Patriots’ offense, but he knows that stricter rules regarding offensive pass interference will alter just how hard he can go against opposing defensive backs.
“Pushing off, it’s no-go this year,” LaFell said. “It’s a no-go. As soon as they see the arm extended, they’re calling everything. We had a meeting with (NFL officials) on Monday, and they said as soon as they see both our arms extended, it’s a flag.”
LaFell was expected to have trouble catching on to the Patriots’ complex offense, coming from a simple numbers-based system with the Carolina Panthers. But he’s catching on fast and gaining the trust of Brady as he continues to fix his mistakes.
Photo via Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports Images