Gaffney among Pats' familiar faces
Published: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 11:06 p.m.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — When the New England Patriots sought to add receivers through free agency, the reinforcements they found looked very familiar.
That's because both 11-year veteran Jabbar Gaffney and 10-year veteran Donte' Stallworth are doing their second tours in Foxborough.
Then came Brandon Lloyd, a 10-year veteran, who was immersed in the Patriots offense when he played under Josh McDaniel in Denver and St. Louis. He's now been reunited with McDaniel, who returned to the Patriots last season and is again the offensive coordinator.
That means the learning curve has not been steep for the three players who hope to provide depth behind All-Pro Wes Welker and a host of other veterans at wide receiver.
Still, they don't take anything for granted, considering how many other veteran receivers couldn't master the Patriots' complex offensive schemes.
Gaffney, a former Florida standout, caught 85 passes for 1,039 yards and eight touchdowns for the Patriots (No. 2 in the AP Pro32) in three seasons from 2006-2008 and left the team on good terms.
“In this league, you never know,” Gaffney said. “Guys leave and they return.”
Gaffney said he never really forgot the Pats' system and it came back to him rather quickly.
“It was just like putting my comfortable shoes back on,” he said.
In 2007, Stallworth caught 46 passes for 697 yards and three TDs for the Patriots.
His life took a dark turn in June 2009, when he was found to be driving drunk when he struck and killed a pedestrian in Florida in March 2009. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail after the conviction for manslaughter.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick has been impressed with what he sees as a dramatic change since Stallworth's first stint.
“I would say Donte' has really matured a lot since he was here in '07. He's been a very positive example and influence with what he does on a daily basis but also some of the things that he's done with other players on the team,” he said.
Quarterback Tom Brady said it was fun to be reunited with the two receivers.
“There is so much familiarity with what they're capable of and what they can do,” he said. “It doesn't seem like it's taken long for them to kind of get re-acclimated to what we do. Both of them are making a lot of plays out there.”
Lloyd, wearing the No. 85 jersey most recently used by the receiver then known as Chad Ochocinco, developed into a fan favorite early in training camp, with several spectacular catches, earning cheers rivaling those for tight end Rob Gronkowski.
“He knows what he's doing out there,” Brady said. “It's not like there's a lot of studying the playbook. He's been in the offense now for a bunch of years.”
While Belichick was more cautious, Brady said having trusted veterans is a shortcut to success.
“You have guys who you play with who you've won games with that you really have a lot of trust in, then you can go out there early and execute at a relatively high level,” Brady said.
There are 10 receivers in camp, and the Pats will likely keep six or seven, with the edge for the last couple of spots expected to go to players with multiple roles, such as special teams ace Matthew Slater or kick returner/receiver Julian Edelman.