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Hope is in the air

Brady receptive to newcomers' potential input

FOXBOROUGH -- He talked about high expectations, his news-making offseason, the Patriots' revamped receiving corps, and what life is like under the glare of the superstar spotlight.

Quarterback Tom Brady touched several bases yesterday after the Patriots' mandatory minicamp practice at Gillette Stadium, but perhaps no words, from a pure football standpoint, resonated more than these:

"Over the years, so many of our guys have left for other teams via free agency, or coaches have left, but it's nice to be able to add some veteran players that are very professional at this point in their careers. You show up to work and know what is expected of you, and you're willing to put that work in, rather than the 21- or 22-year-old rookie that's hoping to bring his playbook to the meeting at the right time."

Curious as to Brady's thoughts about the Patriots' aggressive offseason moves? That'll just about sum it up.

"It's a little bit different in that sense," he said.

While Brady is ever so careful to say the right things, such as not diminishing the accomplishments of last year's receiving corps, his excitement is evident when the discussion turns to the weapons he'll have at his disposal this year. You can see it on the practice fields when he high-fives veteran receiver Randy Moss after connecting on a screaming missile under the goal posts for a touchdown in 11-on-11 passing drills.

Unlike last season, when the Patriots' passing game was minus playmaking weapons and Brady essentially willed the group to the brink of the Super Bowl, this year looks a lot different. Brady sounded like a quarterback who knows he has some special pieces to work with -- Moss, Wes Welker, Donte' Stallworth, and Kelley Washington join holdovers Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney atop the depth chart -- but he also realizes there is work to be done.

"Everybody's got to find a spot," he said. "And we've got to figure out what Randy is good at, what Donte' is good at, and what Wes is good at, and try to adapt our offense to their style as well. Just as much coming in for those guys to understand our system, we need to understand what they can do as well.

"For example, when Deion [Branch] left, there were a lot of things Deion did that were unique to Deion, and that's exactly how this offense needs to morph.

"I think we've learned a lot already, in six days of practice. I think we've learned about the work ethic of these guys and the attitude. I think it's a very unselfish group. They've all been a lot of fun."

Brady realizes that some high expectations have been placed upon the Patriots, with many media outlets predicting the team will win the Super Bowl. He said he has high expectations as well, and told a story about a speech coach Bill Belichick delivered to the team regarding expecta tions prior to the 2003 AFC Championship game against the Colts.

"It was one of the best speeches he ever gave us," Brady said. "They had played Kansas City and Denver, and I guess they didn't punt in two games. They were coming to play us, and their tight end, [Marcus] Pollard, said after the game, 'The way we're playing, they're going to just have to give us the ring.'

"Coach Belichick pulled his Super Bowl ring out and said, 'You know what? This is from our '01 championship and I know what this is all about. No one gave me this. I earned this every step of the way.'

"I think the players on this team are ready to earn whatever we get. We'll see how that turns out. Really, talk is cheap. No matter what anyone says, or what we say, or we think, it doesn't matter until we go out there and line up and see what we're made of.

"I know this -- the expectations are high externally and internally. Coach Belichick puts different expectations on us to come to work every day and do your job and be attentive and do your job, and put your team first. Hopefully, this team, we establish our identity in that sense."

Brady himself is a key player when it comes to establishing that identity, as evidenced by his work on the practice fields yesterday. He regularly was speaking with his receivers, urging them to run better routes, or telling them he needs to do a better job when it comes to delivering the ball in the correct spot.

The approach was noted by Stallworth.

"He's a leader, and that's why he is who he is," Stallworth said.

Brady is also becoming a higher-profile celebrity, to the point that wearing a Yankees cap while walking the streets of New York becomes stop-the-presses news.

Brady touched on the challenges of keeping his private life private, noting that the hardest part is when people say things about his family.

But otherwise, yesterday was all about football and a chance for Brady to continue working with his new targets.

Brady will turn 30 Aug. 3 and is entering his eighth NFL season, yet he was as competitive as ever on the practice field.

"I'm just going to be willing to work as hard as I can," he said, "and I know those guys are willing to work as hard as they can to see if we can become something that we're all proud of."

Mike Reiss can be reached at mreiss@globe.com; Christopher L. Gasper of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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