FOXBORO -- Brandon LaFell wasn't present at last Friday's OTA session, which was the first to be made open to the media this offseason. On Thursday, the second session where reporters were provided availability, he stood out as a tall target and fluid route-runner.
Any speculation of an injury brought on by his absence last week was quelled in LaFell's meeting with reporters Thursday. He explained that he had been excused from the practice -- even though, technically, it's voluntary -- by Bill Belichick in order to attend a function at his alma mater. LaFell's coach at Lamar High School in Houston was being honored and he wanted to be there.
Upon his return, LaFell has been focused strictly on deciphering the Patriots playbook.
"The main thing I want to get out of it is learn this playbook," LaFell said. "Learn this playbook so I can play fast and build enough confidence with [Tom] Brady so that he's comfortable getting me the ball."
That hasn't always been the easiest thing for receivers getting adapted to the Patriots system. LaFell knows that. He's heard how it's a bottom-line business in New England. But he's seemed eager to take on the challenge.
"Everything I heard [about Brady] is head on," LaFell said. "He demands the best out of everybody. He's going to give you his best every day. If things aren't going right, he's not going to sugarcoat it. He's going to let you know about it."
Things didn't always go smoothly for LaFell Thursday. He dropped the first ball Brady threw his way and then coughed up another as the rain fell steadily. With Aaron Dobson still out because of a foot injury, he's been able to hit the ground running with plenty of reps.
Compared to other go-to options such as Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, he provides a different skill set. He's a sizable target who can play in the slot or on the outside, and his height could make him a target in the red zone.
"He's a great addition," Edelman said of his new teammate. "He's been on top of his game. I'm excited to play next to him. As far as evaluation, you'd have to ask coach that, but as far as I can tell, he's working hard, and it's good to have him out there."
LaFell explained that the feeling's mutual. As one of the new faces in the crowd, he's leaning on Edelman (now in his sixth season) for direction.
"He kind of helped me remember some of the code words putting this route, that route together to make this code work," LaFell said. "The way he ran a route against a certain defense and stuff like that. He's been helping me out a lot, too. Him and Danny."
LaFell added: "I think I'm the only new receiver other than the rookies. I can't be leaning on them too much because they don't know just like I don't know. Josh Boyce has been helping me out a lot. Him and [Kenbrell Thompkins]. They've been helping me out ... a lot every day."