BOSTON (CBS) – Despite joining a competitive and crowded field of wide receivers, Jabar Gaffney is happy to be back in New England.
He faced the Patriots last season as a member of the Washington Redskins, finishing the game with six receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown in a loss to his old team.
But before the two teams took the field, Gaffney made a point to catch up with Tom Brady. He told his old QB he had high hopes to have another season of catching passes from him.
“I was talking to Brady about it before the game, to get one more game together,” he said with a chuckle. “I never felt at that time it would happen, but things worked out and I’m here.”
Gaffney spent three seasons with the Patriots from 2006-2008, hauling in 85 catches for 1,059 yards and eight touchdowns. He became one of Brady’s favorite targets toward the end of the 2006 season, catching 21 passes in the playoffs after just 11 receptions in the regular season — including a pair of touchdowns. But after their loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game, New England went out and revamped their receiving core with Randy Moss and Wes Welker.
Gaffney played two more seasons in New England, playing well as a third option, but followed coordinator Josh McDaniels to Denver in 2009.
Now he is back with the Patriots, and ready to pick up where he left off.
“It still feels the same,” Gaffney said following the first day of Training Camp on Thursday. “There’s some great crowd support out here. There are some familiar faces everywhere; it feels good.”
“We have a lot of talent,” he said of the team. “We have a lot of work to do, but if we can hone in on the stuff we need to and clean up on some stuff, we’ll give ourselves a good chance this year.”
Gaffney dropped a pass early Thursday afternoon, but impressed the crowd and Patriots alike from that point on. It was his connection with Brady that led to his success during his first stint in New England, and it won’t take much work to regain it.
But that doesn’t mean the 11-year veteran won’t be giving it his all during camp.
“It’s real important,” he said of the QB-Receiver connection. “You have to be on the same page with the quarterback and the quarterback has to be on the same page as the receivers; see things the same. That’s how plays get made on the field.”
Gaffney is also excited to be reunited with McDaniels, who never stops inspiring his offensive players to be at their best.
“Josh is a great coach and he’s a guy that all the players love to play for,” said Gaffney. “He gets us coached up and racing out here to the field.”
Gaffney will likely slide back into the third receiver spot, behind Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker on the depth chart. He’ll have plenty of competition from the likes of Deion Branch, Donte’ Stallworth and Julian Edelman, but there is little doubt that Gaffney still remains the competitor he was his first time in New England.
Last season, with the likes of John Beck and Rex Grossman passing to him, he still finished the season with 947 yards, tops on the Redskins.
His numbers won’t be anything eye-popping, but if Gaffney and Brady can restore what they had in 2006 and 2007, the Patriots will have one fearsome collection of weapons for their All-Pro quarterback.