Notebook: Patriots Regrouping

The Patriots have a long way to go in order to return to the playoffs, but they've already taken the first steps.

Brady Excited To Be Back

--QB Tom Brady did not take part in New England's first three days of voluntary OTAs at Gillette Stadium, a three-day passing camp that focused on rookies, first-year Patriots newcomers and other young players rehabbing from injuries. Working his way back to full health from a severe knee injury that cost him all but a quarter of action last fall, the former NFL MVP is expected to be on the field for the Patriots second series of OTA sessions May 26-29 at Gillette Stadium.

"I'm feeling great and just excited to be out there on the field, training with my teammates," Brady told Patriots.com. "It's always fun being back in this competitive environment and working with these guys to try to make 2009 our best season. It's been fun to be back. I think everyone is excited to get back on the field and see what we're capable of."

Maroney Comes Clean

--RB Laurence Maroney did something few Patriots have done over the years when he talked somewhat openly about the shoulder injury that landed him on injured reserve last October. While there was some speculation at the time as to exactly what was ailing Maroney, he said last week at a charity softball game that he suffered from a broken shoulder.

"I had a broken bone and I was trying to play with it," said the oft-injured, oft-criticized fourth-year former first-round pick. "It's kind of hard to sit here and play and not tell people what is going on. Everybody is going to think one way because they don't really know what's going on. I dare anybody in this crowd to play football with a broken bone in your shoulder and you tell me how long you're going to last out there.

"Doing it the second game and still trying to play, I feel like it still shows my toughness and my dedication to the team and how much I really want to contribute. The shoulder is great. Not good, great."

Looking To Make A Trade?

--The Patriots have reportedly had trade discussions with the Oakland Raiders about defensive end Derrick Burgess. The two-time Pro Bowler has battled a few injuries in recent years, but is a proven pass rusher who would bring top-end talent and depth to a thin New England outside linebacker spot. Reports have indicated that the trade talks, which may date back as far as the draft, have discussed Oakland receiving either a second- or third-round pick in exchange for the 6-2, 260-pounder who's recorded 47 sacks in his eight NFL seasons.

Smith Getting Good Advice

--TE Alex Smith is excited about his new home in New England after four seasons with Tampa Bay. Just not quite as excited as a former Patriots tight end is. Smith and current Bronco Daniel Graham grew up together in Colorado, both their fathers having played for the Broncos.

"Daniel's a good friend of mine. He was very excited," Smith said. "I think he might have been more excited I was here than myself. But He's just been offering lots of words of encouragement and just trying to make sure I get settled in as easily as possible."

On the field, Smith is very much looking forward to his new home that includes something he lacked with the Bucs -- stability at quarterback.

"I'm very excited about it," Smith said of catching balls from Tom Brady. "I've played for five or six different quarterbacks in my tenure with the Bucs. Just to have somebody with a familiar face, I think it's a big thing. You can't underestimate having that chemistry with your quarterback. So I'm definitely excited to get out there and start working with him."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was a tough year for us being 11-5 and not having the opportunity to advance into the playoffs and make a run there. I think it's been a long offseason for everybody. I can sense the excitement with the team and we've got some great veteran leadership and a lot of youth and energy with our rookies that hopefully we can build into something special." -- Tom Brady.

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