FOXBORO -- When Patriots players have taken the field for OTAs in recent years, they've done so relatively anonymously in t-shirts that bear no numbers.
Much to the chagrin of reporters scrambling to keep attendance, it's a tradition with which the team has stuck because, as Patriots first-rounder Malcom Brown explained on Wednesday, there is a team-building benefit from the numberless blue and gray tees donned by the offensive and defensive units.
"It just forces you to know everybody's name," Brown said. "It forces you to know people, how you communicate somebody that you don't know."
Brown, the team's first-round pick this season, insisted that he was not aware what number he would wear during his rookie season; none of the team's first-year players have been assigned numbers on the team's online roster.
Dealing with dozens of teammates with no digits of demarcation has been one of many challenges Brown and his fellow rookies will have had to deal with during the early portion of their first professional season. But they have help.
Brown said that he hasn't had one teammate on defense in particular that he's leaned on to show him the way. Rather, he feels as though he can ask anyone -- defensive linemen, linebackers, corners -- for assistance and they would be willing.
"Everybody takes you under your wing and you just work hard," Brown said. "You really have no choice but to work hard because everybody's going to compete."
He added: "Everything's fast, but everybody helps and contributes to helping you learning everything and getting on track with the vets."
Despite the guidance he's been give, Brown knows that the speed with which he acclimates to the Patriots system will depend largely on how hard he works when he's on his own.
"Everything's just on the fly here," he said. "Everything is on the go. You gotta learn. You gotta take time out of your day and you gotta learn stuff too. You can't just expect to get it all in during meetings so you gotta be able to manage your time and learn everything."
Including how to tell teammates apart when they're not wearing any jersey numbers.