FOXBORO -- At this time of year, everything we see on the Patriots practice fields should be taken with a grain of salt. But it's hard to ignore the timing of when we see some of the things we see -- even early in training camp.
Take, for example, Terrence Brooks.
The 27-year-old safety was signed by the Patriots this offseason after two seasons spent with the Jets primarily as a special-teamer. On Saturday, the first fully-padded Patriots practice, Brooks was on the field with Bill Belichick's defense -- and early. There were times he found himself alongside Devin McCourty. At one point on Sunday, he shared real estate with both McCourty and Patrick Chung.
Brooks played just 69 snaps defensively last season. At this rate, he'll hit that number of 11-on-11 practice reps before the team heads to Detroit in a week.
"Definitely encouraging," he said. "It means I'm taking more steps to earn respect on this team. For the most part, I'm trying to take every opportunity that's given to me and make the most of it."
With Chung currently donning a red non-contact jersey, Brooks may be the beneficiary of some reps that normally would've gone to the 31-year-old. But Chung has been on the field for a fair number of 11-on-11 reps despite his jersey color, and Brooks continues to receive work.
"I'm just trying to keep stacking good days," Brooks said. "I'm just happy to be here. They believe in me. I wanted to come in here and show 'em what I can do. Try to limit the mistakes. Get better each and every day. It's been going well. Just trying to stack good days."
Brooks will fit into Belichick and special teams coach Joe Judge's plans in the kicking game, as he did in New York. But if he can provide some depth in an experienced safety group that includes Chung, McCourty, Duron Harmon and Nate Ebner (as well as younger players Obi Melifonwu, Malik Gant and AJ Howard), then he'll provide a good return on the two-year $3.25 million deal he earned in March.
Brooks' athleticism and strong tackling ability might make him particularly valuable as a box safety. Chung is one of the most versatile players in New England's defense as a safety who can play like a linebacker role and still cover opposing slots. Taking on similar responsibilities would be a tall task for any newcomer, but Chung's role is one that has fascinated Brooks for a while.
"Oh yeah," Brooks said with a smile. "For sure. I've watched a lot of film on Pat. I love how he plays the game. But to be honest man, whatever role they put me in here, I'd be happy to play it. The more I can do, the better it's going to be for me."
The more you can do. Sounding like a Patriot already. Hard to know who to credit for that, but Brooks says he's been trying to soak up any and every technique from the veterans he's gotten to know best in his short time with the team.
"I can't complain one bit about those guys," he said. "They've been tremendous to me ever since I got here. They helped me every step of the way. Helped me get up speed very fast. Giving me tips here and there. But a lot of it comes from me watching them. I can pick up on so many things watching Devin and Duron and those guys, especially Pat, the way they use him all over the place. I'm just trying to take some of whatever they can give me and model it to my game and take it to the point to where the standard doesn't change out here."
Brooks knows there's a long way to go before the season begins, but between the help he's received from his new teammates and the confidence he's been given by his new coach, he feels as though he's in a good place.
"It's been great," Brooks said. "Honestly, getting that recognition from coach Bill, it's great. I've been working hard throughout my whole career and it's awesome that he took notice of that and brought me on board with him and his team. All I can do is just go out here every day and make him proud."
Make Belichick proud? We sure this guy was a Jet?
That's all in the past, Brooks insisted. No lingering hard feelings over the fact that he spent the last two years in Jets green -- after a season in Philly and two in Baltimore -- trying to beat up on Belichick's club and vice versa.
"Nah. I'm on a new team," Brooks said. "New beginnings. I'm not worried about the Jets and what they're doing. I'm focusing on my game each and every day. Whatever Bill tells me to do, I'm doing it."
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