CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – With favorite target Wes Welker now in Denver after a contract squabble with the Patriots, Tom Brady is using the offseason to get used to new slot receiver Danny Amendola.
"He comes in and he works really hard and he wants to do everything right," Brady said Friday night at halftime of his Boston Buddies charity touch football game. "He's very competitive. It's been a lot of fun. He's out here today, we're having fun together."
Brady redid his contract after last season, the general feeling being the extra money would help the Patriots retain Welker, who caught 672 passes, 37 of them for touchdowns, in the past six regular seasons. But Welker left for the Broncos.
"I always miss his friendship, he's one of my best friends," Brady said of Welker. "We stay in touch. We'll never lose that.
"He's on a great team. He's moved on. That's part of the NFL, and it's something I've grown accustomed to over the years is losing some friends. I hope we have a great year, because we set the standard pretty high."
And Amendola, who signed a five-year contract as a free agent, is thrilled to be part of that standard — and to be teamed with Brady.
"It's going well," Amendola said of the early work. "We've only been together for a limited time, but the time we have been together it's been good, solid work. That's all you can ask for — we're trying to get better each and every time we get out on the field."
No one has to tell Amendola about Welker.
"I realize, everybody realizes, Wes is a great player and the guys who have come through this system are great players," he said. "It's my job to be Danny and do what I can do, establish a role on this team, whatever it may be and go from there."
The immediate success of the Brady-Amendola connection could be even more important given the offseason surgeries of tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, and other turnover in the wide receiver corps.
Brady, asked Friday about Gronkowski, who is now headed for back surgery on top of his ongoing trouble with a broken left forearm suffered last season, said, "I haven't inquired too much about what's going on. That's all the medical stuff that always sorts itself out. I've been working hard with the guys that have been out there; it's been fun to be back out on the field.
"It's been a good offseason thus far. Hopefully we can keep it going right into training camp."
Amendola didn't hesitate when he had a chance to help Brady with this charity, which is actually a weekend event: the 14th Annual Best Buddies Challenge that started at Harvard Stadium on Friday night. For Amendola, it marked another step in joining the New England family.
"It's fantastic," he said. "I've got a lot of family from Boston. I've known about this team for a long time and what the community is all about, how embracing they are and I'm really excited to be a part of it."
The football challenge was followed by a Guy Fieri Celebrity Chef tailgate, with the Food Network star on hand.
Among the Patriots also in the touch football game (Brady quarterbacked for both teams) were Vince Wilfork and Jarod Mayo, along with former teammates Dan Koppen, Joe Andruzzi, Christian Fouria and Scott Zolak.
Brady will be on hand when the Saturday bike-riding event ends in Hyannisport; and his coach, Bill Belichick, is also set to attend for that part of the weekend. Track and field great Carl Lewis was also on hand Friday night.
Congressman Joe Kennedy III is joining Brady as co-chair.
Last year, Brady's event raised over $4 million. Money was collected at the game Friday night, with a crowd of almost 5,000 contributing to aid the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings in lieu of paying to get in.
"It's a highlight of my year, to see the Buddies, the excitement over the game," Brady said. "And there's a little bit of competitiveness and all the proceeds are going to the people of Boston, the One Fund. It's a great time.
"A lot of my teammates have come out to support this. I think one thing about our community here in Boston is the support that we get from all the athletes, all the people — it's a small town. It's a special place to play."