FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Before the New England Patriots wrapped up their first day of OTAs, team trainers split the squad between two groups on two separate practice fields to run sprints.

On one side, there were offensive and defensive linemen. On the other, you had the rest of the team. The practice field on the right was done at a quicker pace with the likes of Brenden Schooler and Tyquan Thornton leading the way. It was also noticeable that a rookie in a red jersey was also in the front.

With each rep, including a final 120-yard run, Drake Maye was sprinting among the lead finishers in this group.

The Patriots’ rookie quarterback won’t be handed anything this offseason. Instead, Maye has to earn it. If the end of his first OTA practice was any indication – the Patriots No. 3 pick is willing to put in the work.

That was Coach Jerod Mayo’s first takeaway after watching Maye work during the Patriots’ rookie minicamp.

“I thought Drake did a great job not only progressing on the field but also off the field. You can already tell like he is going to put in that extra work,” Mayo said. “I walked by the quarterback meeting room, he’s just in there by himself, watching film. Those are the things that you want to see. I am excited to see his growth going forward.”

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Before the Patriots unleash Maye, they’re taking their time with their investment. That was seen on Monday at OTAs, which marked the first full team practice of the offseason. There was no contact or pads on this day, but the session gave us a glimpse of how the Patriots are going to bring their young quarterback along.

It’s clear, they’re not going to rush Maye or fellow rookie Joe Milton III. Instead, veterans took the lead. On Monday, the Patriots notably played veterans ahead of all rookies. That was the case with the quarterbacks.

By the time the two-hour practice ended, Jacoby Brissett received the bulk of the work. The veteran was the first quarterback to take reps in position drills as well as full-team drills such as 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s.

Brissett took 17 reps in team drills, finishing 9 of 14. The 31-year-old kicked off the 11-on-11 period going 4 for 4 and finished 5 of 6. In 7-on-7s. Brissett and the offense struggled, and the veteran finished 4 of 8.

Zappe took the reps after Brissett and took seven snaps during team drills, finishing 3 of 5. Zappe went 1 of 1 in 11-on-11s and went 2 of 4 in 7-on-7s.

Maye took reps behind Zappe all afternoon. He too took seven total reps in team drills but had a solid showing finishing 6 of 7. Maye’s first pass of the day was thrown incomplete behind running back Kevin Harris. That was the last time one of his attempts hit the group. He finished 2 of 3 in 11-on-11s and 4 of 4 in 7-on-7s.

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When Maye’s reps were over, he’d stand behind the offense and could be seen talking with Patriots senior offensive assistant, Ben McAdoo.

Milton was the No. 4 quarterback on Monday and didn’t take a rep in full-team drills. He also went 4 of 4 in 7-on-7s. Mayo explained that by the end of the spring, the quarterbacks will have taken close to the same amount of reps. As the weeks go on, the team will distribute the snaps differently.

On Monday, the Patriots didn’t unleash the full playbook on the quarterbacks. Instead, Mayo said they were focused on early downs. That was easy to see with Maye in team drills. The quarterback was focused on one-read, shorter throws.

•  The key to JuJu Smith-Schuster’s offseason was watching Netflix.

The veteran Patriots wide receiver needed rest. So, he sat on his couch and watched the historical romance television series, “Bridgerton.”

Smith-Schuster estimates he was at 60% at this time last year when the Patriots kicked off OTAs and he was still sidelined by a knee procedure he underwent after winning Super Bowl LVII with the Chiefs. Now, he’s finally at 100% for his first time in a Patriots uniform after focusing on rest this offseason.

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“It’s a big difference,” Smith Schuster said after OTAs. “It’s not easy coming off a knee injury and having a long season and coming back really short… I feel great, honestly. I feel great. I’ve never felt better. I’m just excited to finally be out here around this time and participating.”

Smith-Schuster said he never let his knee get up to 100% last season. And the Patriots’ practice approach didn’t make it any easier. Starters were expected to practice under Coach Bill Belichick. Veteran rest days were rare in Belichick’s 24-season tenure.

“I’ve always wanted to just push through and play,” Smith-Schuster said. “I had some injuries that I was dealing with and I just kept pushing through it and playing. That’s just the competitiveness in me. I don’t mind that. So this year it’s a lot different than how it was.”

OBIT: Jim Otto, the Hall of Fame center known as “Mr. Raider” for his durability through a litany of injuries, has died, the team confirmed Sunday night. He was 86.

The cause of death was not immediately known.

“The Original Raider,” the club said in a statement posted on the social platform X. “The personification of consistency, Jim’s influence on the American Football League and professional football as a whole cannot be overstated. His leadership and tenacity were a hallmark of the dominant Raider teams of the 1960s and 70s.”

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Otto remained involved with the Raiders even after they moved to Las Vegas in 2020. He was among several players from the club’s past who were in the locker room following the Raiders’ 27-14 season-ending victory over the Denver Broncos in January.

Otto joined the Raiders for their inaugural season in the American Football League in 1960 and was a fixture on the team for the next 15 years.
He never missed a game because of injuries, competing in 210 consecutive regular-season games and 308 straight total contests despite undergoing nine operations on his knees during his playing career. His right leg was amputated in 2007.

“He’s a warrior,” former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon once said. “When you think of the old-time, tough Raider, you think of Jim Otto.”

Otto was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980 and is considered one of the AFL’s all-time greats.

RAVENS: The Baltimore Ravens signed wide receiver Qadir Ismail, the son of former NFL receiver Qadry Ismail.

Qadir Ismail played collegiately at Villanova and Samford.

Qadry Ismail played for the Ravens from 1999-2001, surpassing 1,000 yards receiving twice. He also had stints with the Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts. He played 137 games in 10 NFL seasons, catching 353 passes for 5,137 yards and 33 touchdowns.


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