- Mike Rodak, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- January served as an on-the-fly reunion for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who took a low-key role as then-offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien transitioned to his new job as head coach at Penn State.
With the Patriots' organized team activities beginning last week, the two are back together, this time with McDaniels retaking the reins as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. But not everything is the same it was in 2008, the last time McDaniels coached in New England.
"There's always getting up to speed when certain things have changed," Brady said on Thursday.
And other returning offensive players -- not just Brady -- have needed to adjust to changes in McDaniels' system.
"Learning McDaniels' little flair to everything," receiver Julian Edelman said when discussing Thursday's practice. "He just has his spins and different terminology."
"Josh is throwing a lot of different wrinkles at us," said fellow receiver Deion Branch, who has been around the Patriots' offense since Charlie Weis was its coordinator. "Josh is going to give you about a million plays, and it's all about the guys picking up stuff."
In many ways, McDaniels and Brady came of age together in the meeting rooms and practice fields of Gillette Stadium. Although they were born just over a year apart, McDaniels first became Brady's quarterbacks coach in 2004 and later served as offensive coordinator from 2006 to 2008.
McDaniels returns to the Patriots with a different perspective, after a rocky career as a head coach of the Denver Broncos, followed by a season spent getting back on his feet as offensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams.
"I really enjoyed working with (McDaniels) in the past. I really hope that that continues," Brady said on Thursday. "He obviously has more experience. Hopefully that serves us all well. I have a little bit more experience as well."
Brady said his experience was shaped by a knee injury he suffered in 2008, which proved to be McDaniels' final season in New England.
"[What] my injury taught me a few years ago was how fragile this game is and to be able to take the field every week is really a blessing," Brady said. "Maybe at 34 I feel a little differently in that sense. I appreciate -- I love it just as much now as I ever have. I love being out here for the OTAs.
"When I was 25, I was probably [complaining] about the OTAs. But when you're 34, you're not. You're saying, 'All right, let's see what kind of team we've got.' I've really got nothing else going in my life so I try to come out here and do a good job for this team."
With former receivers Jabar Gaffney and Donte' Stallworth also making their returns to New England this offseason, McDaniels is surrounded by familiar faces as he settles back in on the practice fields this spring.
While some of the terminology may be different, Brady says that McDaniels' passion and intensity have not changed.
"His competitiveness is still there, his willingness to do whatever it takes to win is still there and he loves football," Brady said. "I think that's why we get along so well."
Even at 34, Brady seeks criticism from his teammates and coaches. Achieving that level of honest feedback first requires Brady to develop a comfort level with any newcomer. And after five seasons spent together, McDaniels and Brady are no strangers.
"All the guys that are comfortable with me know they can do it. There are some guys that probably aren't as comfortable yet but once they get used to it, they have no problem," Brady said. "I appreciate that. That's really what I need."
Mike Rodak covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.
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