McDaniels rejoins Patriots' staff; Broncos not concerned

On the chilly practice field, Josh McDaniels tucked his hands into the pockets of his new -- or previously used -- dark blue New England Patriots hoodie and smiled broadly at Bill Belichick. McDaniels' new boss, same as the old boss, grinned right back.

Were they just happy to be working together again Tuesday? Or were they chuckling over having pulled a fast one -- allowed though it's by the NFL -- that could help the Patriots in Saturday night's divisional playoff game against the Denver Broncos and beyond?

McDaniels, once the Patriots' offensive coordinator, did coach the Broncos in all of 2009 and the first 12 games of 2010. And as offensive coordinator of the 2-14 St. Louis Rams this season, he coached against all four NFC teams left in the playoffs, as well as the AFC's second-seeded Baltimore Ravens.

But McDaniels has been away from Denver for more than a year. John Fox, the Broncos' current coach, has changed systems and players since then, and he doesn't seem worried.

"We're going to go play Carolina next year," said Fox, the Panthers' former coach. "I don't think that's going to be a huge advantage for me."

Fox's players brushed off suggestions that McDaniels will reveal team secrets.

"I think everything to know about us is on film," wide receiver Eddie Royal said.

Added running back Lance Ball: "We're just worried about ourselves. We're not worried about what (McDaniels) thinks, what he's going to say to them. We're just worried about going in and beating the Patriots."

But a little tip here and there could pay off at a critical moment. After all, McDaniels was the coach when the Broncos drafted defensive end Robert Ayers in the first round in 2009 and quarterback Tim Tebow and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas in the first round in 2010.

"He's a very good coach and I wish him nothing but the best, and I'm very thankful for him having the confidence in drafting me," Tebow said. "But I'm very excited about the coaches that we have here."

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Ayers also is grateful to McDaniels for picking him, but is it fair for a coach who didn't make the playoffs with one team to join another for the postseason?

"I'll let you guys answer that one," Ayers told reporters. "I'm pretty sure I'm thinking the same thing you guys are thinking. I'm just not going to say it."

Fair or not, there's no NFL rule prohibiting it.

"Teams can sign, during the season, players, coaches or other staff that are out of work and have no contractual obligation to another team," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.

The Patriots officially hired McDaniels on Sunday. He'll help offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, who will stay through the playoffs before going to his new job as head coach at Penn State, then replace him in New England next season.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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