Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made his weekly appearance with Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning, with the team hitting the halfway mark of the preseason schedule. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Some consider preseason a boring lead-up to the regular season, but Brady is not one of those people.
“It means football is back,” he said. “We’re really in preparation for the season. You can’t shortcut it. You’ve just got to grind through it. It’s about getting better, and you can’t cheat that. You’ve got to see where your team’s at, and to have weeks and weeks of really concentrated practice time and then the preseason game, you make mistakes, you correct them, you try to do them better and make the improvements — I think that’s what training camp’s all about.
“Coach [Bill Belichick] always says a good offseason program leads to a good start of training camp, good training camp leas to a good September, a good September leads to a good October, November. Then you’ve got to be playing well in December. Through none of those phases can you really just be average, because then you can never get back, you can never try to get ahead, you’re always just trying to catch up.”
Brady said progress is far more important than anything else at this stage.
“For all of us it’s just level of improvement,” he said. “I think that’s what you gauge. Because not all the parts are there at this point. A lot of it is individual improvement. So you’re really just focusing on what you’re job is, what you need to do, go through your read, your throw. And then when you start to incorporate those into one-on-one drills, and as that leads over into team drills, hopefully by the opener you’ve got all the guys that have worked on their individual improvement so collectively, as a whole, you’re better and better — or significantly better than what we were let’s say when the OTA’s started. That’s what you have to look to be able to do. You’ve got to built a foundation. Without that foundation you’ll never be a good football team.”
Friday’s preseason win over the Eagles was marked by 28 penalties as officials try to get players to understand they’ll be calling games tighter this season. Brady said it’s incumbent on the players to adjust.
“I don’t know whether they throw 20 flags or five flags over the course of the game. Some calls go your way, some calls don’t,” he said. “I think players like when they let you play, more so than anything. But at the same time, the refs stand up there in front of us on whatever day it was, on Wednesday, and said, ‘Look, we’re throwing a lot of flags. If we see illegal contact, if we see defensive holding, if we see hands to the face, those are real points of emphasis for this year.’ And they showed video. So when those things come up, they’re throwing the flags. And they did in practice a lot, too.
“It’s just being able to adjust and being disciplined and being good decision-makers. … You just have to learn to play within the rules. And those adjust on a weekly basis, depending on how the refs call the game. And we have a pretty good idea of how they’re going to call the game going into it. Some refs throw a lot of flags, some refs don’t throw a lot of flags. Our coaches try to prepare us on that. And once you get out there on the field, you play within the rules to the best of your ability. And if they’re calling it tight, you’ve got to be able to adjust. That’s all part of the decision-making process as a player.
“Hopefully, there’s not 20-plus flags a game. That’s a lot of flags. That will make for long football games.”
Following are more highlights from the interview. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.
On the most important trait for a quarterback to succeed in the NFL: “Probably the same thing you need in life: It’s decision-making. That’s an everyday characteristic. I think more so than any physical ability — which, believe me, those are all important. Having great physical ability allows maybe some more margin of error in other areas. But ultimately it comes down to decision-making. And as a quarterback on the field it’s really split-second decision-making.
“And that carries into all parts of your life. What you do on an off day, how hard you work, the kind of leadership you’ll provide, whatever it takes and whatever priorities you put in your life, what decisions you’re making in order to prioritize what’s important. For me, my priorities are football — and obviously they change over the years when you have a family and so forth, but football is obviously the utmost priority, and trying to be the best I can be. Every decision that I make always comes back to being a better performer, and that’s a pretty good [factor] in my life to be able to do it.
“It’s hard to judge one quarterback on the course of one year or two years or three years. I’ve been at it for a while. Guys I really look up to do it for long periods of time. That’s really a life decision. When you look at Peyton Manning, for example, he’s just been so consistent for so long. That’s the kind of guy you always look for.”
On if a “knucklehead” with exceptional physical ability can be successful over time: “I don’t think you can really be a knucklehead and be a great performer. Maybe for a year, or maybe for two years. But not for a long period of time. It all depends on what a lot of people would define a long period of time as; it’s different. But I think that the guys that go and play at Hall of Fame levels, they do it year after year after year. You know what you’re going to get every time out.
“The best guys that I’ve played against, the best guys that I’ve played with always make good decisions. They’re always the ones that are doing the right thing by their teammates and being the best they can be.
“The quarterback position in general really affects the game a lot because you’ve got the ball in your hands more than anybody else. So if you make poor decisions with the football then you really don’t give your team a chance to win the game. If you’re careless with the ball, if you’re not throwing the ball to the right places, if you’re making wrong checks at the line of scrimmage, then the rest of the team really has no chance. Because the ball always goes to the quarterback.”
On rookie QB Jimmy Garoppolo: “He’s been a lot of fun to work with. There’s a reason why the team liked him and picked him pretty high. Obviously the team feels that way. He’s gone out there and done just a great job when he’s had his opportunity. That’s great to see from any young player, but you’ve got to keep building on it. You’ve got to keep getting better and making improvements and improving your deficiencies while strengthening the things that are really strong points for you. It’s hard to tell after such a short period of time.”