Brady taking nothing for granted
Patriots’ stability has been key to longevity
FOXBOROUGH — While he has said more than once that he plans on playing until he’s at least 40, throughout his career Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has gotten reminders about his football mortality, and just how things can change.
The biggest reminder was likely his torn ACL, when his 2008 season ended in an instant and Brady found himself going through the rigors of rehabilitation. But seeing friends such as Deion Branch and Lawyer Milloy traded and cut after contract disputes, watching the offensive line in front of him undergo a slow change over a decade, and even seeing contemporary, rival, and friend Peyton Manning, who it once was thought never would play anywhere but Indianapolis, in Denver are all examples that nothing lasts forever — certainly not in the NFL.
All of which makes Brady appreciate his own situation even more. He is the unquestioned leader of the most consistent team in the league over the last decade, with the same owner, the same head coach, and largely the same offensive system to run.
So while this may be camp No. 13 for No. 12, he still loves coming to work every day.
“I certainly don’t take it for granted. It’s the most fun I have, so I still feel like a young kid out here trying to earn a spot,” he said Saturday after the Patriots’ first full-pads practice of camp. “I’m trying to be a good example and obviously I have more experience than most of the guys out here, but you still try to bring enthusiasm and leadership and try to go out and do your job.”
While some of his former teammates, such as Troy Brown and Tedy Bruschi, remained in New England for their entire careers, Brady learned long ago that isn’t always the case for every high-profile player. When he was 16, Brady’s boyhood idol, Joe Montana, was traded from his hometown 49ers to the Chiefs; he has cited this example before when he talks about player-team marriages not always lasting forever.
For his part, Brady still enjoys his role in his relationship with the Patriots.
“I love playing quarterback for this team. It’s a great responsibility to have and I appreciate it every single day,” he said. “There’s nothing I’d rather do than be out here being the quarterback for this team. My life is pretty much built around that.
“To come out here when practice starts and to be with your teammates, there’s nothing more fun than that. You have to work as hard as you can so you can be the best quarterback for this team that I can possibly be. That’s what I think about every single day when I get up.”
His preparation is unparalleled, but Brady also credits the stability in New England for some of his continued success.
“It’s huge,” he said. “To have the experience in the same offensive system with the same coaches, you build on your mistakes. I think being a good football player is not necessarily how many good plays you make but how many bad plays you don’t make.
“Anybody can make good plays. You wouldn’t be in this league if you weren’t capable of making good plays, but it’s a matter of making bad plays. I think that you have to make the bad plays and then you learn from them. I’ve made plenty of those over the course of my career. You make them and you learn from them and you try not to repeat them.
“To be in the same system where we’re running plays that I’ve run literally a thousand times, there’s not a lot of mistakes that you make on those plays. Some of the other ones that you’re trying new that you build on year after year, that’s why you’re out here practicing. I’m trying to eliminate mistakes just like everybody else. Quarterback is about decision making and throwing the ball accurately and that’s going out here and trying to do my job.”
Brady has been the starter for so long that some of his favorite former teammates are coming back to him — first Branch, and now Jabar Gaffney and Donte’ Stallworth.
He knows them, knows their strengths and weaknesses, and they in turn understand what he wants and, no small thing, understand the offense. There have been some changes since Gaffney and Stallworth left, but their reacclimation to the New England playbook hasn’t taken long.
Some things haven’t changed, and many more have, but for Brady, as he begins his 13th year, one thing has been a constant.
“It’s been the same thing since the day I got here — it’s to win,” he said. “That’s the only thing that matters. That’s the only thing that matters with your training, practicing, nutrition, rehab — it’s to win.