FOXBOROUGH -- At times listening to Tom Brady you could think he was just an average quarterback on an average team.
Near the completion of one week of training camp, Brady didn't particularly sound like a guy who has led his team to back-to-back Super Bowl titles. Or a guy who enters this season as the winningest quarterback (by percentage) in the Super Bowl era.
He pretty much sounded like a guy who wants to win the Patriots' first exhibition game.
''I think as a team we've been very inconsistent, and the quarterback position's been very inconsistent, and that starts with me," said Brady after yesterday morning's workout. ''[The] decision-making sometimes has been pretty good; other times not so good. [I've been] missing some open receivers downfield. I would like to think that I could hit more of those.
''It ends up with a few sleepless nights."
Sleepless nights? The Super Bowl is six months away.
Yes, Superstar Tom expects to play as well in workouts in July and August as he does in games in January. Maybe that's why he's among the best.
''The thing is I get frustrated pretty easily sometimes," Brady said. ''I just have such high expectations for not only myself, but for the offense. I'm going on my sixth year, and I put a lot of pressure on my teammates and myself to go out there and execute like I'm playing my sixth year, not making the same mistakes I did three years ago. It's frustrating because you always want it perfect.
''At the same time, you realize it's rarely perfect in football because there are so many moving parts. But I'm glad we have a bunch of weeks left until our opener and another eight days until our first preseason game.
''We've made some improvement, but we're not close to where we need to be."
Practice. Practice. Practice.
''If you can't execute a two-minute drill in practice, what makes you think you can execute it in a game?" Brady asks.
''For those guys who really play this game for what it's worth, if you come out here [to practice] and be lackadaisical, you not only disrespect yourself and your teammates, but you disrespect the guys who laid down the groundwork of this game for us," receiver Deion Branch said. ''You keep that in your mind, I think you'll be a pretty good player.
''That's what Tom Brady does. He takes practice as seriously as anybody. That rubs off on the team."
While Brady has said he would like to improve on his completion percentage (60.8) and lower his interception total (14) from a year ago, he did note that the team's 14-2 mark wouldn't be easy to improve upon.
But he says he is a better quarterback now than he has ever been.
''I think I'm in the best shape I've ever been in," he said. ''I'm the strongest I've been. My legs are the strongest they've been and my arm is the strongest it's been.
''I feel like I'm more mature -- another year in the offense, another year with the guys. I think every year you gain more respect from the players you play with and ultimately [more] trust from the coaches."
Brady doesn't have to worry about earning more trust from Bill Belichick, who compares his quarterback to Bernie Kosar in terms of mental awareness.
''Those two players, mentally, could handle about as much as you could give them," Belichick said. ''I've been around some other quarterbacks that I think have very good management skills, playing skills and quarterbacking skills -- [Phil] Simms and [Vinny] Testaverde, and even going back to Detroit, Greg Landry, guys like that.
''But, I would say that Brady and Kosar could absorb as much, manage as much, and have as expansive an offense as you wanted to. They could pretty much handle whatever you throw at them."
And Brady said as he continues to work on throwing mechanics, he knows preparation is key to making smart decisions in pressure situations.
''You might be able to throw the ball great, but if you're never throwing it to the right guy, it doesn't matter," he said. ''You can work on all your throwing mechanics, but at the same time, your decision-making and recognition of coverage and ultimately being able to make a play [is important]. Some of the best in the world, the John Elways, Steve Youngs, and Joe Montanas are guys who could really do that on a consistent basis."
That consistency is developed this time of year. So Brady worries about tomorrow's practice, not future January playoff games.
''Everyone knows what the goal is, but you're so far from that goal right now it's really a waste of energy and a waste of time to be thinking about games in January when you haven't even made the playoffs and haven't even kicked off the first game," Brady said. ''We have far more challenges in the next week of practice than we do five months from now."