FOXBORO — Tom Brady [stats] didn’t really have the most productive string of practices the week surrounding his 35th birthday. No matter. The Patriots [team stats] quarterback has gotten it back together this week, and dispelled any potential notion a birthday could magically cause the three-time champ to fall apart, just like that.
“He seems the same as ever,” wide receiver Wes Welker said. “I don’t really put an age on him. He’s just got the fountain of youth or something.”Some of Brady’s issues came against his own defense. Others came against the Saints. But at the end of the day, it was the uncharacteristic misses that were more alarming than anything. When Brady is right, the defense doesn’t always have a say in things.
It might have just shown, as Brady acknowledged yesterday, that everyone — regardless of their in-game credentials — needs the practice. “That’s the thing about football is you can never practice enough,” Brady said. “The more you practice, the better the practices are, the better your team is ultimately going to be. This is part of the foundation.”
Oddly enough, Brady sharpened up this week when three of his most important targets were nursing injuries on the sideline. Tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, plus wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, didn’t participate in the full-pads sessions Monday and Tuesday, but Brady still completed 33-of-44 passes for five touchdowns and one interception in 11-on-11 work.
Naturally, Brady still had wide receivers Deion Branch, Jabar Gaffney [stats], Donte Stallworth and Welker for those sessions, but things weren’t perfect and Brady still got back to being himself.
Some of it had to do with the presence of throwing coach Tom House, who showed up to Gillette Stadium last week. Brady is meticulous about his mechanics, scrutinizing every throw on film after practice, so he must have pinpointed the error of his ways.
“I wish it was going perfect out there for us, but there’s obviously a lot of work to do,” Brady said. “We’re trying to work hard and get better and make improvements and really not make the same mistakes twice. But you’ve got to put it in. You’ve got to put the time in. You’ve got to put the effort in. You’ve got to bring your enthusiasm every day.”
And so it goes for Brady and the offense. They haven’t reached their potential by any means, evident last week when the first unit failed to score a point in the preseason opener, but things obviously go smoother when the key component is throwing darts.
Brady hasn’t been perfect in this current stretch, but he added some clarity yesterday to his biggest mistake. Brady’s lone interception in this week’s 11-on-11 work came late in Tuesday’s session. He tried to jam a ball through double coverage in the end zone, and it was intercepted by safety Patrick Chung.
It was a surprising error, particularly considering his work to that point in practice, but Brady noted he was testing himself to see if he could make the throw. Patriots coach Bill Belichick has said he wants his players to push themselves in practice to see what they can accomplish.
Even at 35, with 12 seasons of NFL experience and a nearly unparalleled list of credentials, Brady doesn’t stick up his nose at the thought of practicing. That doesn’t make him unique, but it does show how important every day can be on the field. And with the right mindset, even the bad days aren’t too shabby.