FOXBOROUGH -- Patriots quarterback Tom Brady stepped back and let it rip yesterday, although he wasn't firing footballs.
Instead, he was dishing out a verbal mix that included everything from salvos to Dolphins defenders, to motivational words to teammates, to harsh comments in which he felt not enough of the players were properly accepting coaching.
"I think this team has to listen more to what the coach says. I think if we listen more and we did more of what our coaches told us to do, I think we'd be a lot better off," Brady said as he concluded his fiery weekly press conference at Gillette Stadium. "But at times I think we figure we can do it our way, and we show there is quite a bit of inconsistency to that."
Brady also had a biting response when asked about comments from Dolphins players, who said after their 21-0 win over the Patriots last Sunday that they had studied audio tapes of Brady's protection calls at the line of scrimmage, and felt it contributed to the victory. The implication was that the Dolphins had deciphered the Patriots' signals.
"I don't see that. I'd love to see evidence of that; that they could know exactly what our line calls are," Brady said. "Our defense knows what our line calls are and it doesn't matter. They could say that, but I think that's a big crock of you know what. I think it's a matter of how we played. I'm sure if you asked them, it probably sounds good for them to say they have it all figured out, but they're 6-7 and we're 9-4, so go tell me who probably has it more figured out."
Brady hopes teammates look within and figure out a way to get the Patriots playing the high level of football he believes they can. He feels it starts by focusing on "toughness, preparation, playing physical, [and] playing smart."
"I think those four qualities have been the makeup of this team, the reason why we've been successful late in the year," Brady said. "You come in, you're 9-4, and you sit at a place where you can go one of two ways -- you get better or you get worse. This team has always chosen to get better, to work hard, to put the work in to improve.
"I don't know how it's going to go this year. I wish I could tell you. I'm waiting to see, too. I know I'm going to put the work in, I know I'm going to try to set a great example and provide leadership. Hopefully all the guys who have been here for a short amount of time will follow that. Just like the other captains, I expect them to provide the leadership. But this team is built on some certain qualities. If we play that way, I'd feel pretty good that we'll do pretty well."
Too many times, however, the 29-year-old Brady has seen the Patriots stray from that approach, which is why he wouldn't make a declaration that the team will make a strong push in the playoffs. His point seemed to be that the time for talking was over.
"I hope so. I could stand up here and say yes, and we could not be, and I could say no, and we could be," he said. "It is all going to be determined by how we play and how we perform the next few weeks. It will be a big test for us. I hope we can match the challenge. I hope that my teammates feel that we have a great opportunity ahead, if we don't squander it away like we've squandered some games away this year."
When asked how the team has responded to adversity this season, Brady said, "There's no really easy answer to that one," noting that the team has been inconsistent in that regard. Usually more measured in his remarks, Brady also refused to toss bouquets at the feet of rookie receiver Chad Jackson when queried about his development.
"I think it all depends on what you do out on the game field; he hasn't been out there the last few weeks. He hasn't practiced in a few weeks, either," Brady said. "We're going to see how he does when he does practice."
As for the release of receiver Doug Gabriel Tuesday, Brady wished him the best of luck, adding that he felt Gabriel was "a really good person." But his primary focus wasn't on Gabriel, but instead on the others in the locker room.
"I'm supportive of the guys that we have here that are going to help us work hard, and show up every week and try to compete," he said. "I think we're all in this together. If we're going to make something of this year, we have to rely on each other as a team."
Brady then touched on some of the team's leaders, such as linebackers Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel, receiver Troy Brown, and tight end Daniel Graham, among others.
"There is a certain style about those guys that allows them to be motivated, energized, and that's why guys make it here and some guys don't make it here," Brady said, perhaps in a comment that might explain Gabriel's departure. "You have to bring it every day. Those guys do, and that's why they're great leaders on this team."
Mike Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.