FOXBOROUGH -- With his polished persona, it's easy to imagine Tom Brady taking a shot at politics.
Brady has expressed an interest in entering the political arena when he hangs up his helmet, and he attended President Bush's State of the Union address in 2004. In his State of the Quarterback address yesterday, Brady touched on the big hits he took in the Patriots' 27-24 exhibition loss to the Tennessee Titans Friday night, building chemistry with his receivers, and balancing football and family with the pending birth of his first child.
Ever the artful orator, Brady dodged questions about what caused the breakdowns in pass protection better than he did the Tennessee rushers who caused them. As for concerns about his health, he joked that he doesn't have enough muscles to get hurt.
"I think it's part of the job description. You take hits," said Brady. "It's just part of playing quarterback. You stand back there and hold the ball and everyone is coming to attack you, and I think it showed there is a lot of work that needs to be done by all of us."
The overarching message of Brady's lockerside chat was one of patience with the offense and the passing game: What looks good on paper takes time to put into practice, especially if two of your new targets have missed significant practice time. Wide receiver Randy Moss hasn't practiced in pads in almost three weeks and Donte' Stallworth, who started camp on the physically unable to perform list, had less than two full weeks of practice before making his preseason debut Friday.
The numbers back up Brady's assertion. In about two quarters of play combined, Brady is 15 for 26 (57.7 percent) for 179 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. He has a QB rating of 59.6.
"I'm always excited about our potential, but the potential and the reality is something that's very different," said Brady. "I've heard over the last six months the expectations for this team and we can just throw the ball on whoever we want and run it and gain 450 yards a game. But it takes a lot. It takes a lot of guys coming together and finding a role and playing with toughness and effort.
"We've played two preseason games. We haven't played any regular-season games to really see where we're at. We've got two very valuable weeks coming up in order to get ready for our opener. The potential of the team, that's one thing, but really going out there to see what we can accomplish, starting in Week 1, is going to be what's most important."
Since the Patriots are following the same pattern as last season in terms of their preseason preparation and handling of Brady (who played almost two full quarters against the Titans), expect to see a lot of No. 12 Friday night against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte.
In the third exhibition game last year, a 41-0 shellacking of the Washington Redskins on the road, Brady was 17 for 30 for 231 yards and a touchdown in almost three quarters. He led the Patriots to points on five of the seven series he played.
"You'd hate to go out there and not perform well, because you really build confidence from the games," said Brady. "We do from practice [too], but really from the games you get out there and you can build on those game performances. We're going to put together the plan and go down there and attack what this defense does. It's a very good defense, so it should be a good test for us."
But the QB won't have just Carolina on his mind this week. Brady, who is expected to take time off when his child is born, broached that subject with tact, acknowledging that there is a balancing act between football and fatherhood, which he called a "very joyous, happy situation."
"I don't like to be too distracted by things that are going on, realizing how important all of this is in my life but still understanding that when I'm here, I'm going to do my best with my commitment to these guys and this team because really that's what they deserve," Brady said. "I'd hate to come in here and have my mind on a hundred different things because that's not going to help this team at all. When I leave here, I deal with that and my team takes a step backward."
Like anyone running a good campaign, Brady tried to steer the focus toward a more promising future. He said it's unfair for people to expect his revamped receiving corps to click with him right away. Brady said that even with players like running back Kevin Faulk and receiver Troy Brown, both of whom he's played with since he came into the league, there are constantly adjustments.
"I wish you could always pick up from where you left off the previous year, but the reality is that doesn't always happen," said Brady. "You come back and you have a new team and you develop a new identity, and the one thing I've learned over the last eight years is that it takes time and it takes work together.
"As long as everyone is willing to work hard and brings an attitude and energy and is willing to get better and improve, then the team ends up being pretty good. But we're a long way from the end of that process. I'm excited to see what kind of work we put in."