Brady staying focused
FOXBOROUGH - Seeing a wide wristband on Tom Brady’s lower left arm is not new. He almost always wears one in games, looking at it to confirm the play he’s about to call in the huddle.
But this week, Brady’s wristband isn’t filled with plays, just a few simple phrases, in his own handwriting, on yellow paper. They’re brief and to the point, like “head straight’’ and “drag back foot.’’
They’re the lessons on throwing mechanics taught to him over and over by his longtime passing coach, Tom Martinez, who died in February.
Brady’s father first took him to see Martinez as a teenager, and for more than 20 years the quarterback continued to seek Martinez’s guidance, even last season as he led the Patriots to the Super Bowl for the fifth time and threw for more than 5,000 yards.
Brady will never be able to replace the bond he had with Martinez and the relationship that they shared, but he still keeps the coach close.
Right there on his wrist.
Asked what he’ll do during the season if he goes into a bit of a slump and can’t call his mentor, Brady went quiet.
“Um . . . I gotta rely on what he’s taught me through the years,’’ he said. “I have a lot of stuff written down of things that we talked about and things that I’ve learned, and I have a great understanding of mechanically what I need to be able to do. It’s just a matter of seeing it and being able to correct it, and hopefully you can correct it between series sometimes.
“You don’t always have the fortune to wait until Monday to figure things out. Sometimes you’ve got to figure them out in the middle of the third quarter, and that’s something I’ll have to rely on, everything he’s taught me over the years.’’
Martinez, who died on his 66th birthday of a heart attack after a dialysis treatment (he suffered from diabetes and was waiting for a donor organ), is never far from Brady’s thoughts on the field.
“I know he’s watching down on every throw and I hear his voice in the back of my head after every throw,’’ Brady said.
And what he hears is Martinez reminding him that throwing the football is simply a matter of mechanics, and a mechanically sound passer is a more accurate passer.
“I’m constantly evaluating every throw,’’ Brady said. “I watch every practice, every rep that I take in practice I have someone film, and I watch it after practice and I just make sure that I’m continuing to work on the right things, because when your body’s under pressure, it’s going to revert to what it knows.
“Muscle memory is a very important thing for a quarterback, and hopefully you train your muscles to react the way you need them to react when the pressure is on the most. And that allows you to throw with the velocity and accuracy. And the tougher the games get, the closer the coverage is, the more accurate you need to be.’’
Speaking after the Patriots’ second minicamp practice, Brady reported that during the morning weigh-in, he came in at 228 pounds, right where the coaching staff wants him to be.
He was asked about a number of topics, from the oft-talked-about receiving corps to his diet to talking to teammates about how to handle the month-plus time they’ll have off between the end of minicamp and the start of training camp in late July.
His message is mainly that the time off isn’t a typical summer break.
“We’re in full preparation mode,’’ he said. “This is the point where things really start getting ramped up. There’s no breaks. We had our vacation, we had a lot of time off, and now it’s time to really focus in on what we need to do, because we’re going to blink and the first game’s going to be here.
“So you got about five weeks, and everyone should use it really wisely. Get in better shape, get in better football shape, have a better understanding of what we’re doing, so when training camp starts, you can really get off to a great start in training camp.’’
During minicamp and the organized team activity practices the Patriots held over the last three weeks, Brady said, there has been a lot of installation of the playbook, indicating that coach Bill Belichick has really been mentally challenging his players.
“I think Coach has really kept the pressure on us to see how much we’re retaining from week to week, so guys have worked hard at it,’’ Brady said.
As is his way, Belichick has thrown a lot of wrinkles at the Patriots, from small things like tossing blocking pads at the quarterbacks to get them to move in the pocket, to putting them in situations they’ll have to navigate during games, whether it be in the red zone or third down to myriad other instances.
“You can really see the team you’re going to be, see the level of competition, the level of focus, the level of concentration, especially on wet, rainy days,’’ Brady said. “We’ve really had to focus and be ready to shift and adapt over the course of the practices to try to simulate what we do in the game. It’s been a lot.’’
Brady seemed pleased with what he has seen to this point, saying he’s still having fun and enjoying every day.
When the team is sent packing after this week, Brady will continue to work on his mechanics, refining his technique before his 13th NFL season begins.
“I’ve got a long way to go,’’ he said. “Nowhere near where I want to be, where I need to be.’’