FOXBOROUGH -- Tom Brady met with the media today in front of his locker at Gillette Stadium, wearing a green Michigan State T-shirt ("Yeah, lost a bet," he said, referring to the friendly wager the Michigan alum made with former Michigan State QB Brian Hoyer), and spoke about the return of Deion Branch.
Branch, who spent the last four seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, arrived in Foxborough Tuesday for his first official practice with the team after the Patriots acquired him for a fourth-round draft pick.
Asked today if Branch appeared to be the same type of player he knew five years ago when Branch was MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX, Brady said, "I don't know. I haven't played with him in a while.''
But that didn't seem to change Brady's opinion of Branch's attributes.
"Reliable, consistent, tough, competitive,'' Brady said. "Those are all the things he really was. I wouldn't think he forgot how to do those things. That's obviously what he enjoys. It's good to have him back.''
Brady was asked if had to recapture the chemistry he had with Branch.
"It's always going to be there,'' he said. "I've thrown him thousands and thousands and thousands of footballs, so I think you could pull Troy Brown out of the announcer booth, or whatever he's doing these days in the media, and he could come in here and put some pads on and I'd be able to throw him the ball pretty consistently.''
"So the relationship I have with Deion, on the field, has always been a great one,'' Brady added. "I think there's always been a natural chemistry. I'd hope we'd be able to rely back on that a little bit.''
As for how Branch looked, Brady replied, "He's looked the way he's always looked to me. He's an excellent player. I was trying to get [Matt] Hasselbeck to throw him the ball more, but maybe it was better for us that he didn't.''
The complete Brady news conference, courtesy of the Patriots media relations staff follows after the jump.
Q: What is it like with Randy Moss gone and now you have Deion Branch back?
Brady: I think the rosterís always in transition with players getting injured and players moving. I think itís something Iím used to. We put a good day of work in yesterday and Iím excited to see what we do this weekend. We have a great challenge. All of us who were in this locker room know the beating we took from these guys last year, so we donít want that to repeat itself.
Q: Do you have a lasting memory from last yearís playoff game and is there a certain memory that sticks with you?
Brady: We got manhandled by a damn good team. And everything we said we wanted to do, we didnít do. Penalties, turnovers, we couldnít convert on third down, couldnít control the tempo of the game. I have a lot of respect for these guys. They play really hard. Theyíre very well coached. They have a very physical front, a very emotional team. They play with energy and enthusiasm for what theyíre doing. I think you have to be able to match that. Once they get fired up, itís tough to calm them down.
Q: How much of a motivator was the memory of that game through the offseason?
Brady: There are a lot of reasons for motivation, and certainly, when the team gives it to you like they did, youíre always anxious to get out there and play them again. Weíre fighting. We have a tough road, weíre 3-1. Weíve done some good things this year, but consistently for the course of 60 minutes, we havenít played a full 60-minute game yet. Thatís what itís going to take against these guys this week. Thereís no let up from this team. Thereís not one area where there is a glaring weakness. They stop you. They score points. They are very good in the kicking game, obviously, their head coach has a kicking background, so we have to compete out there. I think the group of guys in this locker room is ready to do that.
Q: A lot of people are describing the offense as Ďdink and dunkí going forward. How would you describe it?
Brady: If itís dink and dunk and score touchdowns, Iím fine with dinking and dunking. I donít care, whatever it takes to get the ball in the end zone. If we hand it off every play, Iím fine with that. We have to be able to score points. Scoring points comes down to executing well Ė no matter what you call. Whether itís a deep throw or short throw Ė you donít go into the game plan thinking, ĎOK, weíre just going to throw a bunch of two-yard passes. Youíre going to stretch the field, and if we have guys open, weíre going to try to take advantage.
Q: How different do you think this offense will be without Randy Moss now?
Brady: Itís hard to say. Deion [Branch] is here now, who has some different strengths than Randy. Randy can certainly do things well, but so can other guys. So, we have to see what they can do well and if we can go out there and perform it.
Q: Will Deion Branch be the same type of player he was here five years ago?
Brady: I donít know, you know? I havenít played with him in a while. [He was] reliable, consistent, tough, competitiveÖ those are all the things he really was, so I wouldnít think he would forget how to do those things. Thatís what he enjoys. So, itís good to have him back.
Q: Is it easy to recapture the chemistry you had with Deion Branch?
Brady: It will always be there. Iíve thrown to him thousands and thousands of footballs. I think you could pull Troy Brown out of the announcer booth, or whatever heís doing these days in the media, and he could come in here, put some pads on and Iíd be able to throw him the ball pretty consistently. The relationship I have with Deion on the field has always been a great one. Thereís always been a natural chemistry. I hope that weíll be able to rely back on that a little bit.
Q: Did you feel that chemistry yesterday at practice?
Brady: Yeah, he looks the way heís always looked to me. Heís an excellent player. I was trying to get [Matt] Hasselbeck to throw him the ball more, but maybe that was better for us that he didnít.
Q: Is versatility a strong suit for Deion Branch and the rest of the offensive specialists?
Brady: Aaron [Hernandez] has been a great addition to this offense. With what Julian [Edelman] has done, he has been able to do some different things that he wasnít able to do last year. And then Wes [Welker], and Brandon Tate, who hadnít played for us last yearÖ So, I think itís important for all the guys to be able to do different things in the offense and provide different threats so that they canít just say, ĎOK, well this guy is only going to catch these types of passes.í I think one thing thatís great about our offense is that if theyíre open, theyíre going to get the ball. I think they all know that. You line them up in different spots, and if they can get open, you throw it to them. If you canít, you throw it to the next guy. I know one of those guys is going to be open. Itís my job to find them.
Q: How do you think defenses are going to react to your offense now?
Brady: I donít know. I donít know. Go ask the guy in Baltimore and come back and tell me what he says. So, I donít know. I really have no idea how theyíre going to see us or what they think theyíre going to try to take away, but every defense has its strengths and weaknesses. If you blitz Ė yeah, youíll get to the quarterback faster, but if you miss a tackle, itís a big play. You can only rush three, but you have eight guys in coverage and play zone and you have a lot of time to throw. When you do one, you give up the other. Itís just a matter of, thatís the beautiful thing about football. Itís trying to figure out what theyíre going to do when theyíre going to do it, so you can take advantage.
Q: Was there any benefit to seeing Baltimore play Denver with the similarities in the system in Denver?
Brady: Um, it got out of hand pretty fast. I donít think thereís a whole lot you take from that game. Denver has a very different offense than we have. Josh [McDaniel] has his style. He may call some things the same way, but there are not so many things that they are doing that are similar to what we are doing. Maybe Josh should be doing a little bit of what weíre doingÖIím just kidding. Donít tell him I said that. I love Josh, for the record.
Q: Why do you think there was so much Randy Moss bashing in the wake of his departure?
Brady: I donít know. Honestly, I didnít follow any of it. I know what I said. I know I wouldnít bash him. I donít think any of our teammates were bashing him. Were you guys bashing him? I wasnít.
Q: Was he a negative influence in the room?
Brady: No. Not at all.
Q: Did you see his message to you on Monday night?
Brady: I didnít. I was long asleep by then.
Q: Because he said, ĎTom, I know youíre watching.í
Brady: Thatís what they said on the radio yesterday, but I didnít hear it. He and I get along great, and we always have since the day he got here. Heís never made fun of my hair, when everyone else seems to want to make fun of my hair, but he never has.
Q: Did something stop working to cause him to get trade?
Brady: Iíve moved on. We all have. I really donít want to talk about it anymore.
Q: Was Deion Branch one of the guys that was really frustrating when he left?
Brady: Sure. Yeah, he was a really dynamic player for us in our offense and had really played big in so many big games. We had spent a lot of time together trying to get to know each other. Right when we were starting to get all warmed up and lathered up, he got sent to Seattle. So, thatís just kind of the way itís gone. I think there are certain guys that came in that year that did a great job Ė Reche [Caldwell] did [a great job]. Jabar [Gaffney] came in that year. Like I said, itís good to have him back, and I think hopefully, we can do some of those same things he was doing for us before.
Q: How much has the system evolved since Deion Branch was here last?
Brady: Quite a bit. I said, ĎDo you remember a lot?í
[He said] ĎYeah, yeah, yeah, I got it. I know it.í
And I said, ĎOK, whatís this?í
[He said], ĎI donít know that one.í
I said, ĎThat was one of the ones you should have known, because I havenít even gotten to the stuff you donít know yet.í
Thereís a lot of recall. Iím sure once he hears it, heíll obviously pick it up. Heís a real smart guy, a real smart player. I donít think itís going to take him too long Ė hopefully before Sunday.
Q: Are you most comfortable spreading the ball around?
Brady: Yeah, you throw it to the guy thatís open. Thatís what Iíve always tried to do. Youíre right, I mean, a guy like Wes [Welker] gets open a lot, so he gets the ball a lot. I donít think itís really a concerted effort to make sure everyone has a catch coming out of the game. I donít think you look at it like you need to get every eligible skill guy four catches. The guys that get open are going to get the ball; guys that where the coverage dictates are going to get the ball.
Q: Do you like the fact that you have a lot of weapons, a lot of different options to go to?
Brady: Sure, I donít ever feel like Iím out there hamstrung by the guys that are out on the field, and I havenít felt that for a long time. I think the thing thatís great is that they can do some different things. Wes [Welker] can do quite a few things as a route runner, so can Deion [Branch], so can Brandon [Tate], so can Aaron [Hernandez], so can [Rob] Gronkowski, so can Julian [Edelman]. In certain offenses, itís like, ĎOK, this guy does this. This guy does this.í And I hear Coach Belichick say those things when heís trying to coach our defense. Thatís not the kind of offense we want to be.
Q: Whatís the biggest challenge of using that offense against a defense like Baltimore?
Brady: They create a lot of issues with their different packages and their blitz packages and where they line up. They do try to cause some confusion. We may move around a lot, but they move around a lot and sometimes you want to settle yourself down to see what theyíre doing. Sometimes youíre snapping the ball not quite sure if you have everything picked up, but you have to do the best you can do against a defense like this. I think thatís why theyíre one of the best defenses in the league. Theyíve been that way for a long time.
Q: Does it look different without Ed Reed in there?
Brady: Yeah, Iím happy about that. I like those PUP [Physically Unable to Perform] rules for six weeks or something like that.