FOXBOROUGH – A day before his 36th birthday, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady looked none the worse for wear after completing his seventh day of training camp at Gillette Stadium.
As the elder statesman among the 90 players on the Patriots training camp roster, did Brady feel older?
"I feel good," he said Friday. "We've had a lot of good practices and we're stringing them together, so, hopefully, it really pays off for us."
The Patriots picked up their tempo as Brady attempted to push the offense forward, helping to build some cohesion with a unit that features several new faces among the receiving corps.
"I think a lot of guys are trying to create roles for themselves," Brady said. "There's a lot of opportunity and every time you take a rep, you're trying to do better than the previous time. So there's a lot of moving parts right now.
"The tempo is important, the personnel is important, getting the formation right is important, running the right play, all those are little things that become big things," Brady added. "There's not a lot of practices we have left before we go down to Philly [for the first preseason game against the Eagles next Friday night], so we're trying to correct as many mistakes as we can."
Brady was pleased to see the return of wide receiver Julian Edelman, who suffered a season-ending fractured right foot at Miami last Dec. 4, but was cleared Thursday to come off the physically unable to perform list and wound up practicing that day.
"It was great," Brady said about Edelman's return to practice in full pads. "I mean, any time you can get guys back healthy ... Julian has been working his butt off to get back out here. I'm right next to him in the locker room and he's been excited every day. That excitement he brings to the practice field, he's out here working really hard just like anybody else.
"He's a tough kid. Mentally and physically, he's battled through a lot over the course of his career. I know he's been working hard in his rehab and hopefully it continues to go well.''
Brady admitted his 14th training camp was one of the more important of his career because of the challenges he faced in helping the newcomers to the offense get up to speed with the system.
"Everyone feels like it's the most important, because it's the only one, really, we can control at this point,'' Brady said. "There's a lot of new guys. We're making mistakes, we're trying to learn from the mistakes. Offensive football is about 11 guys being on the same page and really being able to anticipate what each other is trying to do.
"A challenging part of offense is when you got new guys and they're not really sure when I'm throwing it and I'm not sure when they're going to break,'' Brady added. "A lot of it we just have to work out. The more reps we get, the better we're going to be. So just to come out every day and make these type of improvements are important. You can't go out and miss three or four days of practice because you just get so far behind, especially at this time of year.
"It's hard to slow down something for one person, because the train's really moving at this point. So, it takes really smart football players to be in this system. Guys who have done well have been smart players and they adjust well. Football is important to them and they go home and they study and they work at it. That's what it's all about here.''
Asked if he was willing to live with the mistakes some of the newcomers were bound to make, Brady said, "We're all going to make mistakes. I make 'em. The young players make 'em. Everyone makes 'em ... It's just a matter of how critical those mistakes are going to be. Hopefully, our bad plays are just incomplete passes and not really bad plays.
"But they're going to happen and part of the challenge is being mentally tough to come back on the next play, and doing a good job,'' Brady continued. "We're just trying to see what people can do on a consistent basis. We're trying to see what I can do on a consistent basis.
"We're looking at what Danny [Amendola] can do, what Julian can do, what Jake Ballard can do – everyone who's coming out here trying to earn a spot on the team. The better we do [in practice], the more efficient we're going to be.''
Brady emphasized the importance of getting everyone on the same page, offensively.
"That's what we talk about after practice, that's why we watch the film, that's why we talk about throws, reads, routes, and techniques and playing with anticipation,'' Brady said. "When you really believe with the guys you're out there with, you can play fast and you can play with confidence.
"If you don't play with that confidence, then it slows you down and if it slows you down then you're going to make mistakes. So that's what we've been working on. I can always do better, and come out and get better every day and make the right reads and make the right throws.
"We haven't played football in 7-8 months, so timing is an issue and you're just trying to get your timing down with the [new] players and it's a work in progress.''