FOXBOROUGH — This can be considered a make-or-break year for Tom Brady to capture his fourth Super Bowl ring.
The pieces are in place with additions of cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner shoring up the pass defense, which has so often acted as the Achilles’ heel of the Patriots. Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork both return to full health and should bring the effectiveness back to the team’s lowly run defense.
On the offensive side, Brady’s offense stands largely unchanged from a year ago. Brandon LaFell arrived from the Carolina Panthers, a team that had notched its best record in the past six years at 12-4. Julian Edelman re-signed after a career-best season by the numbers, 825 yards and 84 receptions better than what he accomplished in 2012, a year in which he started only three games.
For Brady, it’s Edelman who epitomizes the Patriot work ethic and how this team should work in training camp, which will set the tone for the year.
“He’s another guy who’s really fought his whole career,’’ Brady said. “I’m proud of him coming back and getting another opportunity to work with him.’’
Along with Edelman and LaFell, Brady is confident in the team’s younger receivers and their progression to help build up the offense in 2014.
But for a demanding quarterback like Brady, it’s not just youngsters like Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins that need to really strive for development, but every single receiver on the roster.
“It’s about making improvements, and it goes from the guys who are the newest on the team to the guys who are the oldest on the team,’’ he said. “You work hard to put yourself in a good position to compete, and when you get your opportunity, you go to make it happen.’’
Brady’s sophomore season marked a stretch of success that any NFL player would dream about. He won the backup job behind Drew Bledsoe, and when the high-paid franchise succumbed to injury, Brady muscled his way to a championship.
The rest is history. Broken records. Three Super Bowl wins. Brady’s competitive nature has become legendary and his quarterbacking skills have most definitely improved since he got his first shot.
However, his last Super Bowl win was a decade ago, with devastating losses to the New York Giants in XLII and XLVI, signifying the elusive nature of success that Brady has endured.
Training camp offers a fresh start. And every year the Patriots find themselves in contention for the Lombardi Trophy.
“It feels great,’’ Brady said about getting his feet wet on the field Thursday. “I’m excited to be out here with my teammates, working to get better. It’s a long training camp, and we can be the team that we want to be. It’s going to be a lot of effort, and when we start the season, hopefully we’ll be a better team than we are now.’’