In his press conference Thursday, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady discussed Pro Bowl selections, his expected playing time on Sunday and the prospect of facing Bernard Pollard, the player who caused Brady’s knee injury in 2008, on Sunday when the Patriots face the Texans. Here’s the Q&A provided by the Patriots media relations staff. Click the “full entry” button to see more of his comments.
Can you talk a little about the Pro Bowl selection for you and your three teammates?
Brady: ” Yeah, you know, it’s always a funny thing getting individual awards in a team game. I’ve had a lot of great support from a lot of people. Obviously, quarterback includes everybody. You can’t be effective at quarterback if you don’t have a great group blocking for you and a great group of receivers catching for you and a great coaching staff. We’ve got a lot of goals ahead of us as a team and — like I said — those individual awards are obviously very flattering, but this time of year they don’t mean a whole lot.”
Is there any great satisfaction based on the fact that you are coming back from an injury that was pretty debilitating?
Brady: “Not really, I don’t. I felt that I needed to play at a great level this year and I think at certain times I have and at other times I wish I had done a bit better for this team. I think we found some things late in the year that we really like doing and I think the level of play has gone up consistently over the course of the year. It’s a good time for the playoffs for all of us to really be clicking and getting things the way we need them, a lot like we were last week. I’d love to see us go out there and put together another great week.”
What is your personal expectation of how much you’ll play this weekend? Some say it would be beneficial to rest you while others think you should keep going.
Brady: “Well, I think as players, we don’t factor into any of those decisions that Coach Belichick makes. It’s our job to prepare to play and I certainly am. I’m out there doing all of my regular practice stuff. I want to play and I want to do great, and I want to have a great game against a team who’s fighting for their playoff lives, and has a lot of great players, and really challenges you in some different ways. This is a meaningful game for us. It’s a meaningful game for them, too. It would be great for us to go and win on the road in a really tough environment against a damn good team.”
Have you talked to Bill Belichick at all about wanting to play?
What has he said?
Brady: “He says, ‘You’ll play. Don’t worry about that. You’ll be playing.?”
All that being said, how important is momentum going into the playoffs? The offense is finally playing with some consistency and playing maybe the best ball of the season, so would taking that into the playoffs coincide with being active and playing this weekend?”
Brady: “Sure. Sure. I think it’s important for us to get out there and play with some consistency. Having guys like Fred [Taylor] back was good. Julian [Edelman] and [Sam] Aiken are both relatively healthy and the offensive line is starting to show some consistency with that group. We haven’t really had the full group out there for a lot of the season, so it will be great for us to kind of come together and be able to use all of the different personnel groupings that we have. We have a lot of good weapons that we have. It’s nice to be able to use all of them. This week is a very important game for us and the improvements we’re trying to make. Last week, we got asked about the identity of the offense and I think last week was a really great example of how we need to play. It’s certainly good to try to carry that over again this week against a team that is very different but still presents some different challenges.”
On the identity, you had said you were maybe still searching for some balance. Is that what you were getting at when you talk about the way you played against the Jaguars?
Brady: “Sure. Sure. As a quarterback, you love throwing 25, 26, 27 passes a game with a bunch of play-action passes and throwing the ball on your terms. Throwing it 50 times a game is challenging to have enough routes in the game plan to get open versus different coverages and the combinations that you see, especially when you have guys like Wes [Welker] and Randy [Moss who] work hard all week in practice trying to find ways to cover them. When you can run the ball as effectively as we did last week and keep them off balance and make them defend the run, you don’t get a lot of exotic coverages, you get run-stopping defense and then you’re able to take advantage of those things when you throw it. It’s nice for us to be able to that. It’s a challenge. Some teams are pretty good against stopping the run. This team in particular is pretty good at it, so you still have to find ways to stay balanced. Obviously, the way we played last week, that was a great of game plan and execution. Like I said, this week is equally important for us, just as last week was.”
You’ll be playing against Bernard Pollard this week. Have you made that connection and do you have any thoughts on that?
Brady: “I don’t have many feelings toward that. That play has really come and gone in my mind. He’s a really good player for them and does some good things for them. He’s someone that we have to do a good job keeping away from the quarterback because he’s a good blitzer. He’s got three interceptions on the year, and he’s a good player. But [I have] no real other feelings other than that.”
Have you had any contact with him over the past few years?
Can you feel a heightened sense of urgency at practice that this is money time here and you’re getting into something serious now?
Brady: “Well, Coach Belichick keeps the pressure on us pretty good all year. Every game is really important for us. He doesn’t say, ‘OK guys, this one really is not so important.’ He’s really trying to build all year and, as you get toward the playoffs, naturally, the longer you play, the better the execution should be. The guys’ roles within the offense are pretty well established, so hopefully there are less errors in practice, fewer corrections in plays, or things you’ve talked about where you’ve made mistakes over the course of the year that you’ve improved on. That’s why you need to improve over the course of the year and why, if you have guys out there that made those mistakes that are doing the same thing, then, they can improve on those. The hard part is when guys are in and out the whole year and then now they’re in there for the first time late in the year and then that’s hard because those first time mistakes come up. This game is certainly important for us with what’s ahead and obviously with us qualifying for the playoffs, we need to play our best football. Last week was a good start.”
Being the end of the decade, there are a lot of retrospectives going on and I was just watching the Snow Bowl game. Do you ever look back at a game like that and see how far you’ve come in eight seasons?
Brady: “Sure. Sure. Yeah, I mean, I’ve probably had 800 or 900 practices since that game, as a team. That’s pretty unbelievable — the amount of throws I’ve made over the course of that time. I have some great memories from that time. And you’re right, we all look back on those years and reflect and understand how important those were. When you’re going through the grind, you don’t always appreciate those just because it’s really day-to-day with us and you can’t lose track of the day-to-day or else you’re going to miss a lot of stuff in the process. One day I’ll sit back and reflect. I didn’t see it this particular week, but I mean, I certainly have seen it times, a few times after that game. Every time it snows out here I think of that game and how fun it is to play in the snow. We always find a way to play pretty good in the snow, too — our team. I think we go out and practice in it and hopefully it snows a lot here for our next home game.”
You spike better in the snow now.
Brady: ” Yeah, [I] fall better, too.”
LaMarr Woodley of the Steelers — a Michigan guy — has said that he thinks the Bengals and Patriots will lay down so the Steelers don’t have a chance to get in to the playoffs. I’m curious if you have any reaction to that?
Brady: “Not really. A Michigan guy, too? That surprises me. Usually, we keep our mouths shut. I’m going to get Coach [Lloyd] Carr to call him and straighten him out.”
On the chance that we see Brian Hoyer a little bit this weekend, what have you seen from him this year in terms of his growth from when he came in as a rookie free agent to now?
Brady: “Well, I think it’s pretty impressive for a rookie free agent to be the second quarterback on the team — really, the only quarterback other than myself. That tells you what kind of trust Coach Belichick has in him. He’s a very smart, smart kid and very competitive. He really loves the game. He’s got really good fundamentals for a young player. He throws the ball well; he throws a nice, tight ball with good velocity. He’s pretty athletic. It’s amazing that he didn’t get drafted. I don’t know what scouts were looking at, but he’s been a really good player for us and led us to a victory in the last preseason game where the veterans didn’t play. He’s done a great job and I’ve missed some practices, so he’s been able to be in there and lead the offense, which is great experience for him. He’s really done a great job. It’s really good to have him in the room.”
Did you feel for Peyton Manning last week when he looked so bummed out standing on the sidelines?
Brady: “You know, I didn’t see much of the game. I just turned it on and I saw they were winning and I turned it off. And then I heard what kind of happened after. I didn’t see a lot of it. But, yeah, they have their own philosophy. They’re a good team. They’re a real good team. Even with their backups in there, they’re still a good team. I didn’t get a chance to e-mail him or anything like that, but I’m sure he’s disappointed.”
You know how tough it is to have a perfect record and then see it dissolve?
Brady: “Losing in general stinks. My dad said, ‘Are you guys going to play this week?’ Of course, I want to play. I don’t want to lose a game. It’s not like you just forfeit these games for us. I’m playing Houston. I don’t want them in the offseason to see one of these guys and be like, ‘Hey, we beat you guys.’ Screw that. I just think you’ve got to go out there and play.”
Are you glad that wasn’t your philosophy in 2007 and that you played?
Brady: “Well, I think that we just kept playing hard. We had a lot of valuable experience in that Giants game that we played well. I enjoyed it. I think that’s what we get paid for — we get paid to play. But it’s an organization’s decision. That’s what it comes down to and they’re going to do what they think they need to do, regardless of what anyone thinks, just like Coach Belichick is going to do the same thing. It’s our job to do what he says. He said play and we played with a lot of enthusiasm and excitement and it was pretty special for us. I wouldn’t change that for the world.”
If it’s a close game do you expect to play the entire game?
Brady: “Sure, I expect [to play the entire game if it’s a] close game, blowout, if we get behind. I’m expecting to play the whole game. I wouldn’t see why I wouldn’t.”
You were a sixth-round pick and Wes Welker was undrafted. Do you guys ever sit around and say, ‘Look how wrong the scouts got it?’
Brady: “Not really. Not really. I don’t think about that. It’s just the way life is. Whether you’re a first-round pick or a third-round pick, the message that I always try to convey to these kids that come in the locker is that you have an opportunity. No one really cares if you’re a first-round pick. I don’t care what Patrick Chung was picked. I care if he can help the team or not, what he can do, whether he shows up on time, or whether he acts like a rookie or he brings his playbook or he shows up late. That’s what I care about. It really doesn’t matter where you were drafted or [if you were a] free agent. I think what matters is what you’re bringing to the team. I knew I took a lot of pride in what I was bringing to the team when I was those younger kids’ ages, just like Wes did. Wes was doing everything he could to make the team. He caught the coach’s eye. I know he got released by San Diego after the first week and then picked up by Miami, but after that he was a great player. He was a great player in college. I think life is just about taking advantage of those opportunities, whatever that opportunity might be. But if you have a job and you have an opportunity to go out on the practice field, a third-round pick, a fourth-round, it’s all really ends up being the same. I think some of these guys come in and think, ‘Oh, I was a first-, or second-round pick.’ Who cares? No one cares anymore.”