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 roster’s always in transition with players getting injured and players moving. I think it’s something I’m used to. We put a good day of work in yesterday and I’m 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 don’t want that to repeat itself.
Q: Do you have a lasting memory from last year’s 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 didn’t do. Penalties, turnovers, we couldn’t convert on third down, couldn’t control the tempo of the game. I have a lot of respect for these guys. They play really hard. They’re very well coached. They have a very physical front, a very emotional team. They play with energy and enthusiasm for what they’re doing. I think you have to be able to match that. Once they get fired up, it’s 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, you’re always anxious to get out there and play them again. We’re fighting. We have a tough road, we’re 3-1. We’ve done some good things this year, but consistently for the course of 60 minutes, we haven’t played a full 60-minute game yet. That’s what it’s going to take against these guys this week. There’s no let up from this team. There’s 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 ‘dink and dunk’ going forward. How would you describe it?
Brady: If it’s dink and dunk and score touchdowns, I’m fine with dinking and dunking. I don’t care, whatever it takes to get the ball in the end zone. If we hand it off every play, I’m fine with that. We have to be able to score points. Scoring points comes down to executing well – no matter what you call. Whether it’s a deep throw or short throw – you don’t go into the game plan thinking, ‘OK, we’re just going to throw a bunch of two-yard passes. You’re going to stretch the field, and if we have guys open, we’re going to try to take advantage.
Q: How different do you think this offense will be without Randy Moss now?
Brady: It’s 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 don’t know, you know? I haven’t played with him in a while. [He was] reliable, consistent, tough, competitive… those are all the things he really was, so I wouldn’t think he would forget how to do those things. That’s what he enjoys. So, it’s good to have him back.
Q: Is it easy to recapture the chemistry you had with Deion Branch?
Brady: It will always be there. I’ve thrown to him thousands and thousands of footballs. 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, put some pads on and I’d be able to throw him the ball pretty consistently. The relationship I have with Deion on the field has always been a great one. There’s always been a natural chemistry. I hope that we’ll 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 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 that was better for us that he didn’t.
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 wasn’t able to do last year. And then Wes [Welker], and Brandon Tate, who hadn’t played for us last year… So, I think it’s important for all the guys to be able to do different things in the offense and provide different threats so that they can’t just say, ‘OK, well this guy is only going to catch these types of passes.’ I think one thing that’s great about our offense is that if they’re open, they’re 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 can’t, you throw it to the next guy. I know one of those guys is going to be open. It’s my job to find them.
Q: How do you think defenses are going to react to your offense now?
Brady: I don’t know. I don’t know. Go ask the guy in Baltimore and come back and tell me what he says. So, I don’t know. I really have no idea how they’re going to see us or what they think they’re going to try to take away, but every defense has its strengths and weaknesses. If you blitz – yeah, you’ll get to the quarterback faster, but if you miss a tackle, it’s 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. It’s just a matter of, that’s the beautiful thing about football. It’s trying to figure out what they’re going to do when they’re 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 don’t think there’s 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 we’re doing…I’m just kidding. Don’t 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 don’t know. Honestly, I didn’t follow any of it. I know what I said. I know I wouldn’t bash him. I don’t think any of our teammates were bashing him. Were you guys bashing him? I wasn’t.
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 didn’t. I was long asleep by then.
Q: Because he said, ‘Tom, I know you’re watching.’
Brady: That’s what they said on the radio yesterday, but I didn’t hear it. He and I get along great, and we always have since the day he got here. He’s 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: I’ve moved on. We all have. I really don’t 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, that’s just kind of the way it’s gone. I think there are certain guys that came in that year that did a great job – Reche [Caldwell] did [a great job]. Jabar [Gaffney] came in that year. Like I said, it’s 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, ‘Do you remember a lot?’
[He said] ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, I got it. I know it.’
And I said, ‘OK, what’s this?’
[He said], ‘I don’t know that one.’
I said, ‘That was one of the ones you should have known, because I haven’t even gotten to the stuff you don’t know yet.’
There’s a lot of recall. I’m sure once he hears it, he’ll obviously pick it up. He’s a real smart guy, a real smart player. I don’t think it’s going to take him too long – hopefully before Sunday.
Q: Are you most comfortable spreading the ball around?
Brady: Yeah, you throw it to the guy that’s open. That’s what I’ve always tried to do. You’re right, I mean, a guy like Wes [Welker] gets open a lot, so he gets the ball a lot. I don’t think it’s really a concerted effort to make sure everyone has a catch coming out of the game. I don’t 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 don’t ever feel like I’m out there hamstrung by the guys that are out on the field, and I haven’t felt that for a long time. I think the thing that’s 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, it’s like, ‘OK, this guy does this. This guy does this.’ And I hear Coach Belichick say those things when he’s trying to coach our defense. That’s not the kind of offense we want to be.
Q: What’s 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 they’re doing. Sometimes you’re 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 that’s why they’re one of the best defenses in the league. They’ve been that way for a long time.
Q: Does it look different without Ed Reed in there?
Brady: Yeah, I’m happy about that. I like those PUP [Physically Unable to Perform] rules for six weeks or something like that.