FOXBOROUGH — Patriots quarterback Tom Brady isn’t going to bite on any past on-field talk or locker room chatter coming from the Baltimore Ravens this week.
He’s playing the respect card all the way.
“I have a lot of respect for them [Ravens] and their ability to play and perform under pressure,” Brady said from a jam-packed media workroom at Gillette Stadium today. “They’ve been in the playoffs the last four years. They’ve won playoff games in the last four years. They’re a tough team and what goes on off the field and the comments that guys make really has no bearing or impact on this game nor will it. A lot of my focus and attention is on what I need to do to be at my best this week for my teammates. Hopefully we go out there and play our best game.”
Brady was asked specifically about facing defensive playmakers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.
“They’re great players. I’ve played against both those guys quite a few times and you always enjoy going up against the best,” Brady said. “You can really measure where you’re at and you can’t take plays off against those guys, you can’t take things for granted when you’re out there against them. You have to see where they’re at on every play because they’re guys who change the game. Not only the games that we play them, but every single game that they’re in they’re making plays. Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs, the way those guys perform as well, they’ve got an exceptional defense. Jarrett Johnson, the corners Carey Wilson and Lardarius Webb, are very good players. They have a rookie who is playing out there in substituted defenses. They have a great defense. I think what makes them great is not only the playmakers but all 11 guys play together. It’s really been a strength of that team for as long as I’ve been around, and it continues to be. As long as Ray [Lewis] and Ed [Reed] and Terrell Suggs are there it’s going to be a strength.”
Brady also spoke about being back in a position to advance to the Super Bowl.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be… I think this is my sixth AFC Championship game,” Brady said. “I’ve been in a great place where a bunch of teammates have really committed themselves to each other to make it to this point. We’ve put a lot of work in, there’s been a lot of practices and meetings and so forth. To get to this point is very challenging. Every team is talented. Every team has the same rules and there’s 32 teams that start the year with the hopes of being in this position. The team that’s going to win this weekend is the team that plays the best.
“There is nothing that anyone will say or do before Sunday at 3:00 that’s going to have an influence on the game other than the way you prepare and the way you’re rested, and the commitment to practice that we bring to the table. The game can’t get here fast enough. There is a lot of anxiousness kind of leading up to the game. You think about the game. It’s the only thing really on your mind. Hopefully we can go out there and do a great job. I’m looking forward to it.”
More from Brady’s presser today:
Q: You try to treat this like a normal football game, but you have all of this media, is it important for you to translate to the team that this is still just a 60-minute football game?
Brady: I think Coach Belichick does a great job of getting the team ready and understanding that this is a football game, something we’ve been doing here for the last six months. A big part of what we’ve done all year is really avoid the distractions and the things that come along with the hype and the buildup of certain games, whether it’s a Sunday Night Football Game or Monday Night Football game or last week’s [playoff] game. We’ve certainly been in a lot of big games this year, so once the ball is kicked off we’ll be prepared to play as we always are. I think a big point for this team is to make sure we’re doing the things that we need to do over the course of the week so that we can be at our best when it matters the most.
Q: Can you reflect on the year that Nate Solder has had as a rookie playing both sides of the line?
Brady: We’ve asked Nate to do quite a bit. He’s played both tackle spots. He’s also played some tight end for us. For a rookie to come in and to be able to add that type of value to a team and to really perform the way he has really speaks to his character, his ability to prepare, how tough he is, how smart he is, all those things that make up a damn good football player. I’m glad we have him. Anytime a quarterback has two tackles like Matt Light and Nate and add Sebastian [Vollmer] and Marcus Cannon into that, that’s a lot of comfort I have dropping into the pocket.
Q: It’s a weird postseason without Peyton Manning in it. Can you talk about how what you went through with your injury in 2008 really added to your drive and made you realize your football mortality? And do you expect the same from Peyton?
Brady: He’s a great friend of mine. I’m certainly hoping for the best. The NFL is a better place with a guy like Peyton Manning in it. I think we all appreciate the ability to go out there and play every week. Certainly nothing you take for granted because you never know — this could be your last day. To have the opportunity to play in a game like we’re playing in this week and prepare for a game like this is something that is exciting for all the players involved. When you don’t have that opportunity…You sit at home and you watch and listen to every news station and sports station talking about the game. It’s great for us to be playing in it
Q: What have been the challenges of all the injuries on the offensive line and how the line has developed over the season?
Brady: There’s been some moving parts with injuries. Every team has injuries and part of the depth of your team and the ability to sustain a good record over 16 games is a lot of guys filling in when the starters can’t necessarily play. We lost [Dan] Koppen in the first game of the year. We’ve had four centers. All the tackles have played. We have guards that have played fullback. We’ve had tackles that play tight end. Really whatever anybody has been asked to do this year really to help the team win, guys have put the work in and listened to the coaching and tried to do those things. That’s what it takes, that’s what it takes to get to this point – a lot of guys being unselfish and doing their job and doing it the best they can.
Q: When you’re approaching the line of scrimmage do you have to add another level for Ed Reed? Is it possible to trick him or is he so good that you have to take account of where he is at all times?
Brady: You don’t fool Ed too often. Every once in a while you see him out of place but it’s very, very rare. When you break the huddle, you find where he’s at and you make sure you’re not lobbing the ball up in his zones, because as you saw in the Houston game, he’s going to go up there and make the plays. He’s just an exceptional player. I don’t think there is a weakness that he has. Coach Belichick has a meeting with the all the quarterbacks and you talk about strengths and weak points of a player, and a guy like Ed and Ray Lewis, there’s no real weak points. You just have to be careful with the ball around them and understand that this is a team that really can get turnovers and they’ve gotten turnovers against us when they’ve played us. I’m sure that will be a huge difference in the game.
Q: Do you feel you’re at your prime or that the best is yet to come? What’s the hunger level of this team after the playoff losses the past two years?
Brady: I try to be the best I can be every week. I learn something from every game that I play. You try to get better. You try to work at it in practice. You try to get better in your film study and your preparation. You try to be the best leader that you can be for this team. That’s where my focus is at. I don’t think long-term too often, especially in weeks like this. The team hunger? It’s lunch time. They’re probably hungry right now. The cafeteria is probably… There’s a whole slew of offensive lineman who are beating down the sandwich station in there.
Q: Can you talk a bit about Matt Light and the contributions he has made to the offensive line over the years with his longevity and stability?
Brady: Matt in his 11th season. He has been a staple for this team in a lot of huge wins. He is a very dependable, consistent, tough, disciplined player. I think he has a ton of real strong points. That left tackle position is so important to the passing game to protect the backside of the quarterback and there’s nobody I’d rather have back there than Matt. There was some uncertainly whether he was going to be able to come back this season. Thankfully we signed him and he’s back in his regular position. There’s nobody I’d rather have back there.
Q: In addition to preparing for this game, you’re also a father and a family man. How do you balance that this week and through the playoffs?
Brady: That’s part of the transition that comes as you gain experience, as your family expands, and it’s important to have people at home who [can take] care of the kids. It gives me a lot of comfort knowing that I can show up to work and be 100 percent committed here. When I was younger, I didn’t have to worry about those things, babysitters and stuff like that. But it’s part of growing up, part of life. It’s been a great part of my life. Hopefully we keep winning games. That makes it easier to go home. It’s a much better quality of life for everybody in my household when we win.
Q: What about the first time you played in the AFC Championship game?
Brady: It was quite a bit different actually, because this press conference was on a Friday in Pittsburgh and I flew there with Lawyer Milloy after practice, which was a great memory of mine. Lawyer and I really had a chance to bond with each other and are still great friends to this day and a lot of it stems from that trip. So that was a great memory from that experience.