Via ESPNBoston.com By Mike Reiss
He said it with a straight face.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was surrounded by a scrum of reporters following Saturday’s training camp practice at Gillette Stadium, and the topic of discussion was the team’s stocked depth chart at receiver, filled with players with whom Brady has previously developed a solid rapport. Not all of them will stick around; at least one familiar face likely will be sent packing.
The questioner began: “You’re going to be on the team, but one of those receivers … ”
Brady politely interrupted.
“I hope so,” he said.
“I hope so,” he said again, repeating the thought.
Tom Brady not making the Patriots? Does the greatest quarterback in franchise history really believe that when Bill Belichick makes the team’s final cut down to 53 players in late August that he might not be here?
No, probably not, but it’s the mindset Brady brings to the practice field every day. It shows in the fiery way he competes in training camp.
“I still feel like a young kid out here trying to earn a spot,” he said Saturday.
Brady, of course, turns 35 on Aug. 3. He was reminded this will be the 13th straight year he’ll be celebrating his birthday at training camp, which to some might be a disappointment. He doesn’t see it that way, not at all.
“I certainly don’t take it for granted. It’s the most fun I have,” he said. “Obviously, I have more experience than most of the guys out here, but you still try to bring enthusiasm and leadership, and try to go out and do your job.”
In an offseason in which Peyton Manning‘s signing with the Denver Broncos dominated NFL headlines (and is still doing so), Drew Brees‘ contract standoff with the New Orleans Saints had some deadline-based drama and New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow has become the most talked about quarterback in the AFC East, it’s the same old Brady quarterback story in New England.
Maybe that explains why national media attention on the opening of Patriots training camp has been modest compared to recent years. While fans have packed the stands in record numbers, Brady & Co. aren’t generating much widespread media buzz.
Perhaps it’s simply that change is often a more compelling story, and since 2001, there hasn’t been much of it when it comes to Brady’s place with the Patriots.
“I love playing quarterback for this team. It’s a great responsibility to have, and I appreciate it every single day. There is nothing I’d rather do than be out here — my life is pretty much built around that,” said Brady, whose father, Tom Sr., has been on hand in recent days to watch him practice.
“To come out here and be with your teammates when practice starts, there is nothing more fun than that. You have to work as hard as you can to be the best quarterback for this team that I could possibly be. That’s what I think about every single day when I get up.”
The goals, as always, remain the same.
“It’s been the same thing since I got here — to win,” he said. “That’s the only thing that matters with your training, practicing, nutrition, rehab — it’s to win. Everything you do when you come out here is about winning and being the best you can be for this team.”
Through the first three days of training camp, Brady has looked sharp. His rapport with receivers Wes Welker and Deion Branch, and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, and his history with receivers Jabar Gaffney and Donte’ Stallworth (both of whom have returned to the team in 2012), have contributed to the offense’s executing at a high level from the get-go. Even veteran receiver Brandon Lloyd, who has a background in the team’s system from playing under offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in Denver and St. Louis, has made an early impression with some impressive connections with Brady.
This is in contrast to last year, when Brady worked closely with veteran receiver Chad Ochocinco (now Chad Johnson) early in camp in hopes of integrating him into the system. The two never clicked.
Still, Brady said there have been times over the past three days when he’s seen Lloyd, Stallworth or Welker running and his legs don’t feel completely underneath him to deliver a strike.
“You just feel lethargic,” he said.
Usually, in time, that comes around. But ask any of the 30,000-plus spectators who showed up at Patriots training camp over the past three days whether they noticed the laser-sharp Brady was lethargic, and they’d probably chuckle.
The thought seems as preposterous as Brady not making the 2012 roster cut.