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Brady building toward regular season; Monday notebook

It happened twice Friday night.

And both times – even with nearly 70,000 people as witnesses – you could hear a pin drop in Gillette Stadium.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw two interceptions against the Tennessee Titans. But what made the capacity crowd hold its collective breath were the skull-rattling hits that Brady took as he delivered those misdirected passes.

At his locker Monday afternoon, Brady said he's fine. He even joked about the punishment he received.

"I'm doing good. I'm doing pretty good. I just don't have enough muscles to hurt or anything like that, so I'm immune to muscle strains or aches or anything like that.

"It's part of the job description," he continued, a little more seriously. "You take hits. It's just part of playing quarterback."

With the public portion of training camp now over, this week of practice and preparation for the third preseason game has more of a regular-season feel to it.

"Yeah, it does," Brady admitted, "and there's more urgency after each game because you realize you're that much closer and you want to make improvements. All these other teams are gaining and gaining, making improvements just as quickly. If you kind of flatten out in certain ways and you're not making improvements, then you're losing ground on everybody else."

So, is the Patriots offense where it needs to be at this point?

"It's hard to measure, but I'd say we need to make improvements," Brady replied. "I wish that you could always pick up from where you left off last season, but the reality is that doesn't happen. You come back, you have a new team and you have to develop a new identity."

Wide receiver Randy Moss is part of that new identity this year, but his time on the practice field has been severely limited by an apparent hamstring injury. And fellow newcomer Donté Stallworth just returned to action recently. So, is it fair to say the offense would be further along if those players were available earlier?

"Sure, that's a big part of it," Brady conceded. "For example, a guy like Donté, he's really practiced with us for a week and he's had one game of experience. He gets out there and you're very excited about what's going on. You're trying to do the best you can do. He's trying to go out there and perform well.

"It's obviously different when you have a veteran receiver like Donté and Randy and Kelley [Washington] and Wes [Welker] because they know the NFL and they know coverages and they know how to set defenders up and so forth.

"But at the same time, you have to go out there and still, we need to be on the same page. The more that we can be on the same page, the more we look and anticipate where I'm going to throw the ball or how he's going to come out of a break. That's how the passing game really starts to click."

With the 2007 season opener now less than three weeks away, Brady is looking forward to the remaining preseason games to help him and his entire offense fulfill its potential.

"We've got two very valuable weeks coming up in order to get ready for our opener … So, we're starting at a stage and we've got to just build from it and the faster that we can get everybody out there, working together, the faster that I think we can start to make some serious improvements.

"The potential of the team, that's one thing, but going out there to see what we can accomplish starting Week One is what's most important."

Monday Practice Notes

Several Patriots were missing from Monday morning's practice. In addition to the remaining PUPers (WR Troy Brown, WR Chad Jackson, CB Eddie Jackson, DL Richard Seymour, and TE David Thomas), there was no sign of DB Larry Anam, S Rashad Baker, TE Kyle Brady, WR Jabar Gaffney, OL Russ Hochstein, WR Randy Moss, CB Asante Samuel, DL Ty Warren, and DL Mike Wright.

On a positive note, OL Billy Yates returned to the practice field. He'd been out since being injured early in training camp.

RB Laurence Maroney and LB Eric Alexander have shed their red (no-contact) jerseys. Both players were back in their regular practice uniforms on Monday.

When asked about Maroney's status for Friday's game against Carolina, head coach Bill Belichick indicated during his daily press conference that Number 39 is a step closer to suiting up. "Yes. It certainly puts him closer," Belichick acknowledged. "He's made steady progress."

For the first time since mini camp in June, QB Vinny Testaverde was back on the practice field with the Patriots. He re-signed with the team over the weekend. Once again, he's wearing jersey number 14.

Brady said of Testaverde today, "I think everybody loves having Vinny around. In the meetings he's great. He brings a lot of experience, and he's a great guy, so, he's fun to have around. He adds depth. He adds quality and experience and leadership and attitude and all those things you look for in a New England Patriot. He's a perfect fit."

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