Athletes can get so comfortable in their favorite pieces of equipment, they almost becomes part of them. For years, that was the case with Tom Brady and his Riddell brand helmet.
As helmet designs and technology have changed over the past two decades, the Patriots QB has always been easily recognizable in his preferred on-field headwear (a VSR-4, for those interested in the details). By the sounds of it, Brady would still be donning his original Riddell had the NFL not decided to phase it and several other designs out.
If he chose to do so, Brady could be wearing his old reliable helmet today, because he's not required to discard the old one until next season. However, just recently, in practices prior to the second preseason game against Philadelphia, Brady began wearing what looks like an updated Riddell model (called a SpeedFlex), one that ranks highly on the league's list of new, ostensibly safer designs.
"I've been wearing a very old helmet for a long period of time, but it's worked pretty well, too, so that's why I've been a little hesitant to change… It's probably why I've never switched," Brady admitted Wednesday, "because it was always a little different than what I was used to. But they made [the new one] pretty good, so, it's actually – I think there's still a few little tweaks I'd like, but for the most part it's really comfortable."
The helmet itself isn't the only difference. Brady's facemask is slightly different than before, in order to fit onto the new design. This aspect, too, is taking some getting used to, according to Brady. Having peripheral vision on the field, for instance, is important for Brady when scanning the defense pre-snap.
At the same time, protection is necessary to prevent unwanted opponents' fingers and hands from breaching Brady's helmet.
"It all matters, so, yeah, just making sure it's kind of similar to what the experience has always been. Like I said, there's still some tweaks to go and I'm working it out. But overall, hopefully the helmet provides more protection.
"There's obviously got to be some protection over here," he added, motioning to the side of his head, "because fingers can get [inside], you know. It hasn't happened too often in my career, but I've had a few hands get through the mask a little bit.
"I mean, the more you can have the better. It's not quite going to be like the old Sean Landeta punter one where you had the one bar, but it provides enough. But I really like it. It's been a good transition, smooth transition, which is all I could ask for."
The clincher might be what his teammates think of the new-look Brady.
"I asked the guys, "Do I look any younger or faster in it?" They said, 'Yes,'" he revealed, "so, I feel like I might keep it."
August important for Edelman
These next ten days or so will be critical for WR Julian Edelman, as they'll be the last he'll be able to spend with his Patriots coaches and teammates until October. That's because of a four-game NFL-imposed suspension he must serve beginning Week 1 of the regular season.
Yet, Edelman claims that he'd place a high importance on this Friday night's game at Carolina even if he wasn't about to serve his suspension.
"I think it's definitely important, especially for me, coming back [from a serious knee injury]. I haven't played [on a regular basis] in a year. It's good to get knocked around a little bit and get ready.
"I'm a believer in the preseason," he added. "I like to travel, the dress rehearsal. I think practice and repetition ultimately build your confidence. Getting to do it against another guy I haven't seen in a while or played against… is a huge part of the process."
Earlier this summer, the 32-year-old receiver confessed that he hadn't felt like he'd sufficiently regained his conditioning levels. So, he was asked Wednesday if that has changed, and what he plans to do with the dwindling time he has left at Gillette this summer.
"I think I'm a week better than last week. Still always trying to improve," he responded.
"I hope to get my conditioning better, keeping the volume up. I hope I can go out and contribute in other ways. Obviously, I won't be here for the first four [regular season games]. Anything I can do to help the guys that are going to step in, let them know what they need to know. Little things, especially guys that are not as experienced."
Report: Britt being released
It seems one of those guys to whom Edelman was referring won't be WR Kenny Britt. Out all summer with a hamstring issue, Britt spoke earlier this week about his desire to contribute at some point, but according to NFL Network, he'll no longer have the chance.
Britt was seen by reporters as recently as Wednesday afternoon in uniform at Patriots practice.
For the third consecutive day, there were no changes to the practice absentee list. The same five players who didn't suit up on Monday or Tuesday were also out of commission on Wednesday: right tackle Marcus Cannon (unknown), linebacker Harvey Langi (kidney, according to media reports), rookie running back Sony Michel (knee), rookie offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn (left Achilles), and rookie tight end Ryan Izzo (unknown).
New England will conduct a walkthrough session on Thursday, which will be closed to the media. Afterward, the team will then fly to North Carolina to play the Panthers in Charlotte on Friday.
"I'm glad we got two games under our belt, but both have been at home," added Brady. "It's always nice going away… We're really focused, there's no distractions, and it's all about playing a football and trying to take another step that we need to take in order for us to be prepared for the [regular season] opener."