In this edition of Patriots All Access... Steve Burton goes one-on-one with QB Tom Brady, the AFC Offensive Player of the Month for October. Dan Roche re-caps a successful trip to London. Coach Belichick discusses the first half of the season with Scott Zolak and much more.
PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
Q: Can you talk about the London trip? Would you deem it a success in all - with the win there?
BB: Well, sure. That's the biggest part of it. That's why we went over there - to be 5-2. It's good to come back and get that one under our belt and move forward. We've got three division games in the next five coming up. We've got a couple undefeated teams sandwiched in there, so we've got a big challenge ahead of us, but right now we start to turn our sights toward Miami.
Q: I heard you say you got to spend some time going to see some of the war bunkers while you were in London. I know you're a big historian, so can you talk about what you saw?
BB: It was pretty interesting. Underneath parliament they built a little bunker during the bombing of London and all of that in 1940, and that's where Churchill kind of ran the war from with his staff. It's pretty interesting and pretty sparse quarters. And when the war was over, they just got up and left, so everything is just the way it was on the last day - on the VE Day.
Q: You preach to your team about starting fast and setting the tone early in games. You guys have been able to do that, especially against Tennessee and Tampa Bay. Is that a good feeling with your team?
BB: Yeah, absolutely. It's great to be able to play from ahead and we've been able to balance off our offensive game - the running game, play action and those things. And defensively we were in a lot of sub defense; we rushed the passer, ran some blitzes, got some pressure on the quarterback and kind of took them out of their running game. And they have very good backs, but when you're down by 28-7, 35-7, it's hard to run the ball in those situations, so that probably negated one of the best parts of their game.
Q: We're sitting here at the bye week. Is this the perfect time for your team to have a bye - right in the midseason? I remember you guys had it the third week one year and the 16th or 17th week one year. Talk about those weeks, and is this perfect time for a bye, getting guys healthy, too?
BB: Well, I think any time you have it, it's a good time. Everybody can use the extra time to prepare, to heal up, to get some treatment, to get caught up on where we've been and where we're going. So we're at the midpoint of the season here almost, and it gives us a good chance to reflect on the first seven games, a good chance to prepare for the next nine and give some guys a couple extra days to rest up and heal up.
Q: Is that basically what you do - self scout and throw out what's not working and get some guys up to speed, especially some of your young guys and guys coming of P.U.P.?
BB: That's right. We have some young players that have gotten a little bit of playing time, but we will continue to give them more reps in the bye week. And [it] also gives us a little more time to prepare for Miami. They've played seven games, so we'll get a pretty look at them and that will take some work there for what they do and the problems they present. It always comes at a good time, but I think it's a good feeling to come back from London. I'm glad we weren't facing a regular week this week after the trip back across the ocean.
Q: So will you concentrate a lot on the Wildcat?
BB: No question. Yes, we'll have to work on that. That's one of the unique things that they do and we'll be able to get a little bit of a head start on that.
Q: A lot of the fans and the media realize how much the players work, but a lot of people don't realize that you and your staff have been working day in and day out since July. Is it good to get away from the game a little bit [during the bye week]? Do you tell your guys, 'Hey, when you're away, be smart and take care of yourself, but enjoy the time off because it's not coming again after this'?
BB: Exactly. We're into pretty much the back stretch now and we'll be sprinting here the last nine games to try to finish up our season on a strong note, so this is our last chance to do it. It will be good to get away from football for a couple days and I do encourage the players and the staff to forget about it for a couple days and kind of clear their minds, take care of personal stuff, and then be ready to come back. There won't be many breaks after this.
Q: Defensively is it hard to coach these guys now since most of the rules cater to the offensive side of the football?
BB: Well there's no question that it's a scoring league and I think the league is built for teams to score points. They don't want to see a lot of 6-3 games. There have been some rules that have helped the defense lately. The most recent one this year is the being able to push the receiver out of bounds - if he doesn't come down with two feet, then it's an incomplete pass. That has actually helped the defense in the red zone and on the sideline plays where you don't have that force out rule anymore. They actually changed that last year. But as the head coach of the team, whatever is good for our offense is good for their offense, and whatever is good for our defense is good for their defense, so it all evens out.
PATRIOTS QUARTERBACK TOM BRADY
Q: How was London for you?
TB: It was a great experience, I think for all of us. We got over there early Friday morning. I think it took us about a day or two to adjust, but a lot of the guys got out and saw some of the beautiful things London has to offer. Saturday we really got back into the game mode, got out there and played pretty well on Sunday, and then had a great flight home. It was a great trip for us. I'm glad, obviously, that we got the win and we made some improvements as a team also.
Q: Were you able to see the sights and sounds or take some of your teammates out at all?
BB: We did. We had dinner Friday night. We had dinner Sunday night after the game. We spent a lot of time together, which I think was a great part of the experience.
TB: It was. You know, in the football season you show up to work early in the morning and you go through the day and then you go home. And that's really the only environment you're in with the guys, most of the time. To have a chance like this where you're in a very different place...We all had a chance to sit down and get to know different guys on the flight or the bus rides or going out to dinner, so it was pretty cool
Q: Was it easier for you over there? Did people recognize you? Were you able to walk the streets and not get recognized?
TB: Yeah. It's a foreign country, so there's a lot of peace and quiet over there. I think that's probably why I enjoyed it the most. I was able to walk around and enjoy, like I said, some of the things in the city. Going out to dinner was a lot of fun. I said after the game, there probably won't be another experience like that for us, so it was great to take it all in and move forward.
Q: At 5-2, Coach Belichick said you guys were at a pretty good position. Can you assess the first half of the season for you?
TB: 5-2 - it sounds really good and in a lot of ways we're excited about it. I think a lot of us reflect on the two losses more than on the five wins and understand that we need to do certain things better - going forward, we have a pretty tough stretch here coming up - in order to start beating some of these really strong opponents like Denver was and the Jets were. We've got Miami coming up and then the Colts. Nothing's more important than Miami for us - a division game and the team that won the division last year. I think that just shows us all where we're at and the things we're going to need to do better, so we've got a couple days of practice and then get out of here for a little break.
Q: How are you feeling physically, and is football harder for you now as you get older?
TB: I'm feeling great. I'm feeling great. Ironically, I think it's a little bit easier. Physically, I feel like I've gotten into a pretty good routine of being able to take care of myself, whether it's nutrition or rest or massage therapy, which is kind of my saving grace. I've really gotten it honed in. I feel great. I feel like it's the first week of the season for me. There're no aches and pains for me, nothing lingering. So my arm feels great - probably the best it's ever felt - and that's the way I like it.
Q: People here have taken shots at you lately saying marriage has made you softer and you'll never be the same quarterback. Do you ever read all that and hear all that, and does that motivate you?
TB: I'm a pretty consistent person, I think. And I approach things and I really do the best I can do all the time, whether it's in my career or in my marriage, or whether it's being a father or a family member. I learned a lesson a few years ago not to take anything personally, and when people criticize you, they criticize you for whatever reasons they may have, but they're their reasons. I don't necessarily believe a lot of those things, whether it's good or bad. I really have lot of, I'd say, self confidence and I'm able to make my own decisions with a lot of comfort in who I am.
Q: "Bill Bashing" - I've got to talk about that. Junior Seau said you're not a part of the team until you'd been "Bill-Bashed". He said it even happens to Tom Brady, but he said to ask you about it. Have you been "Bill-Bashed" before?
TB: Yeah. Randy calls it "You Tubed." We have practice on a Wednesday or a Thursday, and there you are the next morning on the big screen. He calls it "You Tubed." You get in there pretty excited on a Wednesday morning or a Thursday morning, and then there're 30 plays of myself and Randy [Moss] and Wes [Welker] going 'What do you guys thing you're doing here? This is you know what...' and using a lot of words I can't use here. He's tough on us, and I think it's for a reason. He always has a purpose in what he does and he's a very smart man and he's a great coach. He's just trying to motivate us to be the best we can be.
Q: What's your relationship with Randy Moss like? You're always together on the sidelines. What's Randy like?
TB: We have a great relationship. Really, there's a lot of trust between the two of us and I really enjoy working with him, obviously, and I think our friendship has grown through the years, too. From the outside, you probably wouldn't see a lot of the similarities between us - where we grew up or...but we're really pretty similar guys in some ways. I think he has a great desire to be a great player and be the best that ever played. I really appreciate that in him and I want to do everything I can to be the best quarterback I can be for him
Q: Looking back on the first seven weeks, what's the one thing you need to go back and tinker with and fix?
TB: Well, I would say throwing an accurate ball. There are guys that have been open in the first seven weeks of the season and I have missed them. I think that's the most frustrating thing for me because if guys aren't open, they aren't open; If they're open, that's all you can really ask for as a quarterback. There were some plays in the Jets game, some plays in the Denver game, that had I hit those, I think we would have had a better opportunity to win the game. Those are the things I'm most focused on.
Q: It seems like this is the first year you haven't had a definitive third receiver. Has that lack of a veteran, consistent guy there hurt the offense to this point?
TB: Every year is different and every year you have different strengths and weaknesses. The last time I played a full season was '07. We had a great receiving group that was very deep. All those guys were very versatile. They were all [able to] play different positions and we moved those guys around a lot. I think this year we tried to do some of those things early, but realized that's not the kind of team we were going to be. We're a balanced team. We're trying to run the ball. We've got to do that efficiently, and then set up some of our play action stuff. I think as a group, we have more clearly defined roles I think at this point than we did seven weeks ago, which I think we all feel very positive about.
Q: I said to Coach Belichick in week one, 'It must be so great to have Tom Brady back. You don't have to worry about anything. You've got the coach out there on the field.' He said, 'Oh, the contrary. He's the most challenging player I've ever had to coach because I have to out prepare him.' What are your thoughts on that?
TB: Well, I've been around for a long time now in my tenth year and I've seen a lot of things. I don't like to sit down in the meeting rooms and have my time wasted. I think whenever he does come into a meeting, he knows he's got things for me that I'm kind of going to eat up and ask questions about and vice versa. Coach Belichick is as detailed a coach as you've ever seen in the NFL, so I know that my preparation has to match his and I think I really enjoy that part of that relationship. I'm always trying to find new ways to prepare and prepare better, but I've learned a lot of great lessons from him over the years.
Q: Every time I watch you line up, there's always that safety on the half field over top of Randy Moss. How hard is it to get him the ball? And I know he wants the ball, especially when he's doubled.
TB: I think that's the challenging part for him and when you stand on the outside part of the field, they find ways to double you if they can put a safety over the top of you, which of course means other guys are open. And then it's hard when right after the game they go to Randy and say 'You didn't have any catches, you weren't productive today.' In fact, he was a big part of the reason why the other guys were so successful. When Randy is singled, he gets his opportunities and he knows that. He's a smart player and that's my job to get him the ball when he does have those opportunities because they don't come often.
Q: I've seen you fiery at times this year. Is that due to a lot of the veteran leadership you've lost this year? Not only on the field, but in the locker room - calling the team up, getting on guys on the sideline, pregame stuff - why are you doing that this year?
TB: Well, I think you're right; we've lost a lot of real core guys from over the years, a lot of years of experience, a lot of years of winning games, a lot of years of trust and friendships. And you have other guys who are forging their own paths. A guy like Brandon Meriweather is really stepping up this year, and Jerod Mayo, who have really excelled in their roles. Gary Guyton has really done a great job. We've had some other guys like Leigh Bodden come in and Shawn Springs who have played roles. Everybody has to kind of fill the void and I think in ways I think we've done that. It's about halfway through the year and we've done some things poorly, but I think obviously we seem to be making improvements, which we're all hoping we continue to make those.