He may be into Gap advertisements, magazine covers and even television commercials, but one thing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady isn't into is comparisons with Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. When the Patriots and Colts meet in the season-opener Thursday night in the rematch of last year's AFC Championship, a comparison of the high-profile quarterbacks will be a major storyline.
It won't be coming from the mouth of Brady.
"Not from me," Brady said. "I don't want to start comparing us. I let you guys do all that."
The accolades for both Brady and Manning are numerous. Brady is the first quarterback in NFL history to start and win two Super Bowls before his 27th birthday. He has two Super Bowl MVP trophies, and enters the 2004 season having started 46 consecutive games and as the Patriots all-time leader in completion percentage (61.9 percent) and passer rating (85.9). Manning, 28, has started every game in his six NFL seasons and has a laundry list of passing records too long to list. He's a four-time Pro Bowler, and was named Co-Most Valuable Player last season.
It would seem the two have enough to talk about. In fact, Brady and Manning aren't adversaries, as might be expected. Brady said he talked to Manning as recently as training camp, and the two see each other "quite a bit" during the offseason. The season-opener, though, wasn't a topic of conversation.
"Not much," Brady said when asked if the two talked about the upcoming game. "I'm not trying to give away anything here. I'm leaving his hands nice and cold, hopefully losing some sleep worrying about our defense. I don't know though, he's pretty poised."
When it comes to head-to-head matchups though, Brady is 4-0 all-time against Manning, which only adds to the hype surrounding the game. In their last meeting in the AFC Championship, Brady completed 22-of-37 passes for 237 yards with one touchdown and one interception, and got the win. Manning was 23-of-49 for 237 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions.
"He is a great quarterback," Brady said. "He runs that offense. It is probably the most proficient offense in the league, and he makes a lot of those calls at the line of scrimmage. He seems to be a great leader. He throws the ball well, and he runs the operation and the team. He is a tremendous player."
Brady was more terse with his words when asked about his own play.
"I'm just trying to get a win," he said. "I'm just trying to get my guys going in the right direction and make a few first downs and score some points. Hopefully more points than they score."
No Practice Squad Surprises
There were few surprises today when the Patriots announced their eight-player practice squad to enter the 2004 season. The Patriots re-signed wide receiver Michael Jennings, cornerback Christian Morton, running backs Kory Chapman and Malaefou Mackenzie, linebackers Justin Kerpeikis and Eric Alexander, offensive lineman David Pruce and defensive lineman Buck Rasmussen. All eight players were with the team at some point during the preseason.
The most notable cut from the final roster deadline was Kerpeikis, who led the team with 21 tackles during the preseason. Kurpeikis had a solid training camp and didn't miss any practices, but was not one of the 10 linebackers the team kept on the final roster. With only three running backs on the active roster, Chapman and Mackenzie could provided much-needed depth at the position. Chapman was originally an undrafted rookie free agent with Baltimore this season before he was signed by the Patriots on Friday and then released on Sunday. Morton, the Patriots seventh-round pick in the 2003 Draft, battled an injury throughout training camp and played in only the preseason finale.
Big Day for Gay
Of the six rookies to make the Patriots 53-man active roster, only cornerback Randall Gay went the route of undrafted free agent to make the team. Gay, who was recommended to Belichick by his Louisiana State University head coach Nick Saban, overcame an injury that kept him out for two weeks of training camp to beat out veterans Terrell Buckley and Je'Rod Cherry.
"I think he showed enough in training camp and the preseason, both in terms of the way he played the position and also his versatility, I think he can do a couple of different things for us," Belichick said. "To get younger and faster on defense, you're going to have to keep younger players. We've been trying to do that for a couple of years, and that's still one of the things we want try to address."
What Winning Streak?
Not much is being said inside the locker room about the Patriots current 15-game winning streak in regular season and postseason games. That streak will be on the line when the Patriots open the regular season on Thursday, and with four consecutive victories to open the season they could best what only six teams before them has accomplished, most recently the 1997-98 Denver Broncos. Despite their potential place in history, most of the players are having none of it.
"We're 0-0," Rodney Harrison said. "Ted Washington's not here, Bobby Hamilton's not here, it's not even the same team. There's no such thing as the streak to me. We're 0-0."
Rookie safety Dexter Reid has changed his number to 42, while fellow rookie Gay will now wear No. 21. … Belichick showed no interest in talking about the Patriots past success against the Colts during his daily press conference. "None of that makes any difference. The only thing that matters is how it goes this Thursday. That's all that matters. You guys were all saying the same things last year before Buffalo, that we beat them twice the year before. And I assume you all covered that game. That doesn't mean anything. We could all talk about what happened in 1997. What difference does it make?" … Belichick said that defensive lineman Ty Warren has made "quite a bit" of improvement from last season. "I think Ty has had a real good offseason. Last season, when he played, he was pretty productive on a play-for-play basis. He just didn't play as many plays as some other guys did. We like where he's at." … Veteran quarterback Jim Miller on running the scout team offense and mimicking opposing quarterbacks: "I don't think I'll ever be confused with Steve McNair, or the guy up in Philadelphia, [Donovan] McNabb. So I don't' think the running part of it, I wouldn't give a good look in that department."