Foxborough, Mass. – After hearing offensive coordinator Charlie Weis' opinions on Tom Brady, one is left to wonder what the Patriots quarterback can't do.
In a rare occasion at Gillette Stadium Thursday, Weis and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel both spoke with the media in open sessions for the first time this season. There was no reading in between the lines when Weis was asked about this year's Patriots team.
"This is the best group of football players we have had since I have been here," Weis said. "That doesn't mean they are going to be the best team, but they are the best group of football players."
That group surely includes Brady, who Weis said is the "next closest thing to a coach" when it comes to game planning for the offense.
"It has gotten to the point now, by the time he comes in and we put in the plan and by the end of the week, he knows the plan like a coach knows the plan," Weis said. "He has the ball in his hands, and that is a good thing, to know you have a guy that really understands what we are trying to do, and I think that the ability to put more responsibility on the quarterback is directly related to his ability to handle those responsibilities."
Weis expressed confidence in Brady's ability to change plays at the line of scrimmage and said the coaches will continue to give the fifth-year quarterback more leeway in the offense. The difference between Brady's decision-making skills in 2001 and now, he said, is drastic and allows for the coaching staff to continue expanding the offense.
"From 2001 to now, it is night and day," Weis said. "Let's go back to when he came in the league. We talked about ability with first round draft choices before; there is also a mental ability that comes into play too. That is one thing that he had walking in the door. He had moxie and he had character and he had that competitive fire. He had all of the qualities that allow you to develop into that person, but there are a lot of people that have thrown abilities away [and] that have never reached their potential. Who knows what his potential is as a football player but using his brain, I mean he is already right at the top of the league as far as being able to handle that element."
Praise for Givens
While the Patriots receiving corps continues to be hit hard by injuries over the first two weeks of the regular season, one constant has been third-year receiver David Givens. With Troy Brown playing sparingly on offense against Arizona and fellow receivers Deion Branch and David Patten lost to injuries, Givens responded with seven receptions for a career-high 118 yards. His performance earned some high praise from Brady.
"David has gotten better since the first day he got here," Brady said. "Now that he's picked up more of the passing game and learned more about the offense and what we're trying to do here, he's really established a role. If you look at him, he's a different size than all the other receivers. He's really big and stout. He's strong. He runs very good routes. He's very powerful coming out of his breaks. He has tremendous hands because he has great hand strength. He's very elusive. He's a great blocker, very smart."
Givens has 10 receptions for 198 yards through two games, leading the team in both categories. After working through nagging injuries of his own during the preseason, Givens has shown the same high level of play he displayed during the 2003 playoffs. Weiss believes it's a result of confidence.
"Well, first of all, his confidence has grown," Weis said. "I think when he first got here, coming in as a late round draft choice from a university that is not really throwing the ball very much. It wasn't about having ability or having skill, but now you get into the pro game. I think now his confidence is budding both in himself and the quarterback has confidence in him as well. I think that helps the development grow even more. It helps the offensive coordinator have confidence in him as well."
Patriots safety Rodney Harrison was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in Sunday's 23-12 win at Arizona. Harrison recorded a team-high seven solo tackles, two sacks for 21 yards in losses, a forced fumble and a pass defended against the Cardinals. The 11-year veteran has earned Player of the Week honors twice before (Week 2 in 1995 and Week 5 in '99) but this is his first award with the Patriots. According to team statistics, Harrison leads the Patriots in total tackles (13) and is tied for the team lead in solo tackles (10) with linebacker Roman Phifer.
At least Belichick is to the point. When asked about what his team has done well this season, he responded, "Score more points than the two teams that we played. That is the bottom line. We have made a few more plays than our opponents have and that is what the games are all about." … According to the Boston Globe, the Patriots reached an injury settlement with defensive lineman Dana Stubblefield, who was placed on the injured reserve Aug. 31. … Brady was asked this week about what bothered him most about his performance against Arizona. "I hate to have guys open and not hit them. I had Troy [Brown] open there late in the game on my last throw of the game. I would have loved to complete that one. There was another one to David [Givens] that I didn't get it over the linebacker's head. I think having guys open and not completing it is probably the worst feeling for a quarterback because if nobody is open and you throw it away, no big deal. But when you have guys open and the offensive line gives you great protection like they did all day, then you would like to hit them all."