Tom Brady returned in award-winning fashion last Sunday in Cleveland, making his season debut with a 400-yard performance in a blowout of the Browns.
He got back to work in front of an impressive contingent of Patriots fans at FirstEnergy Stadium, but that's nothing compared to the reception he should get this coming Sunday at Gillette Stadium against the Bengals.
While Brady is certainly very much focused on the task at hand, which is preparing for a Cincy squad that presents many challenges on both sides of the ball, TB12 acknowledged that it should be an enjoyable setting for Sunday's action at Gillette Stadium.
Beyond talking about his home debut and the challenge he and his teammates will face from a Bengals squad that hasn't won in New England since 1986, Brady also spent a lot of his Wednesday morning press conference talking about the possibilities that exist with his current crop of offensive options.
Though more than happy to talk about all those topics, Brady was not interested in talking about Donald Trump. Asked in the final question of his press conference about Trump's recent scandal in which the Republican presidential candidate used crass language that he later described as "locker room talk," Brady simply thanked the media and walked away from the podium without responding to the query.
Here are a few of the highlights from Brady's first mid-week press conference of 2016, his first since returning from his four-game Deflategate suspension.
1. "Very excited" for first home game of 2016: Brady missed New England's first two preseason games this summer, both at Gillette Stadium. Then, he sat out the four-game suspension, which included three home games. So, other than training camp practices, Brady hasn't gotten a chance to perform in front of the Foxborough faithful since last January. It should be a loud, crazy crowd that's excite to see their favorite player. And Brady feels the same way about seeing them.
"Very excited. It will be a great game. They're a very good team we're playing, so I think the crowd will be into it and I'm sure we'll be ready to go, too," Brady said. "I look forward to playing every week, and certainly, this will be a fun game. It's always pretty fun to be out there. We've got a great crowd and hopefully we give them lots of reasons to cheer. We've always had such great support here. It's just a great place to play, so hopefully we can make enough plays and keep them loud all game."
2. "You always have to find ways to reinvent yourself": Things probably couldn't have gone much better in Brady's return to action last Sunday in Cleveland. He led the offense to an opening scoring drive on the way to 400 yards passing, 33 points and a blowout that saw the franchise QB resting on the sideline for a big chunk of the fourth quarter.
"There were a lot of contributions from a lot of places, and I think that's what makes a good offense – not just always throwing it to one or two guys, but spreading the ball around and throwing the ball where they're not," Brady described. "Wherever they want to cover, you've got to figure out other places to go with it and have guys in those positions to be able to make the plays. We certainly did a good job of that last week, but it always changes."
One performance like Sunday's is good, but finding ways to produce at a high level over and over is what makes a team great. That's what Brady and the Patriots will try to achieve and build on in the coming weeks.
"Over the course of the year, teams will evaluate you different ways and try to take away different things, and you have to be able to adjust, too," Brady continued. "That's why things play out over a long season. You can't - after four games or five games, you don't really know where you're at yet. It takes a while to figure out what you're really good at, how other teams are going to try to defend those things, and how you're able to adapt to the changes that they're making, too. I think that's the part of the fun part of the strategy of the game. You can't come in here every week with the same plan and say, 'Alright, well let's just Xerox copy what we did last week and see if that will work again.' I think you always have to find ways to reinvent yourself over the course of a season, and the teams that can do that are usually the ones that win the most games."
3. Tight end love is catching on: Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski combined to lead the Patriots passing attack on Sunday in Cleveland with 11 receptions for 176 yards and three touchdowns. It was the kind of production that many were envisioning when New England traded for the former Pro Bowler Bennett this offseason. Brady, for one, seems rather intrigued with what might be accomplished over the course of the season with his two behemoth, athletic tight ends.
"I was saying the other day, Martellus has been so productive, being here for such a short time. Gronk, what he did last week and him kind of getting back to where he wants to be is such a big part of our offense because those guys are so dynamic. They're tough matchups, they're both 6-foot-6-plus, 270-pounds-plus. They're hard matchups for anybody because they're just very unique players," Brady gushed. "It's great because like on the touchdown to Martellus, one of them, they focused all their coverage on Gronk, and then Martellus gets the one-on-one and he gets the ball. Again, that's what makes a good offense. If they're going to double cover someone, it means other guys have single coverage. If you're playing with a guy like Gronk, it's great for you because you're not the one getting double covered, so you'll have opportunities and you have to take advantage of the opportunities when you get them."