Every football season is a mountain that must but summited from the bottom up.
At least that's how Patriots quarterback Tom Brady sees things as he heads into his 19th NFL campaign with Sunday's matchup with the hopeful Texans at Gillette Stadium.
"Every football season would be like climbing a mountain," Brady said, a response that related to working with his new-look receiving corps. "And every year you have to start right at the bottom. There is no easy part about it. And you know it's going to be tough all the way up. And you can't start at the top the next year. That's not the way football is. And whoever you are starting with at the bottom that's where you have to go. It's not going to be easy. There is no part of it…it's a long stretch. It's a lot of games with a lot of practices. And we'll be challenged in a lot of areas. I think you have to have the mental toughness, physical toughness, discipline, determination, all the things that it really takes to be a true professional. The more you can do that the more you can be on the same page the better the results are.
"And that's why we're here, we're here to win."
Brady knows the first step of the climb this season will be a challenge against a J.J. Watt-led Houston defense that's looking to prove that it's healthy and far better than the unit that finished dead last in the NFL in points allowed last fall.
Beyond his mountain-climbing metaphor, here are some of the key takeaways from Brady's 11-minute Friday afternoon press conference inside the media workroom at Gillette Stadium:
"I don't want to bring on any drama this year": A lot of reports and speculation surrounding Brady over the last year has revolved around his body coach/business partner Alex Guerrero's status in Foxborough. There were reports that indicated that Guerrero lost his sideline access last fall and was no longer allowed to fly on the team plane. This preseason, Guerrero reportedly flew to Carolina for the game against the Panthers on the team plane.
Friday, Brady was asked about the changes in Guerrero's status and whether the quarterback was comfortable with the arrangement.
"Alex and I, we work together," Brady began. "I don't want to bring on any drama this year. I'm just focusing on what I want to do and be a great football player for this team and try to be a good example in the locker room and provide great leadership. That's where my focus is. I know we want to often times talk about a lot of other things, but I just really want to stick to football and like I said really try to focus on being the best I can be for this team."
Does the current access he has with Guerrero work for Brady?
"Yeah. I'm a pretty mentally tough guy so I've dealt with a lot of circumstances over a long period of time, 18, 19 years. And I'm excited for the season," Brady responded. "I'm really excited for where we're at. Where we are going. What we have to do. And there are a lot of challenges we're going to face. I want to feel good and be the best quarterback I can be. That's a lot of big commitment, daily effort."
In a somewhat related note, Brady was asked if he was going to continue to do his weekly radio interviews with WEEI in Boston. He did not do one this week and cut short the interview last he spoke with the "Kirk and Callahan" program in late August after questions regarding Guerrero's trip to Carolina.
"I don't know. I think so," Brady said.
"I plan to use" experience, knowledge: Brady said he's "absolutely" excited to kick off his 19th season at the age of 41. But he also admitted that it feels different as the years pass by, but different in a good way.
"I feel like I have a lot of experience, a lot of knowledge. And I plan to use," Brady declared. "Football is fun to me. I feel like I can go out there, I can anticipate a lot of things. I've seen all the coverages. We have a lot of answers to the test. Now you just have to go do it. Most athletes, by the time you get to a certain point you start to figure it out mentally and physically it becomes really hard. Trying to be my best physically and be my best mentally, that's a good place to be. So there is a lot of confidence from my standpoint. I know we're facing a good defense…so it's a good place for us to start."
And Brady will be in the perfect place come game time.
"I love playing football," Brady said. "I love being out there and the preparation, what it takes to be a great player. Those things are still very enjoyable for me. There is no place I'd rather be Sunday afternoon at 1 o'clock than playing here and playing well."
"Gotta morph the offense" to new WR corps: Brady will be ready to go Sunday. So will key offensive cogs like tight end Rob Gronkowski and passing back James White. But there are still plenty of questions about an undermanned, new-look receiving corps that's led by returning veteran Chris Hogan for at least a month as Julian Edelman serves his four-game suspension.
"I think that's part of the challenge of this particular position, of offensive football, is there are a lot of moving parts from year to year," Brady said. "You may be really good offensively in one area and through free agency, through guys whatever competition, they don't make it, and you gotta morph the offense to what guys do well. I've been in the same offense for a long time, so in a lot of ways this system is morphed to what my skill sets have been and other people have to come in and really fill what that particular role is for them. It's a tough system to play in for a receiver. I definitely don't think it's easy and I know that because we've had a lot of guys come from a lot of different places. A lot of memorization. A lot of being on the same page as the quarterback and changing routes at the line of scrimmage, changing routes during the middle of the play. And you have to be on the same page. We try to morph the offense to what we all do a good job at. Those things change over the course of the season as different guys come in and out. Hopefully we can do a good job of that this week."