Bill Belichick spent significant portions of his press conferences this week praising Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer and the Minnesota defense.
Friday afternoon in his own press conference inside the media workroom at Gillette Stadium, New England quarterback Tom Brady also had plenty of good things to say about the Minnesota defense, especially the team’s impressive pass rush.
“They’re pretty good. I think they rush really good with their front four, but they also have some real good scheme stuff, so you’ve got to prepare for both,” Brady explained. “Sometimes they look like they’re coming and they don’t, but you’ve still got to deal with their really good players up front. Sometimes they do come and you’ve got to deal with their linebackers or safeties. It’s a challenging defense. They’ve been really good for a long time, since Coach Zimmer’s – really, since he’s been in the league. It’s a big challenge. Good in the red area, good on third down, been top ranked for a long time, so we’ve got our hands full.”
Beyond his thoughts on the Vikings defense – which indeed leads the NFL in third down defense, in red zone and is second in sacks per pass play – here are some of the other highlights of Brady weekly pre-game meeting with the media.
“Ready to go”: Brady has been dealing with some injuries of late. The quarterback has been listed on the injury report the last couple weeks with a knee issue. (Brady was actually removed from the Patriots injury report on Friday.) He had his right hand/thumb dealt with by trainers on the sideline in last week’s win over the Jets. While it’s late in the year and most players are working through some bumps and bruises, the quarterback certainly sounds upbeat regarding his physical condition heading into this key battle against the Vikings.
“I feel like I’m ready to go. I’m excited for the game,” Brady said. “It’s a big game for us, big game for them. But, I feel good. I think everyone’s dealing with different things, but I’m able to go out there and play and hopefully play well.”
A follow-up question wondered if Brady deals with the various rigors of the NFL season better now than he did early in his career.
“I haven’t missed many games by injury over the course of my career, so I think early on, it was probably being pretty naïve,” Brady responded. “I think the second half of my career’s probably been a little smarter. So those two things have worked well at different times.”
Age equals wisdom, a reporter added.
“Absolutely. I certainly have the age part and the wisdom I’m working on,” Brady said with a smile. “But, yeah, it’s just dealing with different things and everyone’s dealing with something. It’s been a long season.”
Old hat: Brady went back to his old helmet, the one he’d worn for essentially the entirety of his career, in the win over the Jets last Sunday. Earlier this season, Brady had been wearing a newer model helmet.
“I don’t know, it works pretty good,” Brady said explaining why he prefers the decades-old model. “I like the fit, I like the feel, the weight, it’s comfortable. So yeah, it’s just a good helmet.”
This is supposed to be the last season that Brady is allowed by the NFL to wear the old helmet, but it doesn’t sound like the quarterback is ready to give up his preferred protection. What will happen if the league doesn’t allow him to wear it next season?
“I don’t know – standoff,” Brady said in a seemingly jokingly ominous tone. “I don’t know. We’ll figure it out.”
Two-way learning: During his morning press conference Belichick talked about how he’s learned from Brady over the years. The two future Hall of Famers have spent two decades together on the football field, so it’s probably not surprising that the learning is a two-way street.
But Brady made it clear he’s the fortunate one in the relationship.
“I always learn from him and what he’s teaching and coaching, and it’s really been that way since I’ve got here,” Brady said. “I got to be around him a lot when I was younger, really as coaching us as quarterbacks when he would teach us a lot about defense. It was just a great introduction for me in the NFL, to have Coach Belichick really teach me how to read defenses, how to study defenses, how to understand defensive players and not a lot of players have the luxury of having that. I’m very, very grateful and I’ve learned from all the coaches. I feel like everyone can offer a lot to me and I’ll take as much wisdom as they have. The more information I get, the better it usually is.”
And the learning never ends.
“I mean, football you never master. It’s a chess match and there’s always different things,” Brady said. “Every year’s a little bit different so you’re learning every year, every day, every walkthrough, every meeting, different things. And sometimes you’ve got to forget them and then you re-learn them. That’s just the way it goes.”