Q: Can Friday get here fast enough?
TB: I think it is going to be exciting for us. The first time out on the field this year, it kind of breaks the monotony of all of these practices. It will be good to get out there and see what all of this hard work is going to produce. I'm excited.
Q: Is it nice to have no 'superstars' on this team? You have super players, but no stars—is that the way you like it?
TB: I think there are a lot of guys who like playing football and a lot guys that are humble and a lot of guys that like working hard, like playing as a team. It is a fun team to be on, and I think for that reason. I think the success we have had, if you can't share that with other people, then it is just not very much fun. But I think when you can share it with guys you have been around and that you've been on teams with that haven't been very good, it makes it much more fun.
Q: Do you feel as sharp as you look?
TB: I'm glad there are four weeks left until the opening game. I think I've made some progress in the last couple weeks, but I'm still not really where I want to be, not for the first game. It is going to be such a tough schedule and if we don't get prepared, I remember last year going into the first game last season, I don't think I was where I wanted to be, and that was apparent in what happened that first game. But I think as the season went along I began to feel more comfortable.
Q: What have you done this offseason in particular that you feel you need to improve?
TB: The areas that I think are most important for me as a quarterback are, you know, when you handle the ball every down, when you are always taking the ball from center, you always have to make good decisions, and with the interceptions last year—12 interceptions—and the fumbles, I don't think I took as good of care of the ball as I would have liked. That's going to be what I'm really trying to focus on. And I think a lot of that for the fumbles is going to be strength. Hand strength, body strength, and awareness in the pocket, making good decisions when there are people on you. And for throwing the ball, making good decisions throwing it- not trying to squeeze it into places that I can't.
Q: Do you feel stronger? Did you get into the weight room and gain muscle, or are your hands stronger?
TB: Yeah, I think that is something that I really tried to improve on. I think it helped going and having a good offseason of conditioning and working out. I think it all helped.
Q: How many interceptions have you thrown in camp?
TB: Don't jinx me. None. Not yet. That is what we are trying to do.
Q: How much work did you expend with Deion [Branch] and Troy [Brown] and these other guys in passing camps? It looks like the timing has improved, especially on crossing routes.
TB: Quite a bit. Those guys have been here all summer working out, in the passing camps, in the minicamps, in the on-the-field activity that we've been doing and I think it shows. It shows that we come out, and we are able in the first couple of weeks to feel like there is a good base to start from. It doesn't feel like we have started over. It doesn't feel like we are picking up from where we left off last year though either. So, we're still not there yet, and I think that the more we can get together and throw, and the more we can run routes, and there are certain techniques that are harder for us get open, now what we are trying to work against is that the receivers are trying to get off the bump and run coverage. And those types of things are going to be important for us if we want to be good against all these defenses that we play.
Q: With all of the success you've had, how do you keep from getting big headed?
TB: I think you get hit a few times out here and that humbles you real fast. Getting into these games, games like Buffalo last year, games like the Washington game, that humbles you really fast. This game is about 'what have you done for me lately' and 'what are you about this year' because there are new challenges. There are new teams, new expectations and, for us, we are going to be the team that people look at on the schedule and say 'okay, this is a team that we have to beat, to measure ourselves as a team we are going to have to go up against the team that won the world championship'. And for us, we are going to sit there and say 'for us to accomplish our goals, we are going to have to play better than we did last year'.
Q: A guy you really admire, John Elway, is going into the hall of fame today. Have you ever pictured yourself in that situation or has that ever crossed your mind?
TB: It never has. Never.
Q: It never has in your career or never period?
TB: I don't think it ever has period. I think seeing the guys like that, you know, John Elway, Barry Sanders going in, I remember going to those games, having their jerseys, and having their posters, and still seeing John Elway films- I could never do that stuff.
Q: You have as many Super Bowls as he does.
TB: Yeah, I do. I do. But, at the same time, if you could mold a quarterback, that is the guy you would like to mold him after. He is spectacular.
Q: You are going to have more responsibility at the line calling plays. What did you do this offseason to prepare for that?
TB: A lot of it is being comfortable with learning the offense better and better, the quarterback schools that we go through, learning more about how the running plays are working. The quarterback, you always want to know about the pass plays, and the running plays, you let everyone else figure out. You identify who we want to block and let the line go from there, but to understand the whole offense, there might be a good running play on, but there is a better one to the other side if you could identify it—those types of things are what we are looking for.
Q: Did they approach you with that, or was that something that just progressed?
TB: I think as it evolves more, and as I continue to get a better grasp and make better decisions when I do audible. My first year, they didn't let me do hardly any of it—you call the play and you run it. And then my second year it was 'okay we'll do some check with me and stuff, we'll go to the line with two plays'. And then my third year, last year, it was 'okay, you got a couple plays and if you want to audible you can do that'. Now it is like 'let's see what the best play is we can do and let's figure out how to get to it'.
B: You have complete control once you get to the line if you see something that needs to be changed, you are free to do it regardless of the situation. Is that fair to say?
TB: To an extent. It is not like you have the whole playbook at your disposal, but Charlie [Weis] says 'hey, we've got this play called and we don't like the look, go ahead and change it'.
Q: Are you like Peyton Manning, flapping your arms and making fake signals?
TB: He has quite a bit of control and he does a really good job with it. And when you throw for 4,000 yards, the coaches put a lot of trust in you. He certainly has developed trust with his coach.
Q: What kind of things did you learn from watching Joe Montana growing up that you can take and use as player?
TB: I think that Joe had a great command and his presence was great. When he got traded from the 49ers to the Chiefs, I think it was a Monday night game and he brought the team back. I was at this athletic club and there was a whole group of guys and everyone was huddled against the TV watching, just because they knew that kind of magic, Joe could bring a team back like that. I think those types of qualities, you really look to in athletes, the same one you look to in the Michael Jordans, that you always feel comfortable watching them in a game. You always say 'as long as they are in the game, they have a chance'. Those things are what will stick on in my mind. Now, do I think that I have those qualities? You know, not at that point, no way. But those are things I think I admire about him.
Q: Is that something that you have to think about out there—that you have to show some kind of poise?
TB: I think you let the game evolve and at different situations and different circumstances that come up, you handle them as best you can, and you evaluate them and then you try to do better the next time, or, if it is successful, you try to repeat it. But, you don't those as much out there, and hopefully you have practiced them enough that when it does come up, you have trained your mind to just react to it.
Q: Why is it that you don't look at yourself like Joe Montana, even with all of your fourth-quarter comebacks and the last-second victories?
TB: Well, I think he was the best of all time. And, at 27 years old—I can't say 26 anymore—I hope I have a lot of football left. Hopefully, barring injury and hopefully we continue to stay on a great team with a great organization and great opportunities. There is so much to do, and proving it for three years, and playing and being successful, that is great, but I think it takes a lot more than three years. Joe did it 14 [years].
Q: You've managed to keep going out there, and you've been nicked up, but nothing serious injury-wise. Is that something you take pride in?
TB: Each football player is very different. I know the receivers tend to have certain kinds of injuries. Quarterbacks, with the shoulder surgery, I was lucky two years ago that it happened in the last game at the end of the year.
Q: Because you wouldn't have played in the next game would you?
TB: I would have tried. I certainly would have hoped I would have tried. Who knows, but I had a whole offseason to take it easy and rehab it. But, there is nothing for me to pull. There is no muscle in this body. I don't think there is any strength to hurt any bones. I'm serious. I can't pull a muscle I don't have. Guys always joke about hamstring injuries. I don't run fast enough to hurt my hamstring. But, that is just, I think, good fortune.
Q: Can you talk about being in Rohan [Davey's] situation?
TB: I think Rohan is doing such a good job of handling it. He has a great opportunity here and he has done a great job of taking advantage of it. And, to go over to Europe, and to play the way he played in Europe, and then come back here and compete the way he has been competing, I think it really shows what Rohan is about. Rohan has tremendous leadership, not to mention his physical ability, but he is gaining more of a command of the offense, more of a respect of the team and the coaches, and he is going to get a chance to show it this year. And it is going to start in the preseason and hopefully Rohan continues to play great. The better Rohan is, the better the team is going to be.
Q: He says that it is his job to push you, do you feel that he is?
TB: Oh, heck yeah. Heck yeah. You always feel that. And I want to push Rohan. I want to push Rohan not only here, but also in the classroom and in the weight room. This is a team, and I think as a quarterback I take a lot of pride in what our production as a unit is. When we go out there in this preseason, it does no good if I go out there, I might go out there and play well and then Rohan goes in there and we aren't as productive on offense, it doesn't look good on the whole team. So, I'm rooting for Rohan and I'm pushing Rohan to be a leader out there, to have command and to take over, when I'm not in there, get in there, Rohan, and do it. And he does the same thing. When Rohan is not in there, he wants me to go out and do it. He cheers for me, so it works the same way.
Q: Does it help to have a veteran like Jim Miller in there?
TB: And Jim, being around him for just a couple of weeks, is really a neat guy. And he has had a lot of success, so I'm sure I'll be able to learn a lot of things from him. He is fun to be around, he as a great attitude, and I hope he is out here practicing soon. But he is, I think, going to be an asset.
Q: When you were Rohan, when you were just starting out, did [Coach] Belichick scare you?
TB: Did he intimidate me? Yeah, heck yeah.
Q: How? Just by his mere presence?
TB: Certainly. I think you have a coach, and I've always looked up to my coaches because that is what I was taught. You understand your coach and you understand what he is teaching you and you listen to what he says, and for a coach that has been successful, I think you gain an admiration and a respect [for him]. You are always trying to prove to your coach that you are capable. So, when I was around him and I'm trying to come up, I was always worried about him and Charlie. What did he and Charlie think? Because they are the ones that are making the evaluations.
Q: He says that the two of you can joke now. Is there anything specific that you joke about?
TB: There is certainly much more comfort, the more you are in the different situations. And even off-the-field stuff, where we are out at the Patriots golf tournament, we are out in L.A. for the ESPY awards, you have more in common. The more I'm back here, he grew up here, so I go to places like Nantucket. I was in Nantucket this time and we had a nice conversation about that. But just things like that, about outside of Foxborough.
Q: Before you wouldn't have had a conversation about anything other than football?
TB: Not at all. You wouldn't want to waste his time. You figured you would be wasting his time.
Q: Have you guys established a closer relationship than we may be able to see?
TB: He is my coach first. He is the guy that is passing on what he wants to communicate to me so I can communicate that to the rest of the guys. I think, in terms of friendship, that we are certainly friendly, and I think at this point things have happened so fast. And I have tremendous amounts of respect for him. He is the best coach I have ever played for. He is the best coach, as far as I am concerned, in the National Football League, and I think he is proving that. And I think all of the guys, he has a tremendous amount of respect from the entire team, and when he says something, you can usually bank on it. I don't think there has ever been one thing that he has taught me or that he has communicated to me that hasn't turned out the way [he said it would].
Q: You mean in a game situation, it always comes true pretty much?
TB: Certainly. He'll say 'this is probably what they will do, but if they don't do this, they are going to do this'. And you can bank on that.
Q: What is the nicest thing he has ever said to you?
TB: I remember after the Super Bowl, he said a lot of things, but I think he just said 'I'm glad you are our quarterback'.
Q: I'm sure he said that after the first Super Bowl too.
TB: I think he did. He said 'I'm glad you are our quarterback' and I said 'I'm glad you are my coach'.
Q: How important to the team is the attention to detail that we notice on the practice field?
TB: I think that is critical because, as you get out there on the game field, which is going to start on Friday, and you start to play some of these games, the situations that come up are all detail. The difference, at the end of the game, between having 22 seconds on the clock versus 16 seconds on the clock, and the different plays you can call, and having timeouts or not having timeouts, all of these things that are critical and in critical situations, determine wins and losses. And we have been very good in close games, and I think for that reason. When we talked over stuff today, that you guys probably couldn't hear a lot of, we are talking about all situations like that. What can possibly come up and then how are we going to react, so when it does come up it is not a surprise to us like 'wow, this happened'. It's like 'we practiced that'. The fumbles, backed up on our own one-yard line, plays on the sidelines, everything. All of these tough situations that might come up once per year, but, hey, if it comes up in the Super Bowl or it comes up in week 15, we want to at least have practiced it or talked about it.
Q: Coach Belichick says he has yelled at every player on this team at some point. Do you remember a time?
TB: I think he gets on me for stuff, I mean, there are just stupid mistakes like motion penalties when I'm not paying quite the attention that [I should]. Just stuff that he would think I should know. And then physically, some concentration plays like throwing the ball to the running backs. When I throw the ball to running backs, he wants it in a specific spot. He doesn't want it in his facemask, he wants it one foot in front of his numbers. He wants to make it easy for the running back. So, those types of things, that is when he will get on me the most. I try not to get on his bad side.
Q: Can you talk about the benefit of having a veteran like Jim Miller and what he brings to the team?
TB: Yeah, I think I was saying earlier that he has been here for a couple of weeks and we developed a good relationship in that short time. As an older guy and as a veteran, I can just understand a lot of the things he has been through and a lot of the things he can teach me about. So, I am excited to have him. It looks like he'll be out here tossing the ball around which is good to see.
Q: There has been a lot of talk about this being Red Sox nation. Will it ever be the Patriots nation, or is it now?
TB: The Red Sox are awfully fun to read about. It is like the Enquirer, you know. I think, playing 162 games is an awful lot to talk about and I think the fans love watching the Patriots and love talking about the Patriots and I think it is the same way for the Red Sox. Being a Red Sox fan, I can understand why, because they have been trying to win the World Series for a long time and that is what makes it fun.
Q: Nomar is gone now and there seems to be a void for the New England sports icon. Can you fill that void?
TB: Well, I don't look at it like that. There are certainly a lot of guys that are capable of it. Joe Thornton and Paul Pierce. That's two good ones right there. Manny [Ramirez] and Pedro [Martinez]. There are a lot of guys on our team that are very capable. The thing about that I'm happy about playing for the Patriots is that you just feel like one of the guys and that's how I like to be.
Q: But one day you are going to be that guy. You have two rings. Is that too difficult to carry?
TB: We'll talk about it if there ever is a third ring, and hopefully there is one. That is what I'm hoping. You have to get the third one.
Q: The third one validates everything?
TB: The last two have been great, but it is knowing that feeling you get when you win it. Heck, I want as many as I can get. I'm going to be selfish about this.