New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, January 6, 2010.
Q: What do you tell rookies to expect this time of year as far as the difference between regular season football and playoff football?
TB: Nobody has really asked me at this point.
Q: So what is the biggest different between regular season and playoff football?
TB: Well, you're playing the best teams, so I think the biggest difference is there's less of a margin for error. I think you go into these games and you're playing teams that are the best in the league and have won the most games, so typically they are the ones that make the fewest mistakes and the ones where the yards are hardest to come by. So our execution has to be better. You're really not going to be given too many plays, so I think that's ... In the experience that I've had, you realize have to play a really good game of football to win. You can't go out there and play sub-par and expect to advance, so that's really what we're focused on: playing a great game, having a really good week of practice. We had a really good day today. We're off to a good start and we need a couple more good days.
Q: With all of your experience, what do you remember most? Is it the wins or the painful losses, or maybe the most recent playoff games?
TB: Probably both. There're not a ton of them, so you tend to remember things in all of them and practices leading up to all of them, and situations in the game and certain plays, whether it's the Snow Bowl or... We've had so many fun games around here this time of year. They're all really meaningful and they all stick out. You want to come away playing your best, because if you don't play your best you have to sit on it for another eight months until you're able to take the field again.
Q: Is there still a little bit of a sour taste left from your last playoff game?
TB: Yeah, I mean, I think that one always sticks with us. I think the thing you take from it in a positive way, is that they were a team that didn't look like they had as good a chance as other teams to advance that far, as a sixth seed, I think they were. I think that really means any team is alive, whether it's the six-seed Ravens or the three-seed Patriots or going right up and down the list. It's really pretty cool to be in this position and to have the opportunity to play here in the playoffs. There're only 12 teams playing this week and a lot of teams' seasons are ended and guys are home and we still have the good fortune to still be playing, so I think you have to try to take advantage of that opportunity.
Q: You were named AP Comeback Player of the Year today, and I know you don't like to talk about individual awards, but can you reflect a little about going through rehab, your thoughts going into the season, and how you think you played this year and what it means to you? If you could speak to it on a personal level.
TB: I didn't know that, so thank you. My mom had a vote or two, my dad had a vote. I had three votes. I think I just love playing and I love being out there with my teammates and practicing today and that's the greatest reward for any of this - for any of us - is to be a part of a team that's successful because we all have a lot of good fortune to be playing. And I did, I spoke to Wes [Welker], and I said, 'things kind of change and evolve in your life a little bit when you have an injury like that and I think you just really appreciate the game, for whatever reason. Not that you didn't appreciate it before, but it's just a different level when you don't have the opportunity to play. It's different for us athletes. I played 15 straight years without ever missing a game, whether it was high school or college or professional. Every time you walk off the field, you feel very blessed. You feel good to get on the bus healthy - win or lose; obviously, you're disappointed with the loss, but you feel good that you have the ability to go out and play again the next week. More so than anything, I think it was a great lesson and experience - life experience, not only football experience - that I was able to have.
Q: Different players sort of draw on different things. What do you draw on personally to deal with Wes and other players getting hurt?
TB: It's really the nature of the sport for all of us. That's been the condition now for us for a long time. Things change week to week. They can change year to year. You're in there one week; you're not in there the next week. You're injured one week; you're not injured the next week. You have a great game one week; you don't have [a great game the next week]. That's the mental toughness of putting whatever happens the previous week behind you so you're able to move forward. Any time you spend wasting on what happened in the past, you're really losing time on what's going to happen that following week. It's just part of, I think, what you have to do. There are times to reflect, but this isn't the time - whether it's an injury like Wes's, or past games this season, or past games against the Ravens - because really none of that is going to matter [to] what happens this week. What's going to matter this week is what we started doing yesterday - or Monday actually - and ultimately how we're going to play on Sunday.
Q: Brett Favre was talking this past Sunday about how, like it or not, the quarterback is going to have the ball in his hands and if he plays well, that gives his team a good chance to win and if he plays poorly, that makes it tougher. So given that idea, how important is it for you to be able to adjust to circumstances this week?
TB: All of us, the quarterback and the position we play, because we have the opportunity to make throws and check stuff at the line, you have a big influence on the game. But offensively, it's about 11 guys, collectively. As a quarterback, if you're not good, obviously no one else is going to be good, and if they're not good, you're not going to be good. So I think that's why we spend so much time together and I think that's why you want all those guys in there over the course of the year, so you can develop some consistency, whether it's quarterback or left tackle or the running backs and receivers. It's all about timing and anticipation and execution and trust and decision making and all of those things come with time spent together. So yeah, you're right; we all have to play really well. I mean, I certainly do. We all do - everybody up and down that roster, especially playing against a defense that's as good as this one.
Q: Have you given Julian Edelman any advice this week or what have you talked to him about?
TB: Yeah, and he's been working hard all year and he puts a lot of pressure on himself. It's pretty remarkable what he's done as a former quarterback, which I don't know how he was a former quarterback because he can't throw at all. He tries to tell me, 'Yeah, I threw for 2,000 yards.' I'm like, 'Man, you can't hit that wall over there.' And he somehow was playing. I'm glad he plays receiver and not quarterback anymore, for his sake and our sake.
Q: Obviously, you don't want any players getting injured, especially a player like Wes Welker, but in your mind is it at all a benefit that if it had to happen, at least it happened last week and not in the first quarter of this weekend's game?
TB: Well, you certainly have a more time to prepare. I mean, last week we had a game plan that featured Wes a lot, plays that were for him and plays that he worked on in practice that once he goes out in the first series of the game, Julian goes to his spot, [Matthew] Slater goes into [Sam] Aiken's spot, or Aiken goes ... So there are a lot of adjustments that are made. I think this week you have a full week of practice to prepare for without him, but then of course injuries happen throughout the course of this game, so there will be adjustments that happen to take place. Those are the things that you always prepare for throughout the week. If this guy goes down, this is what we've got to do. We were going to be a three-wide receiver team. Now, it's got to be two wide receivers. You always have backup plans because it could happen in the first play. It could happen in the first quarter. It could happen in the fourth quarter. It's just one of those games.
Q: Is this where the versatility in the offense kind of helps in that I know you have a lot of different guy s playing different spots, so maybe that kind of builds in depth to the roster?
TB: Yeah, we have quite a bit of depth. I think there [isn't] a guy offensively on our football team that you [would] want to play on offense. I don't think there're a lot of other teams that can say that. I think the way that Coach Belichick builds the roster, he's really interested in depth throughout the entire 53. If a guy goes down, another guy has got to step in and fill the void. We've got good quarterbacks here. We have good running backs, certainly, receivers, a great group of offensive linemen who have all played. Pretty much everybody on offense this year has played. Obviously, you never want to lose a guy who has 123 catches, but hopefully a lot of the work that we put in over the course of the year can kind of lessen the blow.
Q: How much benefit do you find from having played them already this season and watching film of that game?
TB: You gain a lot. Some of those division opponents that you know really well - that you play twice every year - you know them better than you know anybody. You know the players, the coaches. You know the styles, their tendencies, as opposed to the Texans that we never play, which you've got to get to know them in a week. Playing the Ravens this year once already and in 2007, when they have a lot of the same guys who played late in the year, there's a lot of things to be gained by that. They play with a great tempo on defense and they really have a lot of playmakers. It's a very instinctive group, so you just can't throw the ball up in the air against these guys. They've got ball-hawking guys, guys that are really playmakers. [Terrell] Suggs had a strip-sack for a touchdown. So they just take care of the football. Coach gave us a stat that they lead the league in; when they turn it over, they keep the team from scoring, and when they get a turnover, they score. That differential is the best in the league. It's just important not to give them the ball and obviously hopefully we get a few turnovers and we're able to take advantage of those. It's a tough team and they challenge you in a lot of ways.
Q: There's been some criticism of Ray Lewis that he's not quite what he was. When you look at Ray Lewis and hear something like that, do you laugh to yourself?
TB: Well, it's like you hand the ball off to the running back and all of a sudden you see this guy fly over and go wham. And you go, 'Man, he can still play.' I mean, he's a big guy. He's a lot bigger I think than he used to be. And once he gets going in one direction, look out, because he's going to try to tear somebody's head off. Anyone who says he doesn't still have it, I don't know what film they're watching because when I watch him on film, he's still one of the most dominating players out there. He's as instinctive and anybody that's played the Mike linebacker position, which when you're in the middle of a formation like that, you make plays on both sides of the center. You try to misdirection him, and he sniffs it out. You try to pull guards, and he steps up into the gap and makes a tackle in the backfield. You try to play-action him and he's sitting there 12-yards deep, looking for any crossers. So I mean, whatever he's lost in his speed or agility, he obviously makes up for it in his intelligence and awareness. He's always in the right place doing the right thing. And he's on the field every snap that they play and gets everybody lined up. He's a great player.
Q: You said today was a good practice. What constitutes a good practice this time of year?
TB: I think a lot of just good execution - guys in the right spot doing the right thing. Wednesday, you put together the plan and [there's] a lot of new stuff out there, so you walk through it once. But then you get on the field and it's full speed and you're going against a defense and guys have to make the right adjustments and pick up the right blitz. Ultimately, we complete passes. Guys are in the right spot, making the right reads. It's encouraging when you have a good day because it just builds confidence for the next day. And rather than going out ... We always meet on Fridays as captains with Coach Belichick and we talk about practice. And it's not good when you're sitting there and Friday and it's like, 'Man, I don't really feel good about what we've done the last two days,' as opposed to 'we had a really great week of practice.' Now, ultimately, it comes down to what happens [and] how you play on Sunday. But like I said, it gives you a lot of confidence when you go out there and execute pretty well.
Q: Are you pretty much unbeatable at home in the playoffs? You've never lost a game here in the playoffs. Do you feel like this is your house and no one is going to come in here and beat you?
TB: Yeah, I mean, we've played really well over the years here. I mean, we've played pretty well over the years in the playoffs, period - home and away. And I think we've always played well in the cold weather, too, just because we're out there practicing in it every day and we're used to the conditions. And the crowd gives us a big boost, there's no doubt. So hopefully we'll keep that undefeated streak alive. This team challenges us to do that, and we played them last time at home and it went right down to the wire. They were on the 10-yard line with under a minute left, so we've got to play a good game of football. We've got to play a great game, and I'm glad we're playing at home. I think they're a great team at home. They play really well at home. We played them a couple years ago at home, and I'm glad we're playing them here.
Q: All joking about Julian Edelman's quarterbacking skills aside, how has he developed since you first passed him a football?
TB: He was a running quarterback, so that helps him with running routes. But he's plants really well and plants off one foot, and he's obviously got great hand-eye coordination. He's a smart kid. He loves football. We grew up in the same area, Julian and I, and he's just a good player. He's just really smart [and] instinctive. And I think all those things that maybe as a quarterback he saw, he uses those as a receiver - things that I'm looking for, spots that he needs to be in. For him to play college quarterback and then now be pretty much a starting receiver in the NFL less than a year later, it's really a credit to him and his hard work.
Q: Knowing you're going into this week without Wes Welker and going back to the tape from Houston of the three or four possessions you were in without Welker. Is that helpful to have on tape to evaluate what the offense looks without him?
TB: Well, I think more so what we're doing in practice this week helps. I think that's why it's so important for us to get out on the field and practice because you know for two days you're going, 'OK, we don't have Wes. What are we going to do? What are we going to do?' And then you put together a game plan and you get out there and practice it you're like, 'Man, OK, that stuff looks pretty good.' It's just about using the guys who are out there and the things they do well, which Wes had a long list of things that he did well and you could do a lot of things with Wes. You could put him inside or outside. Wes was real good at double moves. He was able to work the middle of the field. And Julian can do a lot of those things, too, but it's kind of a different list of things. You've just got to incorporate him into the plan and get him called in the game. And I think we have some good receivers who are all capable. It's just a matter of them making those plays at the right time.
Q: You mentioned talking to Wes Welker about your perspective and the changes you go through after an injury like that. Did you see him? Did you talk to him on the phone?
TB: Sure, yeah, a few times. He's one of my best friends, so...
Q: Did you see him?
TB: No. He's doing good, all things considered.