New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, December 23, 2009.
Q: Can you talk about some of the challenges you've faced personally this year, now that it's coming to an end more or less - coming off the injury and things of that nature?
TB: Well, I think it's been a very rewarding year in a lot of senses. Obviously, it's fun to be back here playing with my teammates and it's something I missed out on last year. And to be in the playoff hunt, our goals are still ahead of us and we have some great opportunities. Like all of us, I've battled some adversities and all of my teammates have too, so it's really just part of what this profession is. A lot of it is being mentally tough and bouncing back from things that don't necessarily go our way and then being able to just continue to respond. I'm looking forward to seeing what we do this week. I think it's going to be - you know, obviously, if we win, we win the division. That's a great goal for us.
Q: You know how there are golfers who shoot in the low 70s all the time and then they take some time off and come back and shoot in the 80s and then say, 'You know what? I just can't do it at this point. If I can't play at a high level, I'm not going to do it.' You have played this sport at as high a level as anyone could. How difficult is it for you sometimes to keep your patience and not throw your clubs when things don't go exactly the way you would want them to?
TB: Well, it's hard. I think you always want it to be the best that it ever was, and I think with that comes a lot of different circumstances. You know, a guy like Peyton [Manning] who threw 49 touchdowns - I don't know what year that was, '04, '05, something like that - and then you don't really reach even in the mid-30s after that. It's just - I think some years it just happens that way. Things turn out right. I think we did a lot of great things, obviously, offensively in '07. We had a lot of great things that went our way and the offense always takes on a different identity every year. This year our identity is certainly different than it was last year and the year before that, and with the new players and with the new scheme, different teams, different opponents, different game planning. I mean, I think a lot of it goes into that, and ultimately, you've got to go down and execute, too. And I wish I could have done that, certainly, better at times this year, you know, but I'm still working at it.
Q: Is there a maturation or growth process that goes into that for you as a player where you say, 'You know what, it's not always going to be easy'?
TB: You know, I think it's always hard. There's no doubt - you can just see that it passes people over pretty quickly. It's guys that are playing and then the next year it's like, 'Man, what happened to them?' I think sometimes you've got to give everything you've got; you've got to give 100 percent of it. I think I take my lead from that, like from coach Belichick. I mean, he is no different today than - in terms of his work ethic and his preparation - he's as diligent as he's ever been. And I think that's part of it, too; you've got to be willing to give everything, all of your time and your energy and your focus, toward your preparation and your job. And obviously for players, we have a physical aspect that we have to get ready for every week that the coaches study, but we have to get our bodies ready as well as our minds also, so there's always a fine balance between how much time you spend in the training room and how much time you spend in the film room. Obviously when you're banged up, you've got to spend more time in the training room, which means less time in the film room, less time on the practice field. So it's just important that you've got to give 100 percent every week in whatever aspect that may be. You don't take days off. Everyone says, 'Oh it's Tuesday, it's your day off.' I haven't had a day off in...that's your day to get ahead, is what it is. So that's part of this process and I always expect it to be really hard and challenging and I think that's what you get a lot out of it from being that way. Certainly if it were easy, you would really take it for granted, but you can't take it for granted being out here and having the opportunity that we have.
Q: But the team has certainly struggled a little bit this year. You've had years where it was easier than this year. Why do you think that is?
TB: Well, we're 9-5 and two games ahead in first place, so I think there're a lot of teams...we're not undefeated, I know that. We'd love to do certain things better and it's a very competitive game and sport and it doesn't always happen where you go undefeated in these seasons. It happens where you lose games and you've got to figure out why you're losing games and then you try to make the improvements. I don't want to think it's a wasted year because we're not undefeated. That's not really the goal at the beginning of the year anyway. The goal is to win the division and put yourself in a position in the playoffs, and we have a great opportunity for that.
Q: Speaking of undefeated, the Colts have a chance to go undefeated. Did you guys pay attention to your record and try to go undefeated or did you not try to go undefeated? Was it just business as usual?
TB: Well, we are always trying to win the games. That's a great goal to have. It's hard to win one game, and to win 14 in a row like they've won; it's a pretty awesome thing. To experience that was a great experience for our team and everyone that was a part of it. I wish we could have closed the deal, obviously, but that was a great year and a year we all remember. Just the outcome could have been a little different if it weren't for a catch on a helmet.
Q: Was it important for you guys to not get caught up in the hype and the media surrounding it?
TB: Sure, yeah, and I think every time we came in we focused on what our job was that day the things that we could handle that day. For practice days, it was about how we could have a great practice and meetings and walkthroughs and so forth, and then when the game came, the game came. I think we, as a team, were mature enough to handle that, but every team is different.
Q: Can you talk about the goal of making the playoffs and positioning yourself for the playoffs? How much of your mindset is to get it done this week so you don't have to take it to the last week and maybe rest some guys that might need rest? How much of that is considered?
TB: I mean, there are only two teams in the AFC that are really set, so pretty much everyone is playing playoff games this week. Jacksonville is playing a playoff game this week. We're playing a playoff game this week. I mean, down the stretch, that's what happens. The playoffs start... if you're not in and you've got to win to make them, that's kind of one game and you're out, so to speak, and there are a ton of teams like that in the AFC and I see us as one of those teams, so we have a lot to play for this week. I don't think anyone is thinking about resting next week. I think we're thinking about how to win the game this week and continue to make some improvements. That's what I think.
Q: What are your thoughts on Friday and being here practicing on Christmas? I don't know if that's something you guys have done, so what are your thoughts on that?
TB: Yeah, you know, I think that's part of what our job is, too. We've always dealt with this - Thanksgiving and Christmas and Birthdays and weddings and so forth. There're a lot of great things that sometimes you may miss out on. Sometimes you don't. It's Christmas and everyone feels excited about Christmas, obviously, but we'll have our time with our families and so forth. We've got to win. That will make for a great Christmas.
Q: Have you been louder this year on the sidelines and in the locker room, or does it just seem like that?
TB: I don't think I've been that loud this year. I don't think I've been yelling and screaming as much as I have in the past. I'd probably like to do that a little more, so probably the opposite, I think. I think that this team needs leadership. This team needs emotion and energy and that's something that we're trying to build every week. The excitement comes from the individual players and then collectively that momentum grows with the team and one play leads to another, and a good period in practice leads to another good period, and a good day Wednesday usually leads to a good day Thursday. I'm always trying to bring that level of excitement for myself, but also as a leader to try to get the other guys going as well. Usually it comes from making good plays, but until you make those good plays you've got to be into it mentally and also bring that certain level of enthusiasm that it takes.
Q: Have you always been a yeller? Like when you were younger were you a yeller in college?
TB: Yeah, I mean, yelling...I think I try to play with enthusiasm. I always feel like the emotion is a big part of the game. It's not a game where you're so even keeled the whole time. You've got to show the emotion and the leadership with your teammates. Everyone kind of rallies around that.
Q: You mentioned that each year teams have a different identity. With two games to go, how would you describe this team's identity?
TB: I think that's probably something we're still working at. We're still trying to find the combinations of things and you know, we're a pretty balanced team I think. We try to run it; we try to throw it. Last week we ran it more than we threw it. Other weeks we've thrown it. I think we're trying to figure out what these other teams, where their weak spots are and attack those. We've had a lot of guys in and out, too. A guy like Fred [Taylor], or Sammy [Morris] has been out. Julian [Edelman]'s been out. [Sam] Aiken's been out. Wes [Welker] has been out a few times, so [we're] trying to find the right mix and the right plays for the groups that are on the fields so that we can execute the best. Sometimes it looks good. Sometimes it doesn't look so good, but I think we're still working on it.
Q: Do you recall ever going so late in the season and not necessarily knowing what that identity is?
TB: Sure, it always changes. It changes over the course of the season. Sometimes your things are working well and then they don't work so well for a couple weeks and then you've got to find other ways. Or sometimes you're a certain way and then you lose a player to injury and then you've got to be another way. I remember in '07 we were a very balanced team for half the season and then we had some injuries at tight end and then we became this three wide receiver, four wide receiver offense that could have limited us in some ways, but that's just part of what happens over the course of a season.
Q: The Patriots have been a big part of Boston's sports success over the last decade. Have you had a chance to appreciate or enjoy what the other Boston teams have done?
TB: Yeah, no I certainly did. I spent a lot of nights at Fenway Park and I've been to a lot of games at the Garden. I was in Los Angeles when the Celtics won it two years ago. So it is - it's a great city. It's a great place to be in. we get so much support and I think all the players are very grateful for that. I see like Jacksonville, for example, when you watch their game film, they pan the crowd and it's like a quarter full. We've never had to experience that in my time here, so it's nice to be able to run out in front of a sellout crowd and the kind of media attention that we get and the coverage by all of you guys, I think we really appreciate that. We do. We do, believe me.
Q: Is a Rashean Mathis still a weapon for Jacksonville? He's been one of the better cornerbacks in the league over the decade.
TB: Yeah, he sure does. He's a great playmaker. He made a play against the Jets this year that was incredible. A guy ran a flag route on him and [Mark] Sanchez rolled to the left. He was open by about five yards and Sanchez laid it up and he caught up and looked over his shoulder. I said, 'Damn, a lot of receivers don't make that play.' He's a good player, catches the ball really well, and has good ball skills. He's very rangy, has long arms, pretty good quickness for a guy that's taller, which you don't find very often. Real good speed and explosiveness once he gets going. He's a weapon for them. He makes a lot of plays for them. He's been out this year for a little bit - I think with a groin injury - but he still has three interceptions, so you've always got to know where he's at. He'll jump some routes and take his chances, but he's a damn good player.
Q: You were 26 for 28 against these guys in the 2007 playoffs. You've probably had more productive games yardage-wise, but do you remember a game in which you had like that?
TB: Yeah, well they've played a lot of cover-two high defense with a lot of guys deep in the secondary and we just kept trying to find the open guy. [We] made some big plays when we needed to. [We] made a fourth down on the first drive. Hit [Donte] Stallworth up the sideline toward the end of the game. But yeah, their defensive identity has changed quite a bit. They have a new coordinator who has brought definitely a different style to their defense, and they are definitely more of a blitzing defense now. It's like a 50 percent blitz team, which in that game I think they probably blitzed us four times. So it's preparing for a different defense, even though there are some of the same license plates out there. It's not necessarily the same scheme that they're doing. It's about us trying to understand that. We haven't played them since that game, so we've got to find out what they're doing and try to execute.
Q: You guys have had a lot of success about Jacksonville in the past, but in a game like this do you kind of have to put that aside and not assume a win?
TB: I can't imagine ever just thinking, 'Oh, well this is Jacksonville,' or 'This is Buffalo. We're going to kind of walk all over them.' That's when you do get beat and when you start taking things for granted, it doesn't go very well. You've got to be able to put the work in. This is a very different team than the team we faced a couple years ago, and each year it's always a different team. Our responsibility as players is to understand what they do and how they do it and why they're doing things they do and not play to their strengths, but figure out the things they don't do so well and try to play to those. Yeah, you just don't ever want to take things for granted, in football or in life. That's my lesson for the day.