Patriots quarterback Tom Brady addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Friday, December 31, 2010.
Q: Can you talk about the year you've had and making the Pro Bowl and do you evaluate it at the end of the season?
TB: I mean, I think the only thing I really think about is what we have to do this week. This season, I think we put ourselves in a good position and I think it would be great to finish it off the right way this week - go out there and play a real good game against a team that we've split with the last few years. So, I don't get into all the personal evaluation or anything like that. I think that's really a waste of time for me [and] probably all of my teammates, too.
Q: Can you evaluate Brian Hoyer a little bit and how far have you seen him come from last year?
TB: Brian is a great player, even though he's a Michigan State kid.
Q: Tough for you to say that?
TB: It is. He's really come a long way. I think for any quarterback, really, that first to second year is a big jump. He's really a smart kid that's got all the physical skills. He just needs the opportunity. We always talk about [the fact] that you never know when you're going to get that opportunity because at quarterback, it's one play. And then you go in there and you seize the opportunity. He's done everything the coaches have asked for. Obviously they have a lot of confidence in him; he was the backup last year. I think the whole team has a lot of confidence in Brian.
Q: How do you deal with your backups? Do you consider yourself almost a tutor or a mentor? Do you take time to really deal with them on a one-to-one basis?
TB: Well, I think you provide a good example. I think that's what you try to do best as a veteran player for any young player. You try to lead by example and well-done is always better than well said. I always think you should go out there and do the right thing and you hope that the younger players see that and take a liking to it. I mean, everyone has their own style and all the quarterbacks in the room - including Jonathon Crompton, who is on the practice squad - we all do everything together, so whatever I'm doing, they're doing.
Q: Do you feel a little proud to see how well Matt Cassel has played since you had a little or a lot to do with that?
TB: Well, Matt has more to do with it certainly than anybody. He's had an incredible year. We're great friends. I mean, anytime you spend as much time as we spend together, you develop just a great relationship. He's kind of like a brother to me. We've had a lot of great moments and memories together; we still do.
Q: Can you go back to when Wes Welker first got here - a guy who wasn't a high draft pick. Did that make you curious about him since you had similar traits to him - a late draft pick who has kind of proven himself?
TB: Sure, and I didn't know much about Wes as a person. And certainly playing them in Miami and watching a lot of what he was doing over the seasons that he was there, I was very intrigued by him. I remember watching him on film and saying to Scott Pioli, 'When is this guy's contract up? This is our kind of guy. He returns punts. He plays hard. He blocks in the run game.' He's so good at those routes that we ask him to run. From the day he got here, you were so impressed by his work ethic and his toughness and I think anytime a guy like Wes comes in…and you're right - he hasn't had the hype, I guess, that maybe a lot of other players that may look more like an NFL receiver [get]. But Wes plays as big with the biggest heart as anybody out there and I think that's what really makes him special and really what separates him from every other player out on the field: there's nobody that's going to play with as much energy and as much excitement and as much consistency as Wes.
Q: How quickly after his injury was it until you said, 'You have to call Alex [Guerrero]? Work with this guy and he'll get you back'?
TB: He's been around for a while now, Alex has. Wes took a liking to that style of rehabilitation. And over the years it all comes down to trust with people that you work with and people find different ways to rehabilitate themselves or to train in the offseason and everybody has got to do what works for them. But that was really Wes's decision. It's obviously paid off because of their hard work together.
Q: Since this team doesn't have an official offensive coordinator position, how much of that becomes your role on the field, given your knowledge of the system, where so much of what you do is at the line?
TB: Well, I've played in this offense my entire career, so I think I'm very fortunate to do that because a lot of things that we do now have evolved over the course of my time here, so I can really have a great basis and understanding for why we do certain things. There are certain plays that are called on a weekly basis that I've run literally thousands of times, which gives you a lot of comfort as a quarterback to know that there's one play that we have this week that was literally the first play that I ran against the Jets when I got called in off the bench in 2001. So you just have that familiarity. That's how you get pretty good at certain things - by repetition and being able to do those things. As things have changed over the years with coordinators and players, being able to pretty much stay consistent with what I've been doing has really helped me and helped in the communication I have with Billy [O'Brien], for example, or Josh [McDaniels] or Charlie [Weis]. We've kind of been through everything together.
Q: So because of that, is the understanding that if you see something at the line you have the authority to pretty much do whatever you want, even though it might seem unconventional the time?
TB: Yeah, I mean, I think I have a lot of flexibility with what we're able to do. But a lot of that stuff is talked about before the game, so it's not like I'm really freelancing out there. I think the coaches have a pretty good understanding of why I would do certain things. And I don't think we really have an offense where we say, 'Ok, well this is the play and no matter what they come out in, this is the play we're going to run.' I think there is always flexibility within our system to get us to a play where the defense has some weakness.
Q: When Wes Welker has a drop and you know how hard he's worked and you are friends, do you have to make sure you treat him like the other receivers? How do you operate with a guy like that?
TB: That's a great question, because there is a certain level of respect that you have for veteran players where you don't yell at them like you yell at a rookie who you're trying to really help understand the importance of what's going on and why drops can't happen or why route definition needs to be better. With a veteran like Wes, he knows the importance. He knows what he has to do, so a lot of it is just trying to encourage and sometimes you can get under his skin a little bit, which I like to do because I like to really feel like I'm in command out there so I can make sure they all know that this is what we're trying to accomplish.
Q: Do you go verbal or non-verbal with that?
TB: I do both.
Q: Wes Welker said that based on what happened last year, he understands why people wouldn't want you starters playing in this game, but that you guys are football players. How do you balance the concern over injuries with wanting to be sharp heading into a bye week?
TB: Well, I think we're playing; That's just the way it is. I don't get into the evaluation of why. I's a football game and I'm the starting quarterback on this team and I'm going to play. I think all those other guys take the same approach, so I don't think we approach this week any differently. We'll leave that up to the coach.
Q: I'm sure at the beginning of the season you didn't think about this team going 13-3 or 14-2, but over the course of the season have you guys exceeded the growth and success you imagined?
TB: Well, I don't think we pencil through those games and go, 'That's a win. That's a loss.'
Q: Just with the overall growth.
TB: I don't know. You know, there are a lot of things that go [on] over the course of a season. Who would have thought we'd have Danny Woodhead on this team playing such a huge role or Deion [Branch] or Alge Crumpler? Who would have known what the rookie tight ends could accomplish on our offense and whether our offensive line could stay healthy? I don't think you can go through a season and say that, because there are so many things that change. I just think the approach that we've always taken here - throughout training camp - was, 'Listen, whatever we do this week will certainly help us down the road. But that's why we need it to be good this week.' So I don't think you can sit here and say that this week isn't important. For example this week, 'Well, let's just go out there and rest this week.' Well, how are we going to get better then? How are we going to get better? We've got to get better today. We got better yesterday. We got better on Wednesday. We're going to have a better team this Sunday, and that will certainly help us down the road. But that's the focus of what this team has…really been a trademark of this team is to always make improvements over the course of the season, so I don't think we take weeks off. I don't think we take days off. We're always trying to get better.
Q: Ball protection and ball security is preached every day, but you don't always see it play out that way. To see it happen the way it has where you guys haven't turned the ball over in seven games and you have a chance of breaking the record for fewest team turnovers in a season, do you think about that and how important it's been over the last seven or eight weeks that you guys haven't given away chances to the other team?
TB: I think that's a very important stat the always comes up - the turnover battle. I think we've got guys that have done a great job protecting it this year, no doubt about it. I wouldn't say we've done anything different this year than what we've done in the past. I just think that guys who are in possession of the ball have done a very good job of that: the running backs, the receivers. All those guys, that when you have it in your hand, you're not putting it on the ground. And that's probably more the style of the player. Like I said, we're always, since I've been here, we never go say ,' Hey let's turn it over three times and see if we can win this game.' The first goal every week is no turnovers. We've been very fortunate, like I said. We need to continue to understand the importance of taking care of it - to not give up short fields. I think us winning the turnover ratio over the last seven weeks or whatever it's been, it's certainly been more scoring opportunities for us and fewer scoring opportunities for them. That's why I think we've been outscoring these opponents like we have been.
Q: Julian Edelman is a young player who's had some drops in critical situations and hasn't had a catch in a while. He shares a locker right next to you, so how do you deal with him and keeping his confidence up?
TB: If anything, Julian presses maybe too hard. He's really hard on himself. He's very critical of himself all of the time and sometimes I think that some players beat themselves up. Julian is one of those guys because he wants to do it so right. He's a guy who played quarterback in college and everything that he has learned as a receiver has come over the last season and a half. He's done an incredible job in that transition to receiver, and now he sees himself much more as a receiver. There's a lot of learning that needs to take places, especially at this level. But nobody works harder than Julian. He fits right in with that receiver group of Deion and Wes because they all work so hard and they push each other. He's a great asset to this team and really, I think he's gained a lot of confidence in returning punts; the last couple weeks he's done such a great job of that. You can see that confidence carry over to what he's doing at the receiver position.
Q: Do you try to talk to him about it?
TB: All the time. All the time. And we're always talking to everybody. You always want to see your teammates do well and continue to excel. And I mean, dropped balls come up. Quarterbacks throw interceptions. Running backs fumble, that's what happens. O-linemen get beat and you get sacked and it's really what do you do going forward, because that's what happens. If you can eliminate the mistakes going forward, you can overcome one mistake. You can't overcome three or four mistakes. But if that one mistake leads to three or four mistakes, that's why you lose games. If you drop one ball, you drop one ball.