Q: When you think of playing in Miami, do you think of the wins or do you think of the losses? I think you're 4-5 down there.
TB: It's always a tough place to play. We've had our struggles down there [and] we've had some great wins, but we play them at the beginning of the year and at the end of the year, and it always seems to be a tough place to play. It's a division rival. They put a lot into the game, we put a lot into the game, and it's going to be fun - a fun way to start the year.
Q: How ready are you for the season to start?
TB: As ready as I can possibly be. I think everyone has put a lot of work in over the last six weeks to get to this point. [We've] moved on from the preseason and I think that getting here for a regular season week has been a lot of fun for the guys. [There's] certainly a different urgency in the air. The guys are excited. To watch a lot of film on [Miami], to have a pretty good understanding of on what they do well and the things we're going to try to take advantage of - it's good.
Q: Vontae Davis said he and Sean Smith are the best corners in the league. How good are they?
TB: They're very good and I think we've played them plenty of times to understand that, and Vontae is really a ball hawk. He's made some great interceptions against us, especially. He's very talented. He has all the tools of a great player. And Sean Smith's another - both of those guys are the same age - he's long, he's tall, he's physical, [and] he covers well. For a big guy, he moves very well. So they do; they have two very good corners. Benny Sapp, who's in there in nickel situations is another very good player, an experienced and has caused us some problems, too. It's a dangerous group. They're experienced in the secondary. They've been playing together now for a little while and they're very good, especially when the pass rush gets going. It's loud [in Miami]. I think we experienced that last year when we were down there. They were really revved up early and it was - thank God for some special teams plays [because] offensively we didn't play as well as we would have liked. We're going to need to play a lot better this time down there.
Q: Last time we spoke to you after the Lions game, you were not happy. Are you happy with where you are now after the past two weeks?
TB: Yeah, and I think all of the preparations over the last couple weeks have been for this night, so we've been working hard to get ready for opening night - for obviously this week of practice. So, look, if things don't go well in the preseason, you correct them. If things don't go well in the regular season, you correct them. You're always trying to see the things you did wrong so you can correct those things and improve on them, and then hopefully they get better over the course of the year. We're working on getting them better. You wish you had every single problem solved in week one, but I think that's the goal [and] how realistic it is, we'll see when we take the field. I'm excited to see where we're at. You're basing it against some pretty tough competition. We have a great test on Monday.
Q: Are you excited to have another Gronkowski on the roster?
TB: Yeah. [Dan Gronkowski] seems like he's excited to be here. I think the two brothers were giving each other headlocks in the locker room yesterday, and they're excited. He seems to be a nice guy - mature and he has some familiarity with what we've done being with Josh [McDaniels] the last few years. The more good players we have, the better our football team's going to be.
Q: How aware of you of the clock ticking? It has been a little while since you've won a Super Bowl and you've had some injuries. How aware are you of this window and that the clock is ticking?
TB: Well, I think you realize how tough it is to win games over the years, and I think that when you're out there as a veteran player and you provide the leadership for the team because you've been experienced - I've been experienced in this program. We're hoping to go out there every year and put together a winning season and it's frustrating when we don't do that. It's frustrating when we have a bad day of practice, so we're trying to make the improvements so that we can be a great football team. That's a lot of things; that's consistency, playing well under tough conditions, it's playing well under pressure. How this team stacks up against the people that we're going to face - that's why we're playing the game. That's the stuff that coach [Bill Belichick] stresses. We've got to go out there and practice and practice at a high level. Every time you take the field it could be your last time, so you've got to put everything you can each week into the games. This week, who knows if it's your last week? You really don't. I think that maybe that perspective has helped me a little bit as well.
Q: If I had said that to you seven seasons ago, that it could be your last week, wouldn't you have laughed me off because you were a young guy who had never been injured?
TB: Probably, yeah. I think that injuries are certainly part of the game and I've been very fortunate over the years to be able to play consistently. [There're] fluky things that happen out there and [if] you sprain your ankle the wrong way and you're not out there and can't help the team win, then that's disappointing because if you're not out there helping the team you're pretty much useless to the team. Missing a whole season, that was as hard as can be to watch. But you come back with hopefully some more resiliency, a little more mental toughness and you understand that each week you have a great gift - you get to go out there and do something you really love to do and to play at a high level, and ultimately try to help your team win.
Q: Following up on the closing window idea, a lot of great veteran players have come here to try to win a championship. What do those guys bring and how does that alter the locker room?
TB: The expectation that coach Belichick… I mean, we have high expectations. Coach Belichick lays it on us every single day - what he expects from us. So, when the new guys come in, you get use to the program pretty quick. He doesn't accept anything less than our best every day in practice, every day in the meetings, every day in the walk through. So when we're not performing at a high level, you're going to hear about it. So, the new guys that come in - who knows. I've never been a new guy to come in, so I don't really know. I just know that every time I take the field in practice I'm trying to be a great leader for the team [and] trying to perform at my very best. That's a 365-day a year process. That's not just something that you just [say], 'Oh, okay, well, now it's the first week of the regular season. Let's really ramp it up.' No, this is something that's been on all of our minds for a very long time.
Q: Do those guys who are almost specifically saying 'Hey I'm here to win a ring' bring something different? Do they bring a sense of urgency?
TB: I'm not sure. Look, it's hard to win games. You can't come here and think, 'Oh just because now I'm on this team we're going to [win]. Boy, it's going to be easy.' Everyone starts at the same point every year. Look, we've added new guys [and] other teams have added new guys. We have new coaches and some other teams have new coaches. We're trying new things on offense [and] so are other teams, so like I said, how it all comes together, that's why we're playing the games. That's why we go out there and practice - to see how it all fits together. You win games and you put yourself in a good position. That's what we're trying to do out here; we're trying to win these games. The game that we have coming up on Monday night against a division opponent, there's nothing more that you could ask for to start the year. We're all excited. We're excited to be out there playing in a big game after a long layoff, and we'll see where we measure up.
Q: Going into week one, do you have a sense of what this passing game can accomplish this year?
TB: I think we've been a little bit inconsistent over the course of the preseason and we're trying to get a lot of things straightened out. We're trying to do the things that we've consistently done well, whether it's in training camp, in practices or in games. We haven't had a ton of practices, so that's where the inconsistencies come up. That's why we're going out to work on these things. We're a long way from figuring out where we're going to be. I'm sure every week we're going to improve and keep working hard at it, but we've only been together for five or six weeks. I'm sure [some] things are going to be good and [there're] going to be things we need to correct. Hopefully we do enough to win.
Q: You were saying the goal is to have a winning record every year. Based on the way the seasons have ended the past few years, do you feel like you have something to prove, you individually and the team collectively?
TB: Well, there's only one team every year that has a good season and we haven't been that team in a long time. How this team takes to that challenge - we'll see. I don't know. This team has never been together in this current state with that opportunity, so how the other teams did and measured up — this is not those teams. This team will have its own identity and it's all going to be based upon the work we put in - the toughness that we play with, the way that we play under pressure. So yeah, I mean, it sucks to lose at the end of the year - there's no doubt about that. But we've got a great opportunity to be on this team with opportunities this year and we'll see if we can take advantage of them.
Q: With so many new guys coming in, can you talk about the chemistry? Does it take longer to mesh when you have so many new guys coming in?
TB: The way that you mesh is being together and playing, making mistakes and correcting mistakes, so there're usually not a lot of mistakes with guys that you've played with for five for six years. There're still mistakes because things come up and the other team makes good plays, but as the season goes on, hopefully you make less and less mistakes. A team like Miami, they put a lot of pressure on you in a lot of different ways. We've got to understand what they're trying to do to us by trying to study a lot of film and see the things they do well so that we can hopefully not make critical mistakes against them. By the time the ball is snapped on Monday night, we're all hopefully going to be on the same page, doing the things that we need to do consistently to get the ball in the end zone, because offensive football, you need to make very consistent plays in order to sustain drives and get the ball in the end zone. If you don't do that, then you're not going to score points. If you don't score points, you lose the game.