Q: **Can you talk about the excitement of getting your 15th season underway?
TB:It's great. We've put a lot of hard work in over the course of the last six months, so it's nice to be back doing something we really all love to do. I'm really excited for our team. I think we've made a lot of improvements over the last five weeks of training camp, and now we really get to see where we're at. Miami is a great challenge for us. To go down there and win has always been tough, and they've got a very good team. We lost down there last year. They present a lot of challenges. It's really going to challenge our communication and our mental toughness. We've got three days of practice to get ready for it, and hopefully we're ready to go by 1 o'clock on Sunday.
Q:Can you talk about your comfort level with your receivers going into this season?
TB:The more we're on the same page, the better we're going to be. Offensive football is about anticipation and about having a lot of trust and confidence in one another. I think we built on that. We're always going to make mistakes out there because football is really not a game of perfect, but we're going to try to do it as perfectly as we can. Every week, you hope it's good enough to win the game. I hope we're at a better place than we were last year because we started pretty fresh last year. We certainly have some new players, some new additions who are doing different things. Different guys are playing some different spots. But everyone's kind of got to find a role for themselves, and then we go out there and let it rip and see where we're at. And if it doesn't work, then we reevaluate, and if it works, then we keep doing it.
Q:Are you more comfortable going into this season knowing your receivers can make plays?
TB: **Well, I'm always pretty comfortable with the guys that we have out there. Our coaches, we communicate all the time about guys who are out there. I'm not going to look that way if I don't feel comfortable with that particular player. The guys that we have this year have really worked hard to earn the trust of the teammates and the coaches, and that's what it's about. We've put the work in, and now we get a chance to go out there and see where we're at.
Q:How is it different preparing for a season opener compared to a game in the middle of the season?
TB:The preparations are very similar. We don't have a special formula for the first week versus the 10th week. I think we just put everything we can into it. You put all your time and energy into getting ready for it. Certainly with this game, we've had a lot of time to prepare for it. We've known who we were going to open with for a long time. So, once they cut down the roster and you kind of see where their team is at and what direction they're heading, if there are any differences from last year then you try to prepare for those. And we're doing the same thing. We're trying to figure out what our guys can do well and what our guys do well versus the things that they don't do well, versus the things that they do well. That's where you put in the game planning, and then you go out there and you see how it works.
Q:When you establish a game plan to surprise the other team, how long until you decide to switch plans if it isn't working?
TB:Pretty quickly. Part of the advantage of experience is you don't have to wait until the next day to figure out how to make a correction versus a particular look or front or coverage or blitz or something like that. We have enough inventory in our offense to immediately move on to the next thing over the course of maybe a play for [offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach] Josh [McDaniels], maybe a series for me when we go over there and get a chance to talk about what they're doing and how they're trying to defend us. There is always some uncertainty on opening day because they've been preparing for us a long time, we've been preparing for them a long time. Hopefully we're doing a lot of things that they're not working on this week, but that's kind of the advantage of opening day. And vice versa, there's an advantage for them. How that all evens out, we'll see. Ultimately, it comes down to the fundamentals, and we work really hard on fundamentals because if the guy is open and I can't hit it, it's bad. If they can't cover us, that's bad for them. I think, ultimately, it's about throwing, catching, running, blocking, tackling, kicking. Those are the real techniques of football that are going to ultimately decide most of the games in the NFL. You're not going to win much trying to surprise a particular team. And I think we've done a good job over the years with fundamentals, situational football, playing smart, playing tough, playing disciplined, and that usually serves you well on short weeks or on opening days and things like that.
Q:What changes have you made this offseason to get ready for the season?
TB:Football is really important to me, so a lot of my decisions on a daily basis go into trying to be the best I can for the team. I work on a lot of things over the course of the offseason. I don't really love divulging all those because I try to let the opponents figure those things out. But there is a lot to work on. But like I said, this isn't a game of perfect; there are always things you can improve on. I think I've made some improvements in some areas this year that we really focused on, but we'll see come Sunday. All talk with no action is not a great thing, so we've got to go out there and do it.
Q:More specifically, what have you done physically so that you feel better as you grow older?
TB:I feel great. I work hard at it. You try to pay the price in advance, and I've learned a lot of things over the years that have helped me hopefully gain an advantage over all the other guys that I play against. Like I said, I'll let other people try to figure those things out because it's hard to learn those things. Sometimes, you've got to learn them the hard way. But I'm at a good place.
Q:Do you have any initial thoughts on Wes Welker and what he's gone through the past 24 hours?
TB:I don't have a lot of thoughts or comments on that. That's Wes' situation and their team. Obviously, I've got plenty to worry about with this week and this team. As a friend, you always hope the best, but this is not friend time, this is opponent time, and my focus is on the Dolphins.
Q:You were at the Kentucky Derby with him. Did you see him take anything?
TB:I've got no comment on that.
Q:What do you look for early in the game in the defense to get a read on what they're trying to do?
TB:A lot of things. Every defense has strengths and weaknesses. Every call that they're making is trying to stop something. As a defense, for everything you're trying to gain, it may be at a certain risk. And offensively, you're trying to figure out the things that they're giving up with what they're trying to do. Fundamentally sound defenses make you earn it on every play – teams that have all the zones covered, all the gaps covered in the run game. This particular defense is every sound. It comes down a lot of times against this team to fundamentals. Their corners are very good corners, and they're close all the time. It's not like we're going to be open by five yards. It's going to be tight throws and tight catches. They have very good, aggressive, dependable safeties that can tackle well. They've got very experienced linebackers. They have a really good pass rush. There are no real weaknesses on this particular defense, which just means our execution has to be better. I think fortunately for us we've played against a really good defense the last five weeks in our defense that challenges us in a lot of different ways. Hopefully that's really prepared us for what we're going up against. This team is good. It's never been an easy game down there. Maybe one or two over the years have been really good, solid games for us. But we're expecting a dogfight. We're going to get their best. They've been preparing for a long time, we've been preparing for a long time, and we're going to go out there and try to be at our best and see if we can get a win.
Q:Where are you in your comfort level with the offensive line now that Logan Mankins is gone?
TB:All those guys are working hard to find a spot, find a role. When the coaches make those decisions, then that means the players have to adapt. That's kind of the way it is and has always been here. However it sorts itself out, all the guys are going to be prepared to play. You could expect a certain thing to go a certain way, and then you get out there for the first play of the game and someone gets injured, and then bam, you're trying to make adjustments on the fly. We've got to be prepared for everything, and I think there are always contingency plans for everybody in the lineup. You can't put all your eggs in one basket all the time because it usually doesn't go very well if you do that.
Q:What do you like about your defense this year?
TB:They've got a great style. They're a very fundamentally sound defense. We work on the fundamentals all the time. It's just tough to go up against them. They do a lot of things very well – very good secondary that's tough, aggressive, jump a lot of routes. Our defense is tough to go against. Our linebackers all have experience, [defensive] line is experienced. It's been a great work for us as an offense to go up against a really well rounded group because that's what we're going to face here this week – a very well-rounded group that's good on all levels of the defense. They don't really give you anything. They have a lot of experienced players, and we've got to use our experience – the experience that we have individually and collectively – so that we don't make a lot of mistakes, we don't have a lot of mental errors, and our execution can be at a really high level.
Q:What are your early impressions of Tim Wright and what impact can he have on the offense?
TB:We'll see how his role plays out. It's been fun to get to know him. It's been a very short period of time. A lot of our focus has been trying to get ready for Miami, and whatever role he can find for himself will be a benefit for us. He's done a great job trying to learn everything since he's got here. I didn't get a chance to play with him last week, but we'll see what happens this week. We're trying to get to know each other and spend extra time communicating, gain his understanding of the things that he expects versus my expectations. It's really a learning process.
Q:When you say whatever role he finds for himself, is it not as simple as he comes in and learns the tight end position and is inserted into that role?
TB:On the field at any given time there are five skill players, and you're trying to put your best five skill players out there – the five guys that give your offense the best chance to move the ball to make first downs, to get the ball in the red area when you're down there. If a particular player gives you an advantage or a perceived advantage, then that's what you're going to do to try to use that player. But you're not going to put someone out there just to put him out there if you don't feel like they're going to contribute. But that's what we're working hard to try to do. We're all trying to find ways to contribute. We're all trying to find ways to develop chemistry with one another, develop trust in one another. Like I said, it's been a short period of time for him. He hasn't had a chance to go through all the OTAs, the mini-camp, all of training camp. He got here really at the last minute, so he's been trying to understand what we're doing, and he's done a great job of doing it. What his role is, coach decides whether guys play or not, not me. If he's out there, if they don't cover him, I'll probably throw him the ball.
Q:What is your confidence level with Stevan Ridley going into the season?
TB:I've got a really high level of confidence in certainly Stevan, and in all the backs. Stevan has done a great job. He's a great guy. I love being a teammate of his. We've got a great relationship. He's battled through some tough times, which I think have made him tougher. He needs to go out there and have a great year. That's what the expectations are. He's got to go out there and do what he's capable of. Everyone has a lot of confidence in him, Shane [Vereen], Brandon [Bolden], James [White], James Develin. That whole group is a really solid group for us. We're going to rely on those guys heavily, along with the offensive line, the tight ends that are in there, the receivers. We want to be tough to defend, and in order to do that, you've got to have good football players. The more good football players you have, the tougher you're going to be to defend. If everyone can work in unison, everyone can communicate effectively, anticipate with each other, then you have more margin of error, and the more margin of error you have, the better team you're going to be, a better offense, the more points you're going to score.
Q:With Rob Gronkowski back and the personnel you have, what are your thoughts on your red area offense?
TB:I hope we're a good red area team. We were decent last year at times. We haven't even installed the red area yet for this particular week, so we've got to see how that all shakes out. Red area is about tight spaces. There are a lot of bodies in a really short part of the field. And it's really about great execution. It's good throws, it's great blocking, it's good timing, it's great catches. There's not a lot of space down there. Guys like Gronk, who have such a great catch radius, you can throw balls in certain areas where only he can get it, and I think that's been a great advantage for him over the years. Other Randy Mosses and tall guys like that are typically better. The smaller guys, yeah, you may not be able to throw it as high, but they can separate with quickness, like we've done. And a lot of those guys have had a lot of touchdowns. Julian [Edelman] had seven* last year. A lot of it is just about finding the matchup, finding the read, making the throw, making the catch, making the block, and all of us being on the same page no matter what defense they're in. There are a variety of defenses that we face, and we have to be prepared for all of them.
Q:What does it mean to be selected as a captain every year?
TB:It's very flattering for my teammates, and I try to represent them the best I can in whatever fashion the team asks me to do things and wants me to convey messages to the coach. We've got a great group of young men who have really committed themselves to being the best teammate they can be. I hope I do a great job. I work hard at it. We've got a lot of other great captains, guys that I've always been able to rely on and depend on. It's a big responsibility, so I accept it.
*regular season and playoffs combined