QUARTERBACK TOM BRADY
Q: Having missed Wednesday's practice with an Achilles injury, what is your condition now and how do you feel?
TB: I feel great. Yeah, ready to go, so I'll be excited for Sunday. It was good just to get a little extra treatment, and I'm feeling great this time of year. So, it'll be a fun week. Nothing to worry about.
Q: How were your Thanksgiving biscuits yesterday?
TB: They were pretty good last night. They were pretty good. Sometimes I screw them up, but last night they were pretty good. There weren't any left.
Q: What challenges do the Dolphins present on defense?
TB: Yeah, they're good. They've been good for a long time. I think this defense has always had a good front, and these guys are really good - obviously, [Ndamukong] Suh and [Cameron] Wake, and [Andre] Branch is a really good player. They have some young players. They've got really good linebackers - guys that are experienced. They know how to play football. A little young at corner, but the safeties are big and physical guys. They put a lot of pressure. I'd say they have really some good playmakers out there, and you just can't relax for a play because it could be strip-sack, it could be a blitz and a sack from one of the safeties. They're good. When they get it going, they play with a lot of confidence. You know, we've got to play a good game. We've had some, obviously, some good games the last two weeks, but we've got to try to carry it over into another week. The guys have worked hard. It's been kind of a funky week with a long travel, but this is where mental toughness comes in. We've talked for a long time about playing well this time of year. This is the time of year where the best teams really start to put their foot on the gas pedal, and we want to be one of those good teams, so we've got to know that every team comes in and presents a lot of challenges, and these guys certainly do. It's a big division game, so hopefully we can go out and play really well.
Q: It seemed like you developed a good rapport with Ted Karras at center rather quickly. Would that be your assessment?
TB: That was good. I mean, I had never really worked with him in a game. I mean, that's kind of crazy to think that he's been [here] two years, and David's [Andrews] just been really healthy. I mean, it hasn't even been like for a play. I mean, David's just been in there. So, we built up a lot of practice reps - still a little different than the game - but Ted did a great job. I mean, I was really impressed with how he handled himself - the composure, which you're always looking for in a center. It's just, you always want the center to feel like, 'Alright, we've got things under control.' He did a great job. And, David - it's been great to see him around this week. But, yeah, that was really a great thing last week.
Q: Both Karras and LaAdrian Waddle have stepped into roles on the offensive line this season. Have they helped keep the continuity intact?
TB: Yeah, definitely. It's an interesting thing because the offensive line is obviously critical to everything that you do - run game, pass game - and they set the tone for everything and their coordination of things. You go against all these teams that we've had, these great rushes and great D-lines and all these guys that are some of the best at their position in the whole league, and guys on our team have been going in and out - Ted and L.A. has been in there quite a bit, Joe's [Thuney] been in there, Shaq's [Mason] done a great job, Nate [Solder] has done an incredible job. So, you're right, the moving parts - and typically with offensive lines, the more you play together, the better you get - but it really speaks to their mental toughness and how well they're prepared, how well Dante [Scarnecchia] coaches them, how much they embrace what they're being told and what they're taught and then them going out and executing at a really high level. So, I have so much confidence in those guys and I've just been impressed with all those guys - their ability to go in and out. At practice, guys are going in and out, and it's all about communication and trust. It's been a real strength of our team.
Q: You have some young guys on the offensive line that have already played a lot of football and had success early in their careers. Are you impressed by how quickly those guys have picked up the system here and transitioned to the NFL?
TB: Definitely. I mean, it's one position that - you're right, there's a lot to learn on offense, too - and you're right, we've got a lot of young players. I mean, Joe's young, Dave's still, I would say, relatively young, Ted's young, LA's only been here a few years. Nate's probably the most veteran guy - Nate and Marcus [Cannon]. So, it is. I mean, I don't watch the college game too much, but the guys have come in and done a great job for us - a lot of young players at that position - and it's a lot of toughness. That's a tough position to play. Our guys just embrace the challenge, and I'd say you're going against some of the best athletes in the world. I mean, guys at 270, 280 pounds that can run fast, on the edge there's 330-pound guys you've got to move, and it's really a strength of our team.
Q: Bill Belichick spoke this morning about Nick Caserio's unique role on the football staff. How do you see him helping the team on a weekly basis?
TB: Yeah, Nick's a great friend. I mean, I've known Nick since I got here. He's been here a long time in a lot of different roles, from coaching receivers to filling in wherever we need to. Obviously, in his role now, I think everyone has a lot of trust in what he does. He's out there on the practice field throwing to people - you guys see, I'm sure - but it is really unique. It's fun to have someone do that, to kind of embrace that challenge. Nick was a quarterback in college, but I think he's better in his role now than he was a quarterback because I saw some film. But, he's doing the right thing and he's a great friend. So, really impressed with him.
Q: What do you think about Caserio's form?
TB: His throwing form? It's terrible. Terrible. You probably have a lot of elbow pain with that technique.
Q: What has Stephen Gostkowski meant to the team over his career?
TB: He's done such a great job and filled in for some pretty big shoes, I'd say, because Adam [Vinatieri] is one of the best to ever do it, and Steve is right there. So, he came in and I think Steve's got the perfect personality for a kicker. I think he's got a lot of mental toughness. When you miss a kick as a kicker, it's tough, and all the kicks that we're kicking are big kicks because we're expected to go out and win every single week. So, if you miss a kick, you feel like you let everybody down, but I don't think Steve's ever really shied away from that. You know, he bangs them through - that was an incredible week last week - and we always expect him to go out there and do a great job, and I think he embraces that. I would say, obviously, not the easiest conditions here compared to a lot of places, but he doesn't really care too much. He goes out there and does a great job. If the game's on the line, every single person on our team knows he's going to make it.
Q: Does the pressure this team feels during the season to win every game help you guys make the transition into the playoffs?
TB: I think there's always a real high level of expectation, and that starts going back many months. It's not like we finally get to this time of year and everyone's like, 'Alright, listen. We're in a good position, but now's when we've really got to start playing good.' I think it's just built up a lot of expectation for us, and I think the pressure's been on every day for a long time. So, now you get to this time of year and, yeah, we feel it and you've got to go out and execute against good teams this time of year. And I'd say there's probably a lot of teams at this point that they let distractions get the best of them - 'Oh, you know, it's a long trip. Oh, we're tired. Oh, it's Thanksgiving. Oh, there's some excuse why we didn't play our best or maybe we're not as focused' - and then you let details slip and little things slip. Ultimately, little things are everything in the NFL. So, our coaches do a great job and I think our players embrace the challenges that little things, they all add up. If you let a bunch slip, you're going to get beat. I think we've got to really stay focused, and all the veteran players who have been here have got to show a lot of leadership to the younger players to help them embrace it, too, because it does get challenging and it's a long year. It's a marathon, but you can't stop, so we've just got to keep pushing along and you've got to keep pushing along and improve. That's why you separate yourself this time of year. So, we're in a decent spot, but Coach always says eight wins won't get you anything in this league and he's right. We've got to go out there and try to earn the next one.
Q: Do you feel like the team has recovered from the exhaustion of the long trip?
TB: Yeah, I think there's just a lot of energy output, obviously, when you travel and you play on a road. And then we stayed out there and there's kind of a lot of new surroundings, so you've really just got to get back here. And, again, Monday, Tuesday was what it was still getting mentally prepared. Thursday was what it was yesterday. I think the next 48 hours are really important. I think everyone's got to kind of embrace everything that we've done in practice and getting ready for and then really hone in with what we're doing against a team that we're facing. There's still more film to study and so forth, still more rest to get, but it's all aiming for Sunday at 1, and I think that's when we've got to be ready. So, we're in a decent place, and hopefully we can take advantage of the time we have to get either rest or more prepared, but I don't think it's time for the Celtics game tonight or anything like that. I think guys have got to focus on what we need to do and try to go out and beat a good team.
TIGHT END ROB GRONKOWSKI
Q: How was your Thanksgiving?
RG: It was good. It was good. Everything went well. We had a good day yesterday of practice and we got off a little bit earlier than normal but overall it was a good day of practice and then just relaxation and back at it today.
Q: How are you guys feeling now after returning home from the extended road trip?
RG: I mean being on the road for 10 days definitely changes up your routine a little bit for sure. You're not living at home. You're living at a hotel and it definitely does take a little toll but I feel like we've caught up for sure. I feel like I've caught up, got some sleep, had a little more rest yesterday being that it was a shorter day on Thanksgiving and just feeling good now. We had a good practice out there today. Everyone was in sync. Defense was in sync, offense was in sync and it went well.
Q: How are you feeling after missing a practice earlier this week?
RG: Yeah, I'm good. [It was] just a little illness that went by quick. [I'm] definitely thankful for that, that it was super quick and back. I'm good to go. Had a good practice today.
Q: Did you feel like it was altitude related?
RG: No. I just really don't know what it was. I mean I wouldn't say it was that. I was fine out there the whole time.
Q: When you watch the Dolphins defense this week, what stands out to you in terms of what they have at the linebacker or safety level?
RG: Yeah, their toughness. They're bringing it. Every play they're bringing it. They've got tough, physical players that like to hit. They like to make tackles. From their safeties, to linebackers, to their d-line, I mean they've got some big guys that know how to play the game of football.
Q: When you're asked to hang in and help with pass protection specifically, are you cool with that or would you rather be out there running routes?
RG: No, I'm cool with it. I mean whatever the coaches call. I mean it's tight end. It's a position where you've got to be able to do it all in the run game, pass game, running routes, if it's pass game then pass protection. I'm cool with whatever the coaches call and ain't nothing better than being in pass protection and seeing Tom [Brady] go deep and seeing a receiver catch it.
Q: Can you talk about any challenges heading into this weekend's game?
RG: I mean there's always challenges. The biggest challenge is going out there and playing the football we need to play because the Dolphins, we see them twice a year, they know us well. We know them well but with them knowing us well you've got to go out there, you've got to execute and play football to a 'T' - knowing where to be, knowing your assignments. You've just got to play sound football playing a rival in your division.
Q: Tom Brady always talks about how this time of year is when the team is really trying to put it together. What have you noticed from him in terms of how he puts the foot on the accelerator at this time of year?
RG: He puts the foot on the accelerator at all times but definitely after Thanksgiving is a saying around here when football really starts. You see teams going downhill or you see teams going uphill after Thanksgiving so we've definitely got to put our foot on the gas pedal and start hitting it off just like we've been the last couple weeks.
Q: How does he set the tone for you guys?
RG: Going on to practice being ready to go, being fired up right from the beginning. As an offense as a whole I would say today was one of those days where he was fired up and we were all just going and we just had a good practice overall.
Q: He takes the lead and everyone sort of responds?
RG: Yeah, for sure. Definitely.
Q: How weird is it that from the bye week until Christmas Eve that you guys will have only played one game at Gillette Stadium?
RG: You're right and this is it. I didn't even know that.
Q: That's a long time to be away from home.
RG: It is. I mean that's why I was just talking about earlier being on that 10-day road trip definitely threw you out of your routine a little bit but being back now already for this week I would say that we're back on a good routine, on a good football routine, on a good schedule. I mean it's the NFL. You've got to deal with a lot of obstacles and I would say that's one of them. Positives, we've just got to look at the Dolphins now. We're home this week and we've just got to focus on that.
Q: Did you try any of Tom Brady's biscuits?
RG: No, he was bragging about them today and I told him to bring some in and he's like 'they were so good they were all eaten.' So I told him to make some more. I'm not lying. That's dead serious what happened. If he doesn't bring some in there's going to be some problems.