The Patriots were back at Gillette Stadium on Monday after four days off, knocking the rust off and getting an early jump on the Philadelphia Eagles.
After practice in the locker room, Matthew Slater was glad to be back and re-focusing on the second half of the season and the coming stretch run.
"It was good," said Slater. "Certainly a great day for us to try to get a head start on preparations for the week. I think guys came back revitalized and refocused. I think it's our responsibility now just to take things one day at a time and try to get better as we continue to go about our process."
Tom Brady was up Monday morning to appear on WEEI's The Greg Hill Show and didn't flinch when asked if he was over the last time the Patriots faced the Eagles in a meaningful game -- Super Bowl 52.
"You assume I'm over it," cracked Brady. "That's a lot of mental scar tissue from that year. That was a tough game. In a lot of ways I think we learned from that year and we came back stronger."
The quarterback was hoping his team came back stronger after the bye week break that saw the Patriots gain some ground in the AFC playoff race with losses by the Chiefs, Bills and Colts. The Ravens continued their torrid pace, blowing out the Bengals and remaining just one game behind New England.
"Hopefully everyone got a chance to decompress a little bit mentally, physically," continued Brady. "Now we have to get ready for a great week of preparation and then get ready to go in there and play our best game of the season on the road in a really tough environment. It should be a great Sunday afternoon for football."
With Thanksgiving closing in, the toughest time of the football season is fast approaching. The Patriots will face four of their toughest opponents over the next month. By mid-December they'll have a pretty good idea of who they really are and what their path in the playoffs will look like. Slater was prepared and keeping his usual short-term focus.
"It's going to be tough," said Slater. "I think we just have to take things one small bite at a time, not think too 'big picture' all the time, just think about 'how can I as an individual get better and how can we as a team get better.' I think that needs to be our approach year-round, certainly down the stretch."
Brady acknowledged that this is pretty much the team that they'll take down that stretch and into January. N'Keal Harry and Isaiah Wynn have taken up the two spots returning from IR, while the time for impact trades or personnel acquisitions has passed.
"The trade deadlines' gone, training camp's past, free agency's gone, the draft is gone... our team is what it is," acknowledged Brady. "I'm excited about who we have and the opportunity that we have. To be 8-1 and have the opportunity in the second half of the year that we do, I think anyone would take that. It hasn't all been perfect, but it's been good enough in some areas. We're gonna have to really ramp it up and play our best as we go forward. Hopefully it will be a great second half of the season. But it's really up to us to earn it, the people that are in the locker room, gotta show up to work every day with a great sense of determination, commitment to doing our best for each other, for the team and try and go get a win and it starts this week in Philly."
The Patriots got back after in on Monday afternoon, donning helmets and shells for a practice under cloudy skies. Only Patrick Chung was missing, as he was from last week's session on Wednesday. Chung is a vital piece of the defense and has been battling multiple injuries (heel/chest) in recent weeks. He'll be a big name to keep an eye out for on Wednesday's practice. Otherwise, it was full attendance for the team.
Locker Room Sound Bites
Joe Cardona on what it means to be a member of the Naval Reserve on Veteran's Day:
"Ultimately, as a member of the Armed Forces and a member of the Naval Reserve, I'm going to continue to do my job on that side. The more I continue to do, and the more my career progresses, it's just a point of pride that I get to involve my teammates and the greater New England area and shed a little more light, not on my service, but those that are actively serving, deployed and the veterans out there. That's really the ultimate goal.
Cardona on having service members on the field during NFL games:
"Any time we have service members, veterans, anybody who's committed themselves to protecting our rights and freedoms as Americans... an NFL game is a display of that. Everybody in that stadium is taking advantage of those freedoms that they've allotted to us and continued to fight for and protect. Whether you're playing or enjoying the game in the stands, you have a lot to owe those that have served and those that continue to serve for that experience. To see service members on the field surrounding us, it's something special."