FOXBORO – The conditioning going on in Foxboro at this time of year is mental as much as it is physical. On Monday, Tom Brady circled back repeatedly to the concept that the individual is nothing in football. Everyone must subjugate to the team. A sampling.
When asked about organizational consistency at key spots, Brady ended up stating, “I think we have the greatest chance to win every year and that’s a really important part of playing the game, that’s why were out here working hard that why we pay the price, to win games. Its not really for individual recognition, it's for team success and I think when you’re a part of this program, whatever individual achievements or goals you might have for yourself, those always come in second to whatever the team is doing. There’s two things that matter – wins and losses – and we gotta get back to winning like we’re capable of and putting in a good offseason gets us off to a great start.”
When asked about how he can hold off the passage of time, Brady again made it back to the team-wide mental state.
“It’s the time of year where you're gonna make a lot of mistakes,” he explained. “You’re gonna give great effort and you’re gonna fail and you need to gain trust in each other and become more consistent and dependable so that when you’re out there on the field you can have trust in the guys you are playing with. It’s a team sport and when you reflect on this for a while and the great teams you’ve had, it came down to guys that are willing to pay the price for each other. That’s what you’re trying to establish this time of year is what kind of team you’re gonna be and who’s willing to put it on the line. There’s no glory in this. There’s no glory in an OTA practice, there’s no glory in the weight room or out there doing conditioning but it will show up at some point. It’s a long season. At some point, the mental toughness and the discipline of the team always shows up.”
Were the 2013 Patriots disciplined in the offseason and mentally strong when the season began?
Relative to past teams, probably not. The offseason had more than a whiff of chaos with Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead’s departures and – more significantly by a lot – the arrest and release of Aaron Hernandez. The absence of Rob Gronkowski and the indoctrination of several new offensive pieces meant a full-scale orientation, never mind advanced courses in mental toughness.
When the season started, how far the offense lagged in turn shone a light on Brady’s discipline lapse. His on-field frustrations were understandable. His freakouts were trending toward counterproductive.
This season, the offensive group is starting at a much different place. Maybe as a result, Brady (and likely Bill Belichick and the rest of the staff) are grinding extremely hard on the mental side because they can.
And Brady stating that he’s just a cog in the machine – eloquently – should make it impossible for any other player to mistake his individual importance.
“You gotta pay the price in advance,” Brady warned. “You can’t just run on the field and expect for things to be better without putting the time in and giving the extra effort. I try to be really consistent and dependable for our guys and that’s what the quarterback position needs to be. You can’t go out there and screw up a bunch of plays and make a bunch of wrong calls so that before you even get to the line of scrimmage the play wouldn’t work. I think I try to keep everything coordinated and get all the guys understanding what I’m looking for out of them so we can all anticipate what we’re trying to do. Football is a very anticipatory sport. The more reactive you are, the harder it’s gonna be for you so we’re gonna try to dictate what we’re gonna do on offense whether that’s play or routes or route combinations and that means we all need to be on the same page to efficiently and effectively do that on a consistent basis.”
There are many teams in the NFL that a quarterback of Brady’s talent can eviscerate with ordinary effort from his teammates. Against the best teams, everyone has to elevate and that’s been obvious since 2009 because Brady has largely operated without a safety net. His personal margin for error is miniscule. The more his offensive teammates improve and are able to make singular great plays consistently – like Kenbrell Thompkins touchdown catch to beat the Saints – the better the end results will be.
“Football’s not an individual sport like (being a) golfer or tennis player,” Brady stated. “You’re always working with lots of other guys. It’s not necessarily just my improvement but the improvement of the team.”
- Tom Curran, CSN New England