Sunday, July 29, 2012

Brady’s fire still burning

Veteran maintains enthusiasm
By Jeff Howe
HUDDLE UP: Patriots quarterback Tom...
Photo by John Wilcox
HUDDLE UP: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady addresses the media after training camp workouts yesterday at Gillette Stadium.
FOXBORO — Quarterback Tom Brady [stats] had plenty of clout in the Patriots [team stats] locker room by the end of the 2001 season. He’s really never had to worry about his standing with the team.

But now, his veteran status is unparalleled across the NFL. Brady, who turns 35 this week, is participating in his 13th training camp with the Patriots. There isn’t another projected starting signal-caller in the league who has been with their current team for longer than 10 seasons.

It doesn’t seem like it was all that long ago when the skinny kid from San Mateo, Calif., was walking into the huddle for the first time against the Jets, seemingly in way over his head. Now, he’s in a position where many of his peers grew up watching him.
How time flies.

“I certainly don’t take it for granted,” Brady said. “It’s the most fun I have. I still feel like a young kid out here trying to earn a spot, trying to be a good example. Obviously, I have more experience than most of the guys out here, but you still try to bring enthusiasm and leadership, and try to go out and do your job.”

Brady’s life has changed drastically over the years. His rise to stardom was quick, as his Patriots unwittingly launched a dynasty when he started for the first time. He’s got the supermodel wife, a California mansion and two kids, with a third rumored to be on the way.

Yet, the football player has remained relatively steady. Maybe it’s because he’s still driven by the one thing that drew him to the game in the first place.

“It’s been the same thing since the day I got here,” Brady said. “It’s to win. That’s the only thing that matters. It’s the only thing that matters with your training, your practicing, nutrition, rehab. It’s to win. Everything that you do when you come out here is about winning and being the best that you can be for this team.”

It’s hard to argue with him on that one. The Patriots have gotten to the Super Bowl in five of Brady’s 10 full seasons as a starter (excluding 2008), and his 124 regular-season victories are tied for the fifth most in history.

Brady’s individual accomplishments have had plenty to do with the Patriots’ bottom line. He is one of eight players with at least two MVP awards, and he is ranked 14th in career passing yards (39,979) and tied for fifth in touchdown passes (300).

Brady credits a portion of his success to the fact that he has spent his entire career with one team and one offensive system.

“It’s huge. To have the experience in the same offensive system with the same coaches, you build on your mistakes,” Brady said. “To be in the same system, we’re calling plays out here that I’ve run literally a thousand times.”

And through three practices, Brady has run those plays efficiently this year. Aside from an interception and a couple of miscommunication issues during Friday’s session, Brady has been on the mark, working in his new receivers while maintaining his chemistry with the stalwarts.

Just a few days shy of 35, Brady hasn’t shown any drop in ability or conditioning. He threw for 5,235 yards and 39 touchdowns last season, which was one of the best statistical campaigns of his career, and he said earlier this summer that he refined his diet to put himself in the best possible shape for another year in charge of the Patriots huddle.

Brady’s age and longevity have put him in a unique position around the league, but underneath the pads, that age has proven to be nothing more than a number.

“I love playing quarterback for this team,” Brady said. “It’s a great responsibility to have, and I appreciate it every single day. There’s nothing I’d rather do than be out here being a quarterback for this team. My life is pretty much built around that. To come out here when practice starts and to be with your teammates, there’s nothing more fun than that. You’ve got to work as hard as you can, so you can be the best quarterback for this team that I could possibly be. That’s what I think about every single day when I get up.”


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