Tom Brady was a guest on SiriusXM NFL Radio’s “Movin’ the Chains” program on Sunday, with Pat Kirwan and Tim Ryan.
For those with an interest in learning more about some of the nuances of the quarterback position, Brady's viewpoint of the team's 2011 attack, and assorted another football stuff, this was a must-listen.
I've transcribed the full interview below. It's more than 3,500 words, so this is at the opposite end of the spectrum from a quick-hit item.
How are you feeling heading into another training camp?
“I feel good and I think every year that you go, you become a little bit more efficient in what you do in the offseason, and you figure out the things that work for you and the things that don’t necessarily work for you. I always say it’s the best part of my life, playing football and having this job, so I take it very seriously. Every day you wake up in the offseason, you try to figure out ways to be a better football player. That’s still a challenge going into my 13th season. I think I’ve figured out a few things and I’m excited to see how those play out on the field.”
On working with Brandon Lloyd for the first time:
“I think you saw some of that today in practice, his ability to jump, his body control. He has great hands, a great feel out there. It’s been a lot of fun being with him. I know he’s played on a bunch of teams over the course of his career, but hopefully he settles in here and he’s here for a long time.”
Last year’s passing attack and how much the Patriots attacked the perimeter?
“I think the strength of our team was between the numbers and that’s where a lot of the passes went. If they didn’t cover us outside, we threw it out there, but when you have Aaron [Hernandez] and Rob [Gronkowski] and Wes [Welker] on the inside, you have three pretty good players. Now Deion [Branch] made plenty of catches for us out there, but in terms of the contributions made on the outside, that was kind of our guy. Now you have Donte’ Stallworth, and Jabar [Gaffney] and Brandon, and still have Deion. There are some guys out there where we can really take advantage of some matchups. If you cover us inside, we’re going to throw it outside. If you cover us outside, we’re going to throw it inside. If you want to play deep, we’re going to throw it short. I think that’s good offensive football.”
The defense is going to dictate where you throw the football…
“Yeah, and I think that’s what makes it challenging to stop. When you’re an offense, you get out there and see what they are doing, then you go to the weak spot. Every defense doesn’t have, you know, every single strength that a defense can have. If they’re pass-rushing hard, you have to screen and draw. If they’re playing [the run], you have to play-action pass. If they’re really aggressive, you have to take advantage of the aggressiveness. If they’re sitting back, you have to go at them. That’s the chess game of football. That sometimes takes a while to sort out over the course of the game, but we have different guys in different positions that we feel are pretty well-rounded.”
Are you getting enough throws in practice?
“With all the new work rules in place, it’s certainly different than when I was a younger player. I think as a younger player, it’s great to get as many reps as you can. As an older player, it’s probably more the efficiency of the reps, so when you’re in there, they better be good. You better be doing what you need to do to prepare for the season. When you’re a younger player, you just want to make mistakes – you have to get out there and make the mistakes and you have play after play after play [to learn from them]. We just don’t have as many practices, so the meetings become that much more important, the walkthroughs become that much more important. You can’t simulate the speed and the decision-making ability, but you have to try as hard as you can to mentally prepare even when you’re not out there full-speed.”
We watched you self-correct on a mistake you made in practice. That type of thing is great for a younger quarterback like Ryan Mallett to see…
“Quarterback, to me, is only as good as the accuracy that you have when you throw the ball. The tougher the competition, and the bigger the game, the more accurate you need to be because the coverage is going to be tighter. So throwing the ball accurately is really about fundamentals, and if you are poor fundamentally, you can try as hard as you want to be an accurate passer, but if you can’t go fundamentally, it’s just not going to happen. So you have to know the right fundamentals and techniques, maybe just work on those and it becomes muscle memory.”
Your shotgun fast pass, that’s the one where the mechanics could be off because there isn’t as much time to set up. You do a lot of it…
“Yeah, I think that’s part of the practice that you go through, and the conditioning of your body to make the different throws. What happens in the offseason a lot, throughout your workouts, is that it’s five-step drop, hitch, throw; five-step drop, hitch, throw. You really get into that habit over the course of an offseason. Now you get into the practices, when you’re scheming up plays, and now it’s a stretch play-action, and you’re reaching out after five steps and pulling it back in, you’re checking the backside, you just don’t do that in the offseason. So like you said, those quick-pass catch-and-throw, you have to work on those, and that’s part of the repetitions that you get in training camp. Your feet have to time up. After probably thousands of throws, you say, ‘I’m really starting to get comfortable doing that.’ You don’t feel that way [right away].”
When you get into the red zone, the amount of time you throw the ball at a belt buckle … you are such a great low-ball thrower. It’s going to be your guy catching it or no one else. It seems like you change the release point a little bit down there.
“Especially on the goal-line and around the goal-line, it has to be at the belt buckle. It can’t be at the chest because then they get undercut and bad things happen. We always say ‘low on the goal-line and high on the back end line.’ You just don’t want to make mistakes down there. You march 90 percent of the field and now you’re in a position to score, and you just can’t give away very valuable points. So you have to have that type of accuracy with the ball. That’s stuff we worked on today.”
You were an effective first-down team throwing the football last year. I want you to talk about your running game – Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead – and how when that improves it will create more throwing opportunities on the early downs.
“As I said earlier, part of the passing game is seeing what they’re taking away, then doing something different. That’s the running game too. If they want to play pass and double coverage and who we’re bracketing, then you have to run it. I think we have some guys that we can really make some big plays with – between Woody and Rid and Shane, to see what they’re able to do. They’re out here working hard. That’s part of what the offense needs to be. It can’t be 2 yards, 3 yards. You have to make them pay. Some of the best offenses that we’ve ever had here, the running game was a huge part of what we did, especially situationally. You’re not always going to be able to pass it. When it’s third-and-1, you have to be able to run it. When you’re on the goal-line, you have to run it. When you’re backed up, you have to run it. Four-minute offense at the end of the game with the lead, you have to run it – they know you’re running it and you still have to make yards. That’s part of being a great running team, too.”
On being reunited with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels:
“It’s been a lot of fun. We know each other so well.”
I didn’t know Nick Caserio beat him out for the quarterback job in college…
“I know, they’re like little brothers out there. They’ve been here for the same amount of time. We’ve got a great core group of coaches and players that have been around each other, that know each other well, so there is a lot of camaraderie with the group. I think guys are comfortable with one another and comfortable enough to be coached hard. That’s part of, look, not a lot of coaches would come in to a veteran quarterback and coach me the way that I love Josh coaches me. He doesn’t expect anything less than my best. That’s what I want to give to him every single time I go out on the field.”
Let’s talk protections for a minute, without giving away any trade secrets. I’m going to guess you like five-man protections. I know you said to us before, ‘We have to have them all’ and I get all that. But that no-huddle package with the five-man protection…
“We’ve done quite a bit of that. It’s stuff that you talk about and work on. You feel like you try to get mismatches out there. However you’re going to get a mismatch, that’s what you’ve got to try to do. We feel like we have guys that, 1 on 1, can get open. It’s just a matter of us hopefully being able to call the plays where you can really dictate what the defense is doing, and not just necessarily calling the play blind and hoping you’re getting the right matchup. You have to try to get them in the right situation where ‘This is what we’re expecting and you try to take advantage of that.’”
We all know Wes Welker gets out of his break as good as anyone ever could, but Tim grabbed a birds-eye view of Aaron Hernandez coming out of a speed out today. I don’t know how you cover it, when you anticipate and throw the ball as he’s about to be coming out of his break. Jerod Mayo was on him, but as soon as Hernandez stepped his feet in the ground, it was instantly a yard-and-a-half separation.
“He has that ability. It’s a really unique skill to be running full speed and plant. Early in his career, he was planting so hard, a lot of times he’d be on the ground. I think he’s really gained a lot of body control, and he’s really become a dependable player in our offense. You get those 1 on 1 matchups, and he got a lot of those last season and made a lot of yards after the catch as well, because he’s tough to guard 1-on-1. He’s really become someone that our offense can really trust.”
Have you noticed opponents packing in with underneath coverages? You have so many underneath options. 4-under is never enough. Five might not be enough the way you set it up. Do you see some unusual underneath coverages?
“Yeah, and I think over the course of the season, a lot of teams were trying to pack it in tight, and make us throw the ball deep and up the sideline. I think hopefully we can take advantage of that. Like I said, if you’re going to guard us short, we have to be able to throw it past you. And if you’re going to guard us deep, we’ll throw it underneath. You have to change up and have a lot of weapons. Like a boxer, you can’t just have one punch. You have to have many punches, and be able to set them up and throw them when you want to throw them, and bait a guy into thinking this is what you’re doing with something else.”
It’s fun football…
“It is, especially for guys that are coming into this offense – like Brandon [Lloyd] and Jabar [Gaffney] and Donte’ [Stallworth], who have all gone away and come back, Deion [Branch], they really enjoy it. They say ‘I’m going to get my opportunity at some point and I want to be able to take advantage of it.”
Can you go anywhere in the country to an event – a racetrack, a concert – and run into an NFL receiver who isn’t trying to figure out how he could come to New England?
“[Laughs]. I’m trying to recruit them, too. The more good football players we have, the better we’re going to be. I wish I was in the situation to sign all of them, but that’s not my job.”
We had Brandon Lloyd on the show, and asked him to tell the listeners something about Tom Brady. He talked about how he made a diving catch on a corner route for about a 28-yard gain, and went back to the huddle with a big smile on his face. And there you were, saying, ‘You have to flatten that route out, man. Let’s run that route over.’ It seems that you’re pretty tough on receivers when it comes to route-running, depth …
“We have to be able to anticipate what each other are doing. You can’t wait for things to happen, and then react. You have to be proactive in everything you do – at quarterback and receiver … When we go out to practice, we’re talking and saying, ‘If we get this coverage, this is what I’m thinking. This is when I expect you to break. When I see this hint of your head and your shoulders, this is what I’m thinking.’ A lot of it is anticipation. For example, when I see Brandon break and I throw it to a spot, and then he’s 4 yards away from that spot and he has to make a great catch. For him, I’m saying, ‘This is not where we talked about you being.’ Sometimes I make a bad throw and he says, ‘Tom, no, this is what I saw.’ That’s part of the communication. Someone like Brandon, that’s a great example. Between Deion [Branch] and Wes [Welker] and Jabar [Gaffney] and Donte’ [Stallworth], I mean, I’ve thrown thousands and thousands of footballs to Wes. I haven’t thrown a ton to Brandon, so he and I need to put in a little bit more work than what you put in with the other guys, just to get up to speed with everybody else. His willingness to come in here and learn, and do whatever Coach asks him to do, I’ll be out there all day. That’s the fun part about it. Brandon, I think it’s his 10th year, and he still has an excitement of a young player – ‘Look, I want to come in and I want to be the best player that I can be.’”
For you personally, how do you keep the humility? Your lifestyle and what you’ve been able to accomplish on the field, your supermodel wife, all great stuff, how do you stay humble?
“I have a great mom and dad. You grow up in a house with three sisters, you have to learn to be pretty sensitive to feelings and emotions. I don’t think things have ever come easy and I know everybody has a story. I think part of being a team player is being the best you can be for the team. I said yesterday that the one thing about Coach Belichick is that he doesn’t give you anything. You have to earn it. That’s the only way that you want it. Especially when you’re a member of this team, you don’t expect him to give anybody anything, so why should he give you anything? You want to go out there and play with the best guys you got, and it’s not because the guy is a first-round pick or a second-round pick and he’s going to play. He may not make the team. You’re going to go with the best guys you got. So every day you’re out on the field, you have to prove it to him that you’re the best player when he puts you out there and trusts you to win a game.”
You played with four different centers last year. People underestimate the relationship between quarterbacks and centers.
“I have had such a great rapport with Dan Koppen over the years, and he got hurt in the first game of the year. A guy landed on him. It was a tough injury. Then Dan Connolly came in. Ryan Wendell played for us. Then Nick McDonald played for us. A lot of the times, it’s about timing, getting the center/quarterback exchange. It looks like the easiest play in football, and you can’t run a play with the center/quarterback exchange, so when we do it in practice wrong, we’re running laps and Coach Belichick is saying ‘Foxboro High School can do this and we can’t get the center/quarterback exchange!”
I noticed the laps today. Ryan Mallett took one, and I noticed that he didn’t even wait for someone to tell him to run it. He just took off. Have you had to take a lap in the last year or so?
“Koppen and I dropped a snap last year in training camp.”
And you took a lap?
“Oh yeah. I’m getting yelled at just like everybody else. Hopefully it doesn’t happen too often. You take a lot of pride and discipline in that, to take care of the little things. We go out there before practice every day and work with the different centers and get the timing and hand placement.”
The shotgun snaps from all those centers. Are they different? People might just think the ball comes back automatically.
“I know. I think Dan Koppen is extremely gifted in that, the tempo of the ball as well as the placement of the ball. Like you said, when you’re grabbing the ball quickly to throw it, you don’t have a lot of time to find the laces. When the ball comes back end over end, like a punt, it’s really hard to find the laces. If it’s spinning so quickly, you can’t find it. So a lot of times I can see the laces and manipulate my hand to actually hit the laces and grab it and throw it quickly. If you don’t find the laces …”
For listeners, when you see the shotgun fast-pass, appreciate the little subtleties that no one is talking about…
“Yeah, it’s challenging. But we work at it and hopefully you make those plays because they should be easy plays.”
How would you describe owner Robert Kraft’s influence on the team?
“It always starts at the top. His ownership, his enjoyment being around this team, we came in this year basically to a new part of the weight room and an entirely new cafeteria. We’ve really made a bunch of upgrades to this facility in the last six months. He cares about the players, he cares about the families. We have a barbeque here in about 3 or 4 weeks, at his house down on the Cape, which is a lot of fun. He’s been through a lot, over the last three years really when Myra was first diagnosed with cancer. He’s battled, and she certainly battled for a long time and was a great inspiration for all of us last year. I certainly wish we could have finished the season off like we wanted to last year.”
There seems to be a great connection between players and owner here.
“It is. I think there is an expectation that when you come in here, you have to represent this organization the right way. Coach Belichick finds those players. Mr. Kraft and Jonathan Kraft, that’s what they care about. If you’re a bad guy, you’re not going to be around. If you’re not going to fit in, you’re not going to be a very good football player. We’ve had so few of them over the years that just don’t really work out. You come in and the expectation is to win, so it should be all about winning. If your attitude is somewhere else, then it’s hard to find a group to hang out with here. You end up kind of being a loner, and you don’t enjoy it very much, because you have to worry about winning football games.”
I know you made him feel really good when you told him you might play for 10 more years…
“I’m on board. However I need to do that, to accomplish that, I’m good. I love being here. I’ve been very fortunate to be on one team for the last 12 years and it’s just been a lot of fun. I love the community, we get great support. I mean, look how many fans we get. I’d be hard-pressed to think you guys go to another place and find more fans. We have 13 or 14,000 fans out there every day. We have our first game here in a couple weeks, everyone is going to be excited for that. In the meantime, we have to go out and string some good practices together. Hopefully we’ll do that.”