- Chris Forsberg, Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots quarterback Tom Brady admits it's easy to get lulled into a false sense of security when you spend nearly the entire first month of the football season wearing the shield of a red non-contact practice jersey. Brady fully expects -- and welcomes -- the idea of the Detroit Lions snapping him out of it on Saturday.
Even as the Patriots prep to play against one of the best young defensive lines in the league, Brady said Wednesday that he's ready for whatever workload coach Bill Belichick has pegged for him when New England visits Detroit Saturday for an exhibition battle at Ford Field.
Brady stressed that one of the keys to being prepared for the start of the regular season is enduring a little physical abuse.
"Me wearing the red jersey, you get used to it," said Brady. "You gotta realize that these guys are coming, and they're coming high and low, from each side, sliding in the pocket. But in practice, you can stand back there. They come at you, then they pull off, and you may think, 'OK, I'll just make the throw.' That's not the way it works when you're playing for real."
Brady didn't need any reminders of that as he referenced last year's Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit in which he got whipped to the ground in the opening minutes by Ndamukong Suh, leaving his right shoulder pad exposed as he plodded off the field.
But Brady said he won't be upset if it happens again Saturday.
"[Hits are] part of the preseason process," said Brady. "You have guys sack you and knock you on the ground. The body can callus to the hits -- hopefully not too much. That's actually a nice thing to have happen to a quarterback. You kinda settle into the game. Everybody goes in with some anxiety, some nerves. The offensive linemen get that knocked out pretty quick when they hit someone right across the line. A quarterback takes a nice hit and you can really settle into the game."
Case in point: After Suh's sack on Turkey Day, Brady finished 21-of-27 passing for 341 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-24 triumph.
But there is the flip side and Brady needs only to look across the locker room to be reminded of that. Two years ago during a preseason game in Washington, new teammate Albert Haynesworth drove Brady hard into the ground and reports suggested Brady broke ribs on the play, hindering his performance (amidst other maladies) that season.
For Brady, the risk of injury in an exhibition is outweighed heavily by a desire to get ready for when games truly matter.
"You go through training camp, there's a lot of 7-on-7 with no pass rush, so you're kinda looking to the left, looking to the right and thinking, 'OK, where do I want to throw the ball,'" Brady explained. "In the game, you don't have a lot of time. ... That's why we play those preseason games. Really, when you start training camp, everything is so slow and you think, 'God, I just can't read things fast enough' or 'I'm not getting the ball out fast enough.' But over the course of the six weeks of training camp and the preseason games, you really get into the flow of the game, so 'OK, now I know the tempo.'"
Tempo was the big theme of the day with Brady, who put a heavy emphasis on the pace of the offense, stressing a desire to get to the line quicker and attack defenses. It's something he said can't be simulated in practice, which makes these final preseason game reps all that more important.
Brady completed 11 of 19 passes for 118 yards with two touchdowns in one half of work during last week's triumph over Tampa Bay, and the Buccaneers walked away a bit in awe of the speed at which the Patriots attacked in that game (scoring 28 first-half points).
"Tempo is always something we talk about," said Brady. "Coaches really think it's important. You get into rhythm out there and it's hard when you have a bad tempo, a slow rhythm to the offense. Guys are walking back to the huddle, walking to the line. You have a bad play and you're walking back to the huddle. To me, when we get a good tempo, I like to keep the pressure on the defense rather than give them time to catch their breath. I really enjoy that. That's why I love being in the two-minute drill as well, it's mandatory fast tempo. You rush to the line of scrimmage, see the coverage, the ball snaps, you make a throw, and you're right on to the next play. If we do that well, it can be a great strength for our team."
During a 13-minute session with the media, Brady hit on a handful of other topics, including the New York Jets when a reporter asked if he had heard the AFC East rivals were going to win the Super Bowl.
"We've heard that for a few years," said Brady. "You won't hear us talking too much about that. There's a long way to go between now and the regular season. ... It's so far away at this point, we've got other things on our mind."
A follow-up query asked if Brady paid attention to the offseason moves made by the Jets and he said, "I pay attention to every team."
Brady was also asked about Colts owner Jim Irsay suggesting that quarterback Peyton Manning might not be ready for the start of the regular season. Brady scoffed and said, "He'll be playing. You gotta be kidding me. He'll be playing. I know Peyton, he's as tough a competitor as there is. It's going to be hard to keep him out. I think I heard Coach [Tony] Dungy say today that [Manning] had to be dead not to play in that game."
On a lighter note, Brady was asked about wide receiver Chad Ochocinco's desire to live with a fan for the first few weeks of the season -- as long as the fan could provide an Xbox and an Internet connection. When Brady hesitated while considering what he might require to live with a fan, a reporter playfully offered, "Waterslides?" -- a quip about an offseason photo showing Brady, hands raised and smiling, as he sailed down the slide.
"That's pretty good," Brady admitted with a laugh. "I'm pretty easy to satisfy. I don't know. I don't think Chad is quite as easy to satisfy as I would be. Those beds they have in the locker room over here, those would work for me. It wouldn't take much. No waterslides, though."
Chris Forsberg covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.
Tom Brady says getting knocked to the ground is a big part of the preseason process.