Friday, December 24, 2010
Tom Brady (flu) feeling better
By Mike Reiss
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After being knocked out with the flu on Wednesday, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said Friday that he feels better and is "ready for Santa Claus and then ready to play some football."
The football ahead is a trip to Buffalo for Sunday's game against the Bills. If the Patriots win, they clinch the AFC East division and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, which ensures a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout.
That was one of the team's top goals when players first arrived for offseason workouts in March.
"I think it's pretty cool that we're in a position this week to actually do something about it," Brady said Friday morning. "To have worked for seven or eight months for a particular goal and then to have this goal sitting in front of you only two days away now, I hope everyone realizes the importance of this game and I think everyone in [the locker room] does.
"I think that's been something that's been emphasized this week is a lot of guys have been putting a lot into this and there would be no better Christmas present this time of year than to go out and win this game. It's very exciting for us. This is a championship game and it's pretty special any time you win a championship."
While the Patriots have won 14 straight games against the Bills -- the third-longest streak versus a single opponent in NFL history -- Brady said it's a big challenge "against a very tough team in a very tough environment." The Bills have won four of their past six games.
"[They] fight their butt off [and] they're playing certainly very well this time of year," he said. "There are probably some teams that have thrown in the towel at this point because they're not really in it, but you would never say that about the Bills, the way these guys play. We have to go out there and really play a great game."
Part of the Patriots' success this season has been tied to turnover differential: They rank first in the NFL with a plus-20 differential -- 29 takeaways and a league-low nine giveaways. They are 11-0 this season with a plus differential and 81-3 since 2001.
Brady has thrown 292 straight passes without an interception, the third-longest streak in NFL history, although he believes he's been fortunate of late because opponents have had chances for interceptions that they didn't catch.
"We always talk about not turning the ball over," he said. "As the weather gets cooler the ball gets a little harder to handle. The teams that really play well in this type of weather don't turn it over. So it's definitely a point of emphasis this week as well. I'm sure, Buffalo-type weather, we've had some interesting games up there. I'm sure it will be another one with the weather conditions."
As for his health, Brady said the flu didn't affect his preparations for Sunday's game, although it did cost him the chance to vote for the Pro Bowl.
"It was probably what a lot of guys are getting hit with lately. It's been going around town," he said. "But I'm feeling good; had a good day of practice yesterday and have to go out and have a good day today and get sharpened up and ready to play for a division title."
The illness wasn't similar to what Brady experienced in the days leading up to the AFC Championship Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers following the 2004 season, although coach Bill Belichick recalled that game as an example of the toughness Brady shows to battle through sickness and prepare to play.
"Tom is a pretty tough guy," Belichick said. "I think he'll do all he can to be ready to go, just like he always does."
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.