Friday, August 5, 2011
Is Brady worried? Maybe a little
By Mike Reiss
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Those who have attended New England Patriots' training camp practices over the past eight days might have been struck by the rustiness of the offense.
There have been a lot of dropped footballs. Timing between quarterbacks and pass-catchers has been inconsistent. The blocking up front has been spotty.
Unlike recent years, when the Patriots would have hit the ground running after building momentum through offseason camps, they were starting at ground zero this year. It has shown.
"It has been quite a bit different," quarterback Tom Brady acknowledged Friday. "There's a lot of work to be done, in all honesty. We missed a lot of practices this summer and this spring. There's a lot of ground to make up. We're making plenty of mistakes, but we're trying to get them corrected so we can move on to other things."
Brady and the Patriots can take solace in the fact 31 other teams are in the same position. One example Brady pointed to Friday was the team's goal-line offense, something the offense was working on for the first time. In past years, they would have covered that ground months ago.
Brady's own work with mechanics and fundamentals has also been a work in progress.
"To not play football for six months and to come out and think you're going to be back in midseason form, I wish the game was that easy but that's not the way it is," Brady said before noting the team has had just seven full-pad practices at this point.
With the Patriots' first preseason game scheduled for Aug. 11 at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars, it might not be pretty.
"I think we have to understand the learning curve has to be so fast," Brady said. "You can't come out here and have a bad practice because, look, you don't have many of them. We're out on the field for two-and-a-half, three hours, but it goes fast out here. It takes a lot. Guys are going to have to do a lot of extra work, seeing the tape and listening to the coaches, spending extra time in here studying [and] understanding what they have to do."
|"We're making plenty of mistakes, but we're trying to get them corrected so we can move on to other things," Brady said Friday at training camp.|
Conditioning has also been an issue, another layer to the post-lockout quality of football at training camp.
"Coach Belichick really wants us in great shape, so that's why we condition every day after practice [and] guys are doing extra work on their own when they go inside," Brady said. "Because the teams really couldn't monitor us [in the offseason during the lockout], no one really knew what kind of shape we were in; the only thing we could really judge it on was our conditioning time. Ultimately, you have to come out here and be in football shape and that takes time, a lot of practices."
While players have been working themselves back into shape, Brady has also spent considerable time over the last week working with veteran receiver Chad Ochocinco. It's been an up-and-down start for Ochocinco, who has had some trouble holding on to the football.
Brady said he's enjoyed establishing a foundation with Ochocinco.
"It's been fun. The thing I love about him is he's very competitive and he wants to do the right thing," he said. "He's been in one offense for a long time, so to try to come to a new offense and learn everything we do -- the formations, motions, details of our route tree -- it's challenging for anybody. Then to do it on such short notice is another thing. But he's working hard at it and we're working hard to be on the same page. We're making improvements [but] we've got quite a ways to go."
Asked about Ochocinco's drops, Brady said those are "just part of training camp -- you just have good days, you have bad days."
As for his role as a lead plaintiff in the offseason, Brady said he didn't watch the signing of the league's collective bargaining agreement on Friday. He was in meetings.
"But it's a great day for the NFL," he said. "It was exciting news when we all got word that it had been ratified and all the players really got to move forward with practice and build toward a season. We just want to play football. That's what we've always wanted to do and we have the ability to do that now. I'm glad it's all in the past, to tell you the truth."
Mike Reiss covers the New England Patriots for ESPN Boston. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.
There's a lot of work to be done in all honesty. We missed a lot of practices this summer and this spring. There's a lot of ground to make up.
-- Patriots QB Tom Brady