Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Tom Brady sticks with the program
By Mike Reiss ESPNBoston.com
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The words written in blue marker on Tom Brady's large white wristband were simple. They also captured what drives the New England Patriots quarterback this time of year.
Don't let the smile fool you. Tom Brady means business on the practice field.
Brady, who called his job "the best in the world" Wednesday, is a maniacal stickler for details. That's a big part of what he believes it takes to play such a challenging position.
So when he arrived on the rainy practice field for the team's second mandatory minicamp practice, he wrote himself six notes to refer to at all times.
"Head straight -- drag back foot."
"Bent left knee (no vault)."
"Chest @ target."
"Opposite & equal."
What does it all mean? Brady explained that at this time of year, his strength and conditioning are where they need to be. He weighed 228 pounds Wednesday, which, like many of his passes, was right on the desired target.
So this is the time on the calendar when he dissects his technique and mechanics. It's all in the details, every move he makes on the field filmed and watched over, which he said he loves to do.
At the same time, Brady, 34, finds himself in a period of transition after his longtime mentor, Tom Martinez, died in February at 66.
"I know he's watching down with every throw and I hear his voice in the back of my head after every throw," Brady said. "Throwing the football is about mechanics. There's nothing special; it's just a matter of doing it the right way. The better mechanically you are, the more accurate you're going to be able to throw the football.
"So I'm constantly evaluating every throw and I just make sure that I'm continuing to work on the right things because ultimately when you're under pressure, your body is going to revert to what it knows. Muscle memory is a very important thing for a quarterback, and hopefully you train your muscles to react the way you need them to react when the pressure is on most."
Along those lines, in May, Brady visited with former major league pitcher Tom House at the Rod Dedeaux Research and Baseball Institute at USC. House has worked on mechanics with other quarterbacks as well, including former Patriots backup Matt Cassel.
Between House and a lifetime of teaching from Martinez, Brady hopes to enter 2012 fine-tuned. At this point, he said, he's "nowhere near where I want to be or where I need to be."
"I've got to rely on what he's taught me over the years," Brady said of Martinez. "I've got a lot of stuff written down, of things that we talked about and things that I've learned. I have a great understanding mechanically of what I need to be able to do. It's just a matter of seeing it and being able to correct it.
Tom Brady says his job is "the best in the world."
"Hopefully you can correct it between series because you don't always have the fortune to wait until Monday to figure things out. Sometimes you have to figure them out in the middle of the third quarter. That's something where I'll have to rely on everything he's taught me over the years."
As for the Patriots' offseason work in organized team activities and mandatory minicamp in recent weeks, Brady said it's been fun. Thursday marks the team's 13th and final practice before training camp, and Brady believes Bill Belichick has thrown a lot at the players, some mentally, that has put them outside their comfort zone.
"I think Coach has really kept the pressure on us to see how much we're retaining week to week," he said after Belichick had players working in the rain. "We've really had to focus our minds and be ready to shift and adapt over the course of practice to try to simulate what we do in a game. It's been a lot."
Teammates and coaches have marveled at Brady's retention and recall over the years (his recall is referred to as IBM by former coordinator Bill O'Brien), and those watching him on the practice field would agree that he looks like the same old Brady -- accurate, competitive, fiery.
Even though he said no one is ready to play a game at this point, one gets the sense Brady would like to do just that if it were an option. Driven to perfect the finer details of his craft, with a reminder on his white wristband, Brady seems happiest in his environment.
"It's the best job in the world as far as I'm concerned," he said. "I don't think there's anything I'd rather do. I probably have more fun out there now than I've ever had, just because you don't take a day for granted. You get a chance to go out there and play football, and you look forward to those moments of competition. I don't enjoy boredom, and this is certainly not boring."