FOXBORO — Before he and the rest of the Patriots were given a three-day weekend as a reward for their first-round bye, Tom Brady  was given a packet to study.
It was a packet from Bill Belichick  and the Patriots coaching staff he said included many areas he and the rest of the team can improve and focus on during their break. He brought that stack of papers with him to his press conference on Thursday at Gillette and even showed them off to the media. It was like when you were in school and you brought your books and folders everywhere with you, with the hope that more of it might rub off through osmosis.
In other words, enjoy your time off but use it to get ready for the one-and-done mentality from here on out.
“I think coach [Belichick] said it best [Thursday] morning. He said, ‘You make one mistake in this type of game and that’s your season.’ It’s no more, ‘I’ll get it figured out next week and it’s something we have to learn from and move on from.’ No, it’s your season,” Brady said. “That’s the kind of urgency you have in practice and certainly when we play here a week from Sunday. We’ve been working hard to figure out a bunch of things. There’s a packet full of things we need to do better and things that we’re really trying to work hard to improve on. Guys have really taken to those things; hopefully that leads into a great week of practice next week.”
Brady is 35 and has been in the playoffs in 10 of his 13 NFL seasons. As he comes closer to the end of your career, do playoff games become more meaningful?
“It certainly is meaningful for me,” Brady insisted without hesitation. “I know it’s meaningful for our whole team, what we’re attempting to accomplish. Yeah, you don’t take these things for granted. It’s a privilege to be in this position that we’re in and certainly one of four teams to have played well enough over the course of the year to deserve the first round bye. We’ll be watching this weekend and you’re still on high alert for football and situation awareness and watching the games and so forth ‘ your mind is still very much in the game. But when we figure out who we’ll play, we’ll jump right into that and get going.”
Does he have the feeling that every game is precious?
“I mean, from the day we’re born, I think we’re always one day closer to dying, since we’re a little kid,” Brady said philosophically. “[But] I don’t quite look at it like that. Yeah, I’m very appreciative of having this opportunity.”
Here is the rest of Brady’s Thursday press conference from Gillette Stadium :
Q: Stephen Neal  is being inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame in Bakersfield. What do you remember about him?
TB: Steve was a great player for us and a great teammate and a great friend. It’s pretty impressive to do what he accomplished, in terms of being a great wrestler and becoming a great NFL football player. He left everything on the field and I’m sure he did that as a wrestler too, left everything on the mat. He was just a great friend and someone I always enjoyed being with and such a positive attitude about everything. He was a great guy.
Q: How does this week work? Do you self-evaluate, do you watch the other teams, do you try to get healthy?
TB: Our coaches, like I said, have given us a lot of things over the last couple days that we need to improve on and things we’re working hard to get better at. Things that have really showed over the course of the season and to have the opportunity to kind of evaluate where we’re at with things has been really good for us. Hopefully we can use today’s practice as a great way to get out there and try to accomplish some of the things that we talked about.
Q: You had a lot of interaction with Don Brocher. What did he mean to this team and what was your reaction to his passing?
TB: Very sad day and sad week for all of us. He lost a very tough battle. I’ve known him since the day I got here. He was a great man, a special man that cared very much for our team and the players and the organization and always represented us in the best way that he possibly could. He brought so much experience to our team. Everyone misses him and certainly our thoughts and prayers are with his wife and the rest of his family. He was a great man.
Q: Knowing that each play carries more influence in the playoffs, is there a pressure that you feel in the huddle? Do you have to distance yourself from that and keep the same mindset that got you this far?
TB: I think we’ve worked pretty hard to get to this point. I don’t think you want to go in there and change everything at this point. I think you want to try to understand, like I said, the things that are working, the things that aren’t working. There is always pressure in this game. There’s pressure in practice, there’s pressure to make the team, there’s pressure to keep your job. Certainly there’s pressure to win games and that’s what we’re going to try to do. We’re going to try to put our best out there, [we’ll] see what it is if we can all be on the same page for 60 minutes. That starts with practice and preparing and doing a great job, having a great attitude every day to come in here and be at our best. That’s what we’re going to try to do.
Q: It seems like every time you guys play a playoff game there are historical implications for you or Coach Belichick or the whole organization. What does that stuff mean to you?
TB: I think it’s just trying to win a game. All that stuff, historically I think you look back on some of the great seasons we’ve had and we’ll enjoy those at some point. I don’t think now is really the time. I think so much of our energy is focused on the short-term goals, which it should be and which it needs to be ‘ certainly not much beyond that. I certainly owe that to my teammates: to be as prepared as I can be to be at my best. That’s what I’m going to try to be.
Q: No player in the NFL took more snaps than Ryan Wendell this year. Can you talk about him and what he’s meant to the offense?
TB: He’s done a great job. He’s really done a great job since he got here. He fought for his opportunity and once he got it this year, he really took advantage. He’s been healthy and durable, consistent. Playing center on our team is not easy. There are a lot of adjustments and calls that we have, both the communication I have with him and what he relays on to the rest of the offensive linemen. He’s done a great job. He’s a tough, hardnosed football player that loves the game and loves to compete.