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Tom Brady: ‘Right now is when we say football season starts’

11.27.13 at 4:40 pm ET

FOXBORO — In the NFL, Thanksgiving not only means turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and a tripleheader of football. It also signals the real start of separation season, when the elite teams really start to distance themselves from the rest of the pack when it comes to the race to the postseason.

Quarterback Tom Brady said Wednesday that while everything the Patriots have accomplished to this point is nice — the 8-3 mark and first place in the AFC East — the work to ultimately get you to where you want to be starts this week.

“Right now is when we say football season starts,” he said. “The mental toughness, the discipline, the attitude, the work ethic, this is when it starts to show up. Those are intangibles that you don’€™t really see in September and August when things are fresh and everyone is hopeful.

“Now you really see where you’€™re at and you see how you match up against other teams. You see where their mental toughness is at. You see if they’€™re going to cash in, you see how hard they’€™re going to play. I think the mark of our team is we’€™ve always tried to make that something that we’€™ve always felt is a real strength of ours. We have to go out there and prove it and earn it.”

This week, that process includes a game against the Texans, a team that has lost its last nine games to fall to 2-9 on the season. Despite the record — tied for the worst mark in the league through the first 11 games of the season — Brady was quick to remind the media that Houston still possesses the best pass defense in the league, and “probably [has] the best front we’ve faced all season.”

“We’€™re not even concerned about the record,” said Brady, who was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday. “You look at what they can do defensively and the kind of playmakers they have. They’€™re the highest rated defense against the pass and one of the highest, if not the highest rated defense in the league. Defensively, they’€™re playing pretty good. They have probably the best front we’€™ve faced all season and good linebackers and some playmakers in the secondary. We have a big challenge.

“Like I said, anything that’€™s happened for them this season doesn’€™t matter and anything that’€™s happened for us makes no difference either. They’€™ve lost some close games, we’€™ve pulled out some close games. I think that’€™s the big difference. It could just as easily go the other way. We’€™ve found ways to win and we have to try to find a way to win this week.”

Brad added: “We were in here today, we had a good practice, and that’€™s a good way to start. Our whole season is ahead of us. I think that’€™s the most important thing — no one really cares what’€™s been done to this point. We have to go out there and try to finally play good for 60 minutes, if we can get to that.”

Here are some more highlights of Brady’s Wednesday afternoon press conference:

When you do rub routes and picks and try to create confusion among defensive backs, how important is it to execute those well without getting a penalty?

“Certain teams do it a lot. We don’€™t do it a ton because we tend to get penalties when we do it so it defeats the whole purpose. You kind of talk about it and you get excited to do it and you think it looks good and then the refs ‘€“ we got called last game on a pass interference on Danny [Amendola] which was ‘€“ anyway.”

You had one earlier with Rob Gronkowski and Brandon Bolden. Do you remember?

“Yeah, very well. Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’€™t. Certain games don’€™t ever get called and we’€™ve gotten called. So you probably tend to do it less if you get called. It’€™s more of a body presence thing and making sure that you don’€™t get called for a penalty because it’€™s an illegal play. You’€™re not supposed to do it. You’€™re not supposed to set picks, it’€™s not basketball. But you can have body presence and make a guy bubble under or over, whatever you’€™re depending on, what you really want to do.”

But you can do it within a yard of the line.

“Well, yeah if you’€™re on the line of scrimmage you can do it because technically you’€™re a blocker at that point. We had a play in the AFC Championship Game, at the end of the game I threw to Kevin Faulk in 2007, where we did pick them. I think Jabar [Gaffney] came in and actually picked the guy. We threw it and they were complaining [for] a flag but it was right on the line of scrimmage. It’€™s on the line of scrimmage you can get away with it. It would be like a tackle blocking a defensive end, they don’€™t know what to call. But if you’€™re down the field’€¦ Defenders hold and they get away it and they get away with that all game, you don’€™t get calls. It’€™s just the way the NFL is now. They hold, we do things; it’€™s just kind of you do business as business is being done.”

Aside from his physical skill set, what are some things that make J.J. Watt as good as he is?

“He’€™s got all the tools and he’€™s got the motor and he’€™s got the attitude. He’€™s got the skill set that’€™s pretty remarkable to his power and his quickness. His ability to recognize run and pass; plays the run. If he’€™s on the backside of the run, he runs things down. If he’€™s on the front side, he powers through guys. He can rush the quarterback. He bats down balls. He’€™s been pretty remarkable. That’€™s a big test. He and Antonio Smith are really good players. They rush on the outside well. They have a lot of pressure. It’€™s a very good defense and they’€™re very well coached.”

Rob Gronkowski has been back for five games now and the offense is scoring more points with him. Where have you felt his impact most? How is he affecting the offense?

“Everywhere. He’€™s a big presence for us. Red area and third down, made some big plays on first and second down so you really don’€™t need to string together a bunch of good plays, you can kind of make some big plays. He’€™s done a good job coming back. Really his mental toughness, this really was the last game where he played most of the game. He’€™s getting his football legs back and it’€™s been fun to have him out there. He’€™s a big presence. He’€™s tough to play against. Really, it helps the other guys get open and the other guys help him get open and the running game helps all the guys in the pass game get open. It has to be a complementary thing.”

Can you talk about the appreciation you have for the high school kids that will play on Thanksgiving Day and what that tradition means to this area?

“It’€™s pretty cool. It’€™s the end of the year and Thanksgiving is always the time ‘€“ winter sports start taking over. I actually had the chance to come out and watch those games [High School Super Bowls] one year when I got hurt. In the stadium here, it’€™s really cool that the kids, I’€™m sure it’€™s the highlight of their young careers to come out and play in the Patriots’€™ stadium. High school football is pretty cool. You have a lot of friends and it means everything. It means just as much to those kids as it does to us. No matter who you are, no matter what the competition is, you want to win and you want to give your best. It means a lot to the families and it’€™s a great tradition.”

You were very excited after Rob Gronkowski’€™s touchdown. Can you explain what goes through your mind in those moments?

“I don’€™t really remember what I said. I was pretty fired up. He and I have a good relationship. We’€™ve played together in a lot of games. He gets excited and I get excited when he’€™s out there because I have so much familiarity with him and he’€™s a big part of why our offense goes. When he’€™s making plays, it just helps other guys make plays. A score like that, it was a very emotional time in the game. I kind of lost my mind.”

During the celebration, were you speaking the same language? It seemed like you entered Gronk’€™s world.

“[Laughs] Every language with Gronk is a little in Gronk’€™s world isn’€™t it? He’€™s excitable, I’€™m excitable. We have fun. That’€™s what football is all about. You’€™re working hard, you’€™re competing and most of all, you’€™re having fun, especially when you do things good, you have to have fun. You compete against really good teams, they make it hard and you battle and you fight. There are times when people may think you want to cash it in but you fight back and good things happen.”

You said you lost your mind. Have you lost your mind like that before?

“Yeah, probably. It’€™s hard to recount all those experiences. But we’€™ve been in some pretty big games and I get excited when we score. I always have.”

What about the Tuck Rule game? That was a good spike.

“And the tumble. No athleticism then either. That still hasn’€™t improved.”

What’€™s your favorite part about Thanksgiving day traditions? Eating? Pie? What is it?

“Eating, pie, all those things.”

What’€™s your favorite pie?

“Anything that had lots of sugar as a kid; chocolate. Just like my kids. It’€™s a great holiday. It’€™s a great holiday for us. Christmas you have all the stress with things. Certainly we have a lot to be thankful for as athletes, as players on this team. It will be a fun day. Certainly wining the game before makes everyone feel a lot better. But we still understand we have a job to do on Sunday. Everyone is going to enjoy the day and enjoy the time with their families and then get back to work.”

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