|Tom Brady on another playoff run: ‘You don’t take these things for granted’||01.03.13 at 5:47 pm ET|
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.”
|Bill Belichick on Ray Lewis: ‘Tremendous player, tremendous career’||01.02.13 at 2:37 pm ET|
So when Belichick was informed during his press conference Wednesday that the perennial Pro Bowl linebacker was retiring, the Patriots coach went briefly down memory lane.
“Tremendous player, tremendous career,” Belichick said. “I’ve known Ray since I went down and visited with him in 1996 prior to the draft in Miami. He’s had a great career, he’s a great player.”
Belichick left his comments at that, knowing full well that if the Bengals and Ravens win their wild-card games this weekend, Lewis will be leading an emotionally charged Ravens team into Gillette on Jan. 13 for an AFC divisional showdown. Everyone remembers what happened the last two times they met in the playoffs. The Ravens beat the Patriots, 33-14, in Jan. 2010 while Patriots exacted revenge with a win over Baltimore in last year’s AFC championship.
Lewis was selected for 13 Pro Bowl teams, tabbed as an Associated Press All Pro 10 times, garnered NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors twice and was named the Super Bowl XXXV MVP after the Ravens beat the Giants.
He played more games (228) and more seasons (17) than any Ravens player in history, and also set team highs in tackles (1,573) and fumble recoveries (20). He’s second on the franchise list in interceptions (31) and forced fumbles (19) and fourth in sacks (41.5).
Lewis, who has played 17 seasons for the Ravens, announced his decision to retire today, telling teammates that “this will be my last ride.”
“I told them I just felt so much peace in where I am with my decision because of everything I’ve done in this league,” Lewis said during the Ravens’ media availability today with several of his teammates watching. “I’ve done it, man. There’s no accolade that I don’t have individually but I’ve never played the game for individual stats. I’ve only played the game to make my team be a better team.”
Lewis injured his triceps in a win over the Cowboys midways through the season and hasn’t played since. Lewis added that “there is no reason for me to not play Sunday” in the Ravens’ wild-card playoff game against the Colts at M&T Bank Stadium.
“Now, God is calling,” Lewis said. “God is calling in so many other areas of life and my children have made the ultimate sacrifice for their father, the ultimate for 17 years. Whether it’s jump on the plane, jump right back, go to school, and I don’t want to see them do no more. I’ve done what I wanted to do in this business and now, it’s my turn to give them back something. It’s either hold onto the game or keep playing or let my kids miss out on times we could be sharing together. I promised my son if he got a full-ride scholarship, Daddy was going to be there. I can’t miss that. I don’t know if I could sit in a meeting room and fight with that war.”
Lewis is the league’s longest tenured defensive player with his original team. He is a lock for the Hall of Fame and will go down in history as one of the greatest middle linebackers ever to play the game.
|Bill Belichick on Don Brocher: ‘He was here to help the rest of us, and we’ll miss him’||at 2:12 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Patriots head coach Bill Belichick spent the first two minutes of his press conference Wednesday giving a heartfelt tribute to longtime equipment manager Don Brocher, the longest-tenured employee of the team. Brocher passed away due to complications from a battle with leukemia early Tuesday morning.
Brocher, who just turned 60 in November, leaves behind his wife, Laurie.
“I’d just say that as a football team, an organization, we’re saddened by the loss of Donnie this weekend,” Belichick said. “In a game where, we all see what kind of changes were made on Monday throughout the league, for somebody to be here 40 years, doing the job that he did for so many owners, coaches, general managers, you name it, players, was really a tribute to his dedication, consistency, dependability, quality of the work that he did.”
Brocher began his Patriots career in 1972 and became a institution inside the locker room, filling many different needs of player and coaches.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to [Brocher’s wife] Laurie and his family, and he’s a guy that six months ago when [former Patriots assistant equipment manager] John Hillebrand went to Jacksonville, sat in my office and we talked about how — he talked about how good he was feeling, how much he was looking forward to a few more years on the job, and then doing some other things he was looking forward to. And then six months later, where we are today,” Belichick said.
Belichick seemed most emotional when talking about the last time the team saw him, during the Sunday night game with the 49ers, as he spent time on the sidelines.
“Don was here for the San Francisco game,” Belichick said. “I don’t think anybody really had a sense of the physical and mental toughness he displayed that night just by being here, and doing his job and being here for us in that type of situation. But that was kind of Donnie, he was never one to complain, never one to talk about how he was doing, he was there to help the rest of us, and we’ll miss him.”
The Patriots released the following obituary on Wednesday:
Donald ‘Donnie’ S. Brocher, 60, a Boston native and a resident of Norton, Mass., lost his battle to Leukemia and died peacefully at Massachusetts General Hospital on New Year’s Day, Tuesday, January 1, 2013. Laurie, his beloved wife and best friend for 23 years, was at his bedside along with family and friends when he died.
Born the son of Edwin and Betty Brocher on November 23, 1952 in Boston, Mass., Don was raised in Marblehead, Mass along with his sister Debbie and brothers David, Danny and Bobby. His first love was hockey and his childhood sports idol was the Boston Bruins‘ Bobby Orr. He attended Beverly High School where, as a senior, he served as the equipment manager for the high school’s hockey team, and graduated in 1970. Read the rest of this entry »
|Poll: Who do you want to see the Patriots play?||12.31.12 at 10:20 am ET|
FOXBORO — By virtue of their 28-0 win over the Dolphins on Sunday at Gillette Stadium and the Texans’ loss in Indianapolis, the Patriots earned the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs and the right to watch the first round of the playoffs on television.
The Patriots will play one of three teams in their AFC divisional game at Gillette on Sunday, Jan. 13 at 4:30 p.m.
If the No. 3 Texans beat the No. 6 Bengals in Houston next Saturday, the Patriots will have a rematch with the Texans. If the Bengals win, then the Patriots will face the winner of the No. 4 Ravens-No. 5 Colts next Sunday in Baltimore.
The Patriots beat the Texans, 42-14, on Monday night football on Dec. 10. The Patriots beat the Colts, 59-28, on Nov. 18. Both of those wins came at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots lost to the Ravens, 31-30, on a last-second field goal in Baltimore on Sept. 23.
During his conference call on Monday, Bill Belichick was asked if the fact that the Patriots played Baltimore much earlier than Houston and Indianapolis changes their planning.
“There’s certainly a lot more information on Baltimore since we played them than there is on, say, Houston since we played them,” Belichick said. “And Indianapolis would fall somewhere in the middle. Again, as we talked about last week, we have people in our organization who are always kind of the advance people, whether it’s scouts or coaches that are moving ahead. The coaching staff is always focused on the current opponent or the current situation. Even in training camp, it’s the same thing where we’re working on things in training camp, but we still have people who are advancing our early season opponents and so forth.
“It’s still kind of the same thing. We have people working on those things and at some point they will come into play for the coaching staff and the players, but at some point it will also just be a preparation until we know who we actually are going to be matched up with next week. So it’s little bit of both there, but definitely Baltimore, of the three teams that we could play next, is the one that we ‘ there’s a lot more information since the time we played them and that definitely needs to be analyzed.”
|Five areas of concern for the Patriots finale against Dolphins||12.28.12 at 1:05 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots have plenty at stake this weekend against the Dolphins in the regular season finale at Gillette Stadium.
First, the 11-4 Patriots need a win and some help to get a much-needed bye, and a week off. With the chances of Denver losing at home to the Chiefs in the season finale highly unlikely, the Pats should know at kickoff just what their chances are for playoff bye since the Texans-Colts game will be in the books.
If the Colts win, the Patriots will control their own fate for a bye, something Bill Belichick alluded to on Friday morning.
“There’s nothing that we can do to help ourselves unless we beat Miami,” he said. “There’s nothing we can do to help our situation unless we win. So, we have to win for anything to happen positive. That’s no guarantee that it will but that’s the first prerequisite. So, that’s what we’re operating under that premise. We have to go out there and win. If we want things to be better, we have to help ourselves. We have to do that first. That’s really what it’s all about.”
But even should the Patriots fall short in their goal of a bye, there’s something even more important – the health and protection of Tom Brady. And it centers on the five men protecting him on the offensive line. They haven’t had a great two weeks. Brady was sacked three times and hit nine times in a shaky win over the Jaguars, while throwing two interceptions. The week before against San Francisco, Brady was sacked three times and also threw two interceptions in a 41-34 loss.
“We try to do that every week,” Belichick said of the priority to protect No. 12. “Protect the quarterback, throw the ball, make holes for the running back, run the ball. It’s nothing any different. It’s what we try to do every week.”
The Patriots know:
All five of those things are a must if the Patriots are going to get what they really want for the new year – a playoff bye and a real shot at another Super Bowl run.
“Depends on what the injuries are,” Belichick said Friday when asked how much the bye could help get rest for his injured players. “We’ll have to see how it goes. But it’s one less game you have to play so, in this league, at this time of year [playoffs], you know you’re playing a good team. So, whoever you play, they’re going to be good. Having to play one less game, I think there’s some advantage to that, definitely.”
To Belichick’s point, all five Super Bowl appearances in his tenure have come with the Patriots having advantage of the bye. Enough said.
|Bill Belichick: Jermaine Cunningham will have some ‘catching up’ to do||12.26.12 at 4:26 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Defensive end Jermaine Cunningham returned to Patriots practice on Wednesday and will be eligible to return to game action this Sunday against Miami in the regular season finale. But Bill Belichick made it clear Wednesday that his return to the starting lineup is hardly automatic.
Cunningham was suspended Nov. 26 for four games by the NFL for violation of the league’s performance enhancing drug policy. At the time of his suspension, Cunningham was coming on stronger than anyone along the defensive line not named Vince Wilfork. He had six tackles against the Jets on Thanksgiving, with 2.5 sacks and six quarterback hits in 11 games before his league-mandated break.
“I think any time a player comes back after an absence for awhile ‘ whatever the reasons are don’t matter ‘ that there’s a combination of catching up mentally to what’s going on but also catching up from a technique standpoint and also communication and reaction,” Belichick said.
“Really, no matter how much a player runs around a track or does situps or whatever, it’s not the same as when the other 21 guys are out there hearing plays called, reacting to what happens on the other side of the play, communicating, making adjustments with your teammates. There’s just no way to do that other than to do it. I think that’s important for any player that’s coming back after missing some time, regardless what the reasons are. That’s definitely something that they need to do and they need to do it with their teammates. It’s something their teammates need to have happen as well as the individual player who wasn’t there himself. All that is part of it.”
Certainly, the bright side of the Cunningham suspension has the increased experience of defensive ends Justin Francis and Trevor Scott, especially Francis, an undrafted rookie out of Rutgers. Francis got experience he otherwise likely would not have seen on the field.
“It’s certainly a positive for some of the players who get those opportunities,” Belichick said. “If they can take advantage of them and use that opportunity to enhance their role or show through their performance that they’re ready to handle more responsibility, it’s a good thing for them and ultimately it can be a good thing for the team to be able to actually see those guys do it, see those guys improve, watch them get more reps in practice and in the games and get more confidence in them and know that their execution level is higher from that. I’d say that’s accurate.
Cunningham’s return at Wednesday’s walk-through was part of perfect attendance inside Dana-Farber Field House as the team worked out without pads and helmets.
|Tom Brady is still learning a lot from Bill Belichick: ‘There’s no better coach out there’||at 1:12 pm ET|
“Of course, oh yeah,” Brady answered when asked if he’s still learning from the master of the game-by-game mentality. “I mean, you can never stop learning in this game and you can never stop improving. He’s been at it a for a lot longer than I have and I’m sure he feels like he’s still improving ad a coach and I’d agree. The things that we talk about, the things that; we’re trying to accomplish, those change. There are times when game plan changes or the opponent changes, but what you do individually to prepare yourself needs to be better. Certainly I’ve found ways to do that as I’ve gained more experience that I can prepare better and I can hopefully be a better leader and teammate and so forth, and ultimately go out there and execute well enough to win.”
Many of the highlights for the media going into Friday’s sessions with Belichick come when the Patriots coach waxes poetic about football history. Turns out, the same is true when Brady sits down with Belichick for one of their frequent weekly meetings in Belichick’s office, as was documented in the NFL Network’s “A Football Life: Bill Belichick” in 2011.
“He’s got a great memory, so his history lessons are some of the most fun meetings that we have,” Brady said. “When he gets to talking about previous players that he coached against or that he coached with, there are some pretty great stories and some history. Because I’m a pretty big football fan, it’s nice to hear those.”
How has Belichick’s stability helped him in preparing for games at this time of year?
“There’s no better coach out there and there’s no one that I’d ever want to play for,” Brady said. “He brings a consistency to our team in terms of our motivation, our focus, our execution, his expectations for us. I think winning is the most important thing and that’s the most important thing to him, and that’s what it’s all about, it’s a competition. There’s a test at the end of every week to see how well we did, and I think it’s important for us to ‘ it’s great when you don’t play your best to still win the games. You play better some weeks and lose games, but it comes down to wining the games and beating the opponent that you’re facing and that’s the goal of coach Belichick. And [it’s] what he talks about and preaches to us every single week about our execution and our attention to detail so that we can go out and be at our best competitively so we can score more points than the other team.”
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