Brady's Sole Focus is Week One
By Rick Popolizio
Tom Brady has worked as hard as ever this offseason not willing to rest on his laurels. When he felt the team wasn't clicking as it should, he spoke up and sought change. Brady remains more focused than ever after three Super Bowl championships in the last four years. With the September 8 matchup against the Oakland Raiders around the corner, he knows the New England Patriots are no longer Super Bowl champions, but just another team starting out at 0-0.
With every each season that passes having new faces in camp is the norm. The different personnel joining New England has Brady and his teammates excited to start the season.
"The strengths of the team have been different throughout the years," Brady said as he reflected upon the team's previous success. "I do think we try to play a certain way of football. I think our philosophy is that we try to play smart and that we try to play tough and we try to play physical out there."
Brady is the unquestionable leader on the field, while Belichick is likewise off of it. The pair both believe that regardless of the team's record in years past, success was never an given. Even in the team's historic run of victories, there were things that needed to be done better.
"I think often times when you are successful, you think, 'Oh, man, well, we must have done everything right,' but the guys who are here, we realize that we're always trying to improve and that's no different this year," Brady continued. "Even in those [winning] years, we were not perfect in every phase."
There are always question marks going into week one. How will the Patriots perform without Weiss and Crennel? How will Moss and LaMont Jordon fit in Oakland? Will the loss of Ty Law be too much for the Patriots to overcome? There is game film from previous years for both teams to look at, as well as preseason coverage, yet each new year is can be unpredictable.
"It's hard because you just have less information to work with and what you do have in the preseason some of that could be pretty vanilla relative to what the team really wants to do," said head coach Bill Belichick. "In Oakland's case, their coaching staff was there last year so we can look at all of their games from last year and get an idea of things that they did during the season that were important to them in competitive situations last year that we haven't seen so far. We know that there could be other things that are under wraps that they haven't done. We just have to be ready to make some adjustments during the game. I think that's the way it always is. There's no question that this is the hardest game."
Undoubtedly it is the hardest game to prepare for, but Belichick has his Patriots with the right mindset.
"Coach Belichick always makes a point that we're not defending anything because when you defend something, that means it can be taken away, and you can't take that championship away from us," said Brady. "At the same time we realize that whatever happened last year is entirely different from what can happen this year."
Even with the amazing success the Patriots have achieved, the veteran signal caller remains well grounded. Many professional athletes remain humble after gaining celebrity status, but Brady seems to be a rare breed in the days of T.O. and Freddie Mitchell's escapades clogging the airwaves. Brady's recent GQ appearance exposed the self doubts that still help him find motivation every day.
"I'm someone that was a sixth round pick; I was the 199th pick in the draft," said Brady. "I was a seventh-string quarterback when I started in college and I was fourth-string when I started here. I realize how fast it could go the other way and if you don't prove yourself week-in and week-out, there's going to be someone else right there to take your position. . . I think as long as I want to work hard every day to prove to my teammates and my coaches that I can be trusted as their quarterback, that's really what I'm out there to prove every day and I'm out there to prove that to myself, too."
Brady's one week at a time philosophy goes for every other team, not just his own. Despite all the history, including the "Tuck Call" game in 2002, Brady and the Patriots have prepared for a team that has historically been very competitive. They are not counting on their past success to help them win.
"I don't think there's a lot of carry over from year-to-year," said Brady. "I don't think anybody cares what you did the year before."
Belichick also feels that success is built each year, and the Raiders are a team that proves his point. His respect for the talent Oakland has been able to accumulate is evident in his remarks. "I think when you look at every player on the Raiders roster, competitively, in other words relative to the average at that position through the league, the guy is either going to be bigger or faster or both than the average at that position on a league-wide basis, including the kicker," said Belichick. "It's pretty much every single position."
The Raiders will be a challenge for the Patriots. In 2005 New England are no longer the champions, they move forward without looking back. Tom Brady and the rest of his teammates have prepared well for Thursday and the word dynasty or three-peat will never mentioned by them. The entire Patriots organization thinks week to week, and up until Thursday, that focus will be on Oakland.
"Well, like I said, I'm hoping to put together three good days of practice," said Brady. "We're trying to get to 1-0 and that should be the only goal on our mind. That's the only goal on my mind and the only goal on my teammates' mind, and we're going to do everything we can in the next two days to get ready, like I said, to play one of the most challenging Oakland games we've ever faced."
It's the first game of the 2005 NFL season and the Brady 's single-minded focus is readily apparent. "We're really going out there and we have to go prove ourselves week-in and week-out, and it starts this week."
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