FOXBORO, Mass. — Tom Brady has hardly been perfect through the first 11 practices of training camp. In reality, he's had more average days than good ones, and he definitely hasn't looked like the player who topped everyone's MVP ballot a season ago.
The Patriots quarterback has put it into perspective, though. First of all, the lockout made it so everyone has essentially gone from the gym to the field. And second, training camp is all about shaking off the rust anyway — a fact that is truer this year than ever before in his career.
"It's been getting better," Brady said Friday. "To not play football for six months, and to come out and think you're going to be in midseason form, I mean, I wish the game was that easy. But it's not the way it is."
Offenses should be behind schedule at a league-wide clip. Without offseason workouts, organized team activities and minicamp, it's going to be difficult to get into a rhythm this quickly in August. And since the Patriots' offense is largely based on timing, instincts and a strong ability to read coverages, Brady's bunch will have to work increasingly hard to catch up to speed.
"Normally, we have those 14 practices in the spring where, OK, you really see where you're at," Brady said. "You see where your conditioning is at. You see where your strength is at. You see where how your arm feels, the reads. You're comfortable with guys. When you start training camp, you can really build on the work you put in. This year is different."
Brady has had some pretty good days mixed in with the pedestrian ones. He was sharp for much of Friday's session before throwing a soft interception to Leigh Bodden in the left side of the end zone. It was a mistake he certainly didn't make during his otherworldly streak of 335 consecutive passes without a pick at the end of the 2010 season.
There have been some floaters, ducks and badly thrown balls here and there throughout the week. Of course, he's thrown some beautiful passes, too, such as Friday's touchdown strike to Chad Ochocinco, who was streaking across the back of the end zone.
Naturally, Brady is under the microscope more than most. It's so rare to see him struggle that one ugly pass out of 10 can stick out like a beached whale in the middle of a desert.
His first test will come in less than a week against the Jaguars in the Patriots' preseason opener. But most importantly, Brady has five weeks to prepare for the regular season. At that point, the first week of August will be a distant memory.
"Some days, it's been good for the offense," Brady said. "Some days, it hasn't. I'd say we're making improvements, though, and that's all you can hope for. We certainly need to make quite a few more of those, but if we continue to work hard, I think we'll get that done."