FOXBORO, Mass. — It sounds nearly impossible that Tom Brady is entering his 14th season in the NFL. But it’s true. There are record books, photographs and video to prove it. I even had to count to make sure it was correct.
To think that Brady is still trying to improve in his 14th year seems equally impossible. How does someone improve on a career that’s already mentioned as the greatest ever by some prognosticators? But that’s Brady’s mentality every offseason, and it’s why he stays so consistently great even though history suggests that he should begin regressing one of these years.
Brady will be 36 years old in two months, but he claims he feels the best yet entering the 2013 season.
“I feel great. I feel better than ever,” Brady said. “I’ve had a great offseason to this point. It needs to continue. At this point, I have a pretty good understanding of how I need to prepare myself, and I spend a lot of time — every decision in my life is based around how to be a better football player. I think I have a decent idea how to do that, and we’ll ultimately see how it pays off this year. It’s been fun to be out there every day at practice, and that’s how you improve, is to be out on the practice field, especially with a bunch of new players. We’ll see how it turns out when we put the pads on.”
It’s an interesting season for Brady. He has a bunch of new wide receivers, and his top seven targets from 2012 are either injured (Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Julian Edelman) or gone (Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Danny Woodhead, Deion Branch). That means the Patriots quarterback will need to do something he’s struggled with in the past: build chemistry with new players.
He seems to be adjusting well to throwing to Danny Amendola and Michael Jenkins, and each player could serve a similar role to his predecessors. Amendola looks freakishly like Welker out on the practice field, and Jenkins has a similar game to Lloyd’s.
Brady’s yards, touchdowns, completion percentage and yards per attempt dropped from 2011 to 2012. But stats don’t tell the whole story. It didn’t help that Brady had to play without Gronkowski and Hernandez for long stretches of the season. It also didn’t help that the Patriots dropped 25 percent more balls in 2012 than 2011. But Brady does feel like he can improve upon his performance from last year.
“You try to be a little more efficient with your time, and things that you probably have tried in the past, you don’t do much anymore,” Brady said. “You try to do the things that you feel work and the things that help you improve. I feel like I’ve thought a lot of things about this past season and things that I can do better and things that I can do better as a teammate and as a leader and certainly things that I can do better on the field, my physical preparation. I think I’ve been successful to this point, but ultimately you get paid to go out and play on Sunday, and hopefully it pays off when it counts the most.”
Patriots fans have to accept at this point that Brady won’t be around forever. Based on the careers of Brett Favre, Dan Marino and past great quarterbacks, Brady should have begun regressing by now. But Brady’s singular focus on football is what keeps him “elite” year after year.