FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Now that Tom Brady has quieted the bell that was ringing in his head thanks to the pounding he took last week against the Cincinnati Bengals, the New England Patriots quarterback can think clearly enough to evaluate his preseason performance.
As Brady put it Tuesday morning, there's some real work to be done. The nine-year veteran was erratic during the first-team offense's lone drive into Bengals territory last Thursday at Gillette Stadium, missing a couple of open targets, including one pass that would have gone for a 29-yard touchdown to Randy Moss. More importantly, Brady admitted to missing a pre-snap call that resulted in a hard whack from defensive end Robert Geathers.
"I'd love to be perfect out there right now," Brady said during a 17-minute press conference Tuesday at Gillette. "It hasn't been that way. I missed a few throws in this last game and made a few mental errors. Hopefully, we try to make some of those improvements and understand that it's different when you're out there practicing against your own team day after day after day."
Coming off of left knee surgery, Brady has been under an extremely magnified microscope throughout training camp and the preseason. In the past, it would have been common to write off a poor preseason performance because Brady's regular-season and playoff records spoke highly enough. Last year, when Brady didn't dress for a single preseason game, there appeared to be a minimal level of concern.
Now, the four-time Pro Bowler and 2007 MVP has worked as hard as ever to get back into playing shape. Brady, who has a perfect attendance rate at practice, has played in six offensive series in the preseason, completing 14-of-23 passes for 157 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He has led three scoring drives — two touchdowns and one field goal — while two have ended in three-and-outs.
If Brady remains healthy in 2009, he'll knock off several significant milestones. With 3,554 yards this season, he can become the 30th quarterback in NFL history to accumulate 30,000 career passing yards. With three touchdown passes, he'll become the 27th player to throw 200 in a career. With 199 completions, he'll become the 28th player to record 2,500 in a career. And if Brady can win 13 games for the fourth time in his career, he'd become the 11th quarterback with 100 career victories.
While Brady says he doesn't measure his career by regular-season accomplishments, he has the chance to join some really elite company — such as boyhood idol Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw — if he can win a fourth Super Bowl.
As for now, though, Brady is more focused on getting back to speed and perfecting his execution. After all, February is six months and seemingly a million miles away.
"Hopefully, I can contribute in the way I have in the past," Brady said. "I don't think about it. I don't lose sleep over it. I just get up and try to go out there and make the right plays [and] make the right decisions. If I make a poor play, I never have thought, 'Well, I wonder if it was because of my injury last year.' [Instead], I think, 'Well, I've got to make improvements,' just like every year where things don't really go your way."