Brady steers conversation toward team
Amid Ochocinco madness, he focuses on how players must find their roles
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- With the same sort of effortless grace he typically uses to evade an opposing pass rush, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady danced around a blitz of Chad Ochocinco questions Friday, preferring instead to keep the focus on the team as a whole while expressing excitement at embarking on a new season after a summer of uncertainty.
Brady, who underwent offseason surgery on his right foot, also pronounced himself in full health. He noted he stuck to the Patriots' typical strength and conditioning program despite being unable to work out at the facilities in Foxborough during the lockout.
"I feel great, I feel excited," Brady said. "I think everybody's been anxious to get out here and start playing and getting back to doing the things we really love to do. I feel really good. I feel about as good as I could feel."
Nearly half of the 22 questions offered to Brady in a 15-minute session with reporters focused on the arrival of Ochocinco, who spent much of the morning's hourlong walk-through session glued to Brady's hip, and Albert Haynesworth, the Patriots' two new big additions.
But Brady has never allowed himself to key in on one target, and Friday he stressed the need for every player on the roster -- new or old -- to carve out a role in order for New England to thrive for the next six months.
"[Ochocinco has] been a very prolific receiver; I think he's had a bunch of production over the years," Brady said. "Hopefully he can come in here and find a role on this team, like we're all trying to do. We're all trying to come out here and see what we can make of this year, see what kind of role we can make for ourselves."
Echoing the one-day-at-a-time mantra of coach Bill Belichick, Brady, whose name was featured on the players' antitrust lawsuit against the NFL during the lockout, expressed gratitude at simply being back on the field.
"I think we're all excited to be playing football again," Brady said. "We had a good day [Thursday]. As Coach always says, we have to string them together. It's a long process, it's a long season, it's a long camp, and Coach talks about having a real short-term focus, and I think there's quite a few young players, new players, veteran players that all need to get on the same page. That's what we're working to do."
Every time the topic swung to Boston's big-splash additions, Brady did his best to steer the conversation right back to the team.
"I've had a lot of trades; there's been a lot of transactions over the course of my career, so guys have come and gone," Brady said. "I'm always excited to get great players. We're all trying to, like I said earlier we're all trying to find our roles. Chad's trying to find a role, rookies are trying to find a role. The only way we're going to have a successful year is to be out on the field practicing and executing at a high level."
As for Haynesworth, Brady acknowledged his presence in the facilities Friday, joking about a particularly cringeworthy hit the quarterback absorbed from the big defensive tackle in a preseason game in Washington two years ago.
"I saw him this morning, and I told him, 'I still haven't forgiven you for that,'" Brady joked. "He said he's got a lot of friends up here and they've given him a lot of grief over the years. He's a big guy, and there's a lot of competition at the D-line position. Like I said, Chad's in the same situation, hopefully he can come in and fill a role, be a big part of the success of this team. I think that's what we're all trying to do."
Pressed on why he was stressing the need to establish roles, particularly with a solid nucleus returning from a team that went 14-2 last season, Brady talked about the process of remaining successful year after year.
More on Chad Ochocinco
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Amid the Ochocinco madness, Patriots QB Tom Brady steered all conversations back toward the team, writes Chris Forsberg. Story
"It's a totally different team, a totally different year," he said. "There's things that we're going to do this year that we've never done, and there's things that have been successful in the past that we won't do. We're all trying to figure out what this team is all about. We've had one practice, we haven't even been in pads, so how can you create expectations for yourself? There's a lot of pieces that need to come together, and there's a lot of practices that need to take place, a lot of meetings. Everyone has to be willing to come in and listen, learn and understand what we're trying to do. The past has shown that we can be pretty successful. I think that's what we're going to need to continue to do."
Along the way, Brady also put in a pitch to bring back veteran left tackle Matt Light, an unrestricted free agent.
"I love Matt," Brady said. "Matt's one of my favorite players that I've ever played with. He's a great guy, great for this team, great in the community. I just can't say enough about Matt. I hope he's back, but those decisions aren't up to me. Matt's performance speaks for itself."
But just like the arrivals of Ochocinco and Haynesworth indicated, rosters change, and Brady acknowledged that it's up to the Patriots to create a new identity in a new season.
"No two years have ever been the same," Brady said. "At the beginning of the year, this team will establish its own identify, and it will be based on how hard we're willing to work, how hard we're willing to commit ourselves. There's no easy way about it. You have to come out and you have do the work, you have to put the time in. You have to spend enough time together to understand that you have confidence in your teammates. It's a very different team at a very different time."
Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics and Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.