For the first time since the day after winning Super Bowl LI – and the first time since turning 40 – Patriots quarterback Tom Brady spoke with the media this morning.
“I woke up today feeling like I did yesterday morning and the day before that, so it was good,” Brady told a swarm of reporters after practice. “It was nice, so many people came out and wished me a happy birthday, so it was very nice.”
In anticipation of next week’s joint practices with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Bill Belichick turned this morning’s session into a scrimmage. While he only played the first half of the unofficial contest, Brady looked sharp as ever, completing 10 of 12 passes before being relieved by Jacoby Brissett for the second half.
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Team Brady/Brissett outlasted the team led by Jimmy Garoppolo, 20-12. Brady and Brissett faced off against the first team defense, with Garoppolo matching up against primarily second teamers on defense.
“I’m really blessed to play with such great teammates and coaches and to have the opportunity to come out and play every day,” Brady said. “I’ve been doing it for a long time, and hopefully that’s given me a lot of experience to do the right thing and help our team in the best way I can. Part of being a veteran player is helping the younger guys with the learning curve.”
Brady threw a touchdown pass to second-year wide receiver Devin Lucien, the pair connecting from 50 yards out after fellow second-year corner Jonathan Jones jumped the route and failed to come up with a pick.
Another play which may have resulted in a touchdown had replay been available was a fade to tight end Dwayne Allen in the end zone. Coaches acting as referees deemed that Allen did not get both of his feet in bounds for the catch.
Brissett finished 3 for 6 passing after relieving Brady, also connecting with Lucien for a touchdown in the second half. Garoppolo struggled, albeit throwing primarily to second stringers, finishing 14 of 36 passing with no touchdowns or interceptions.
Brady was asked during the media session how the process has changed for him over the course of 18 years to get his body ready for the season. He answered “a lot,” noting the need to be smarter about how he does things both on and off the field.
One thing that’s never wavered, however, is his love for the job, which he described as not feeling like work at all.
“The routine changes because your body changes,” Brady said. “You’ve got to be smart as you get older. I’ve been working hard for a long time. I’ve got a great regiment and it’s a process for me, but the best part of it for me is that I enjoy what I’m doing. It never really feels like I’m working at it because I love doing it. I love practicing, I love preparing, I love training. Certainly, I love playing.”
Notable absences from practice included starting left tackle Nate Solder and special teams ace Matthew Slater, as well as wide receiver Cody Hollister. The same trio was missing from yesterday’s session. Slater appeared to have been injured during practice on Wednesday and has not returned since.
Six key skill position players expected to contribute this season on offense were present at Gillette, but did not participate in the scrimmage. Wide receivers Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola, as well as running backs Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead, were inactive. Duron Harmon, James O’Shaugnessy and David Jones also did not participate.
With all of that weaponry absent, the spotlight shone to Brandin Cooks as Brady’s go-to guy on the outside. He made what was arguably the catch of the day as he leapt up for a deep ball over the helmet of Stephon Gilmore, with Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung in the vicinity as well.
Stephen Gostkowski had a good day kicking the ball, making six of his seven field goal attempts during the scrimmage – his lone miss from 49 yards – and drilled each of his extra point attempts.
Belichick fired up the PA system with music during the majority of the scrimmage, leading off with Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive.” Belichick is renowned for his Bon Jovi fandom.
Coldplay, which is playing at Gillette Stadium tonight, was featured in the set as well with “Adventure of a Lifetime.”
Count Brady as someone who approved of the selection.
“They’re one of my favorite bands,” he said of Coldplay being in town this weekend. “So it’s pretty convenient.”
The Patriots will practice again tomorrow morning at 9:15 a.m. and have Sunday off before welcoming the Jaguars to town for the joint sessions on Monday and Tuesday, each practicing beginning at 9:30 a.m.
New England plays Jacksonville in its preseason opener next Thursday at 7:30 p.m.