Brady goes long on being with Pats

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Brady goes long on being with Pats

FOXBORO -- In less than a week, Tom Brady will turn 35. Inevitably, someone in the training camp crowd at Gillette Stadium will begin singing "Happy Birthday" on August 3. By the end of the song, the crowd will be in full throat and - hokey as it is, you can't help but smile.

This will be the 13th birthday Brady's experienced while in Patriots training camp.

During those first two camps at Bryant College nobody serenaded him because he was a scrub. Now? There are probably a couple thousand kids named "Brady" turning 11 this year.

It's been a long time since Bill Belichick hollered, "I can't stand it Brady! Run it again!" back in 2000. A long time since Brady turned 25 and - fresh off his first Super Bowl win - was excited that he could finally rent a car on his own.

And, speaking with media on Saturday, the one thing you can unequivocally say is that he has no trouble summoning enthusiasm for an event many players dread.

"I certainly don't take it for granted," Brady said when asked about his New England longevity. "It's the most fun I have. I still feel like a young kid out here trying to earn a spot and I think that I'm trying to be a good example and obviously have more experience than a lot of the guys out here but you still try to bring enthusiasm and leadership and try to go out and do your job."

There's little doubt Brady can cause a rookie to be star-struck. Especially given the age gap between he and the players entering the league now who were born in the 90s and watched Brady during their formative years.

Brady's never been known as one to big-time teammates, though.

"I try to be one of the guys," he said. I throw myself in there like everyone else."

He is, of course, unlike everyone else, at least in accomplishment. Unless your name is Aikman, Bradshaw, Montana or Elway, knowing what it's like to win three or more Super Bowls or start in as many as five is uncharted territory.

And he is, at 35, showing no signs of decline. No team is guaranteed a Super Bowl appearance, but the Patriots enter 2012 as the favorite to represent the AFC. Brady knows how lucky he's been to be right here, right now, revving up for a title run.

"It's huge," Brady said when asked about longevity here. "To have the experience in the same offensive system with the same coaches, you build on your mistakes."

Brady then added an observation that should be gospel for every young, developing athlete. Or anyone striving to do well in a profession.

"Being a good football player isn't necessarily about how many good plays you make but how many bad plays you don't make," he explained. "Anybody can make good plays. You wouldn't be in this league if you weren't capable of making good plays. But it's a matter of not making bad plays. You have to make the bad plays and then learn from them, and I've made plenty of those over the course of my career. You make them, you learn from them and you try not to repeat them."

It is at once that simple and that complex. It is what - in my mind - separates Brady, Montana and Johnny Unitas from everyone else. They make or made fewer bad plays at critical junctures. Some? Of course. But not as many as the next tier down where players like Peyton Manning and Brett Favre hang out.

Again, though, Brady says it's been his privilege to be in one place all this time

"We're working on plays out here we've run literally a thousand times," he pointed out. "There's not a lot of mistakes you make on those plays. I'm trying to eliminate mistakes just like everyone else. Quarterback's about decision-making and throwing the ball accurately and going out there and trying to do my job."

A job he relishes no matter how many material trappings he's amassed off the field.

"I love playing quarterback for this team," he said. "It's a great responsibility to have and I appreciate it every single day. There's nothing I'd rather do than be out here being the quarterback for this team. My life's pretty much built around that. To come out here when practice starts and to be with your teammates there's nothing more fun than that. You gotta work as hard as you can so I can be the best quarterback for this team that I can possibly be. That's what I think about every single day when I get up."

New Patriots DE Chris Long willing to be led

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New Patriots DE Chris Long willing to be led

Chris Long’s been in the NFL since 2008. As the offspring of Hall of Famer Howie Long, he knows the ways and means of life in the league.
 
So, it’s instructive that a player who’s been around this long decided that success here hinged on allowing himself to be led. Check the ego, check the pride, behave as if you know nothing.
 
In doing so, Long’s affixed himself to the side of fellow defensive end Rob Ninkovich like a 275-pound remora.
 
“Rob and I really clicked,” Long said Thursday after a Patriots OTA session open to the media. “We’ve got a lot of similarities, and he’s a great guy to learn from and shadow. He’s been here obviously a long time. Rob knows how to do things the right way around here. When you see a guy like that, if you’re halfway smart, you follow him around and do what he does. If Rob goes to lunch, I go to lunch. That type of thing. Rob’s a good buddy already.”
 
Long was also observed Thursday spending a lot of downtime with Jabaal Sheard, the two defensive ends on a knee near the Gatorade conversing for a couple of minutes.
 
With Chandler Jones now a Cardinal, the Patriots defensive end depth chart this offseason has have Sheard and Ninkovich at the top, with Long in the mix situationally, one supposes. Reps need to be split for freshness. Meanwhile, Geneo Grissom and Trey Flowers are coming into their second seasons and will push for time as well.
 
For his part, Long isn’t projecting anything.
 
“Well, I’m still learning, so I can’t make the determination yet,” Long said. “Ask me again during training camp. Every day in the NFL is an opportunity. A coach I’ve had before said every day is an interview, and that’s how I like to look at things. Every day, you have a chance to get better and learn and worry about your own — farm your own land and do all that good stuff. That’s the way I approach everything. It would be a disservice to the other guys if I was worried about anything other than myself, that opportunity just to get out here on the practice field and compete and get better.”
 
And let yourself be led. 

Surprise! Rex and Rob Ryan talk themselves up

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Surprise! Rex and Rob Ryan talk themselves up

Can’t you just imagine the Ryan brothers as teenagers, riding along in a pickup, windows down, hair whipping, hollering their skewed affirmations over the Lynyrd Skynyrd.

“Biggest badasses in town?! US!!”

“Handsomest fat guys to be!? US!!”

“Defensive-geniuses-in-waiting destined to be criminally underappreciated and overlooked so that we’ll forever be obligated to remind everyone at every turn how tough, accomplished and slighted we’ve been? HELL, THAT’S US TOO!!”

It’s May, which means it’s Ryan propaganda season. Not that Jenny Vrentas of MMQB did the Ryan’s bidding with her fun Q&A that’s online today. 

All she needed to do was hit record and lay the recorder on the table. Rex and Rob take care of the tire pumping themselves.

Fortuitously, now that they’re together in Buffalo as head coach (Rex) and assistant head coach/defensive capo (Rob), they can pat each other’s backs rather than reach back and do their own themselves.

Rob – poopcanned from his last two jobs as defensive coordinator in Dallas and New Orleans – carried the show in this one firing passive-aggressive darts at Saints head coach Sean Payton and promising to “beat” Bill Belichick and the Patriots.

“At the end of the day, the last two years in New Orleans were a waste of time for me,” said Rob Ryan, who was fired last November by Payton. “I want to give everything I have to a team that I want to be a part of, with a head coach I want to be a part of. Not only is Rex a great head coach, but he is also a great defensive coach. He’s going to be the best coach that I can work for, anytime. And I have worked for Belichick, who is the best head coach in football, in the history of the game. But we’re going to beat him, and we’re going to beat him together. And it’s going to be an awesome challenge. I need to be in a multiple system. I was hired to be in a multiple system in New Orleans, and I did a damn good job and got fired for it. I am more hungry now than I have ever been. So I wanted to go with the right guy. And the right guy is someone I have 100 percent trust in and 100 percent faith in.

Payton has already termed Ryan’s contention that it wasn’t Ryan’s defense as “silly.” 

This in-depth look at the precipitous drop of the Saints defense has plenty of damning info about what a “hot mess” Ryan’s operation was. 

Payton is quoted in the piece saying after Ryan’s dismissal, "There were a few things that you looked at from a year ago and you said, 'We can't have X number of snaps with not the right number of guys on the field. We can't burn timeouts, you know, every other week because we can't get the right personnel on the field.' We just can't do that. We can't have guys looking left and right at the snap of the ball. There's a game last season where the first eight plays of the game, we're misaligned and we don't even cover down the right way. Those were just facts."

Facts, schmacts. You want facts? From the interview:

ROB: Well, the highest-rated defensive coach in the history of the league is you.

REX: Right.

ROB: We can pretend there is somebody else, but there’s not. Hey, my numbers are what they are. Now, I took over some pretty lousy jobs, but that’s OK. But no one’s numbers are better than his. I’m talking about Dick LeBeau’s; I’m talking about Belichick; I’m talking about all of them. Hell, even our dad. Who is the best that ever laced them up? Well, I’m just saying. To be the best defensive coach in football, I’ve got to learn from the best, so I came here. It’s been how many years since we’ve been together? He’s not learning anything, but I am. Look at some of his protégés. Bob Sutton is doing a fantastic job in Kansas City. Chuck Pagano was with Rex. He spun off a ton of great coaches, and it is going to be fun to be a part of that.

Here’s the thing, the Ryans are very bright defensive coaches with an in-the-trenches-with-you bedside manner that invites massive huge loyalty from their players.

But there’s also an outsized sense of pride and ego that both men seem to have that causes them to get caught up in style over substance.

Rex wanted to build a bully in Buffalo. His Bills talked tough before facing the Patriots last September and came unhinged in the first half, effectively taking themselves out of the game before it began. 

The Bills have an terrific array of defensive talent even with the loss of Mario Williams this offseason. They added Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland in the draft – both well-regarded players who could have early-career impacts. They have the pieces. But they had them in 2015 as well and underperformed. The fact is, Rex is in a “prove-it” season. Even though he points out in the interview that his family has coached in six Super Bowls, three of those were coached by Buddy Ryan, two by Rob and one by Rex. In 66 combined seasons of NFL coaching. Belichick’s coached in eight by himself in 42 NFL seasons. The results are lacking.

It is worth noting before I put a bow on this that respect for Belichick isn’t lacking. The interview is chock-full of references to Rob’s time with the Patriots from 2000 to 2003.

“All the respect in the world for Bill Belichick,” said Rob. “That was fantastic training working for him for four years, and I learned a ton. Look, he is the No. 1 nemesis of every coach in this league. So it’s not just Rex. Now, I think if you ask their offensive staff, the worst they ever play is against Rex. People say, “well, he hasn’t beat them [nine out of the last 10] tries.” Yeah, well, he has beat the hell out of that offense. I am sure the respect is mutual. But I know one thing, we are going to beat them. We are together, we’re going to beat the best. It’s two against one. Him one on one against any coach in the league, that guy is pretty damn good. And he’s also got his best buddy Tom Brady with him. He trained him, and he single-handedly made him great as well.”

Brissett, Mitchell appear to have established chemistry early

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Brissett, Mitchell appear to have established chemistry early

FOXBORO -- Martellus Bennett may have reeled in the No. 1 most impressive catch of the day during Thursday's OTA session. But No. 2 and 3? Those belonged to rookie fourth-round receiver Malcolm Mitchell. 

The first of his two noteworthy grabs came in 7-on-7 work when Mitchell laid out, fully extended, for a pass from rookie third-round quarterback Jacoby Brissett in the back of the end zone. The second came in an 11-on-11 period when Mitchell adjusted to a long toss down the left sideline from Brissett that was slightly underthrown. Mitchell worked his way back to the football in mid-air and caught it easily for a long gain. 

Reporters have been permitted to watch only one practice thus far, but on Thursday it seemed as though Mitchell -- who came to New England after one year in a pro-style offense with former Georgia offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer -- had no trouble knowing where to be and when. 

It also appeared as though Mitchell and Brissett have already established good chemistry, perhaps building on whatever relationship they established in rookie minicamp. One example of their shared connection came on that long completion down along the boundary because it looked like Brissett could sense pressure coming from his right side just before he made his throw. Making a quick decision, Brissett turned to his left, where Mitchell was lined up, and floated a pass in that direction. 

Brissett's instincts were on display again at other points in the practice when he found both Mitchell and rookie seventh-round pick Devin Lucien with passes he made while on the move.

At NC State, Brissett had a knack for extending plays, and Thursday's practice schedule seemed to play into his strengths in that regard. Earlier in the workout, before the offensive and defensive units were pitted against one another, Patriots quarterbacks were instructed to roll out of the pocket to find open receivers -- a half-speed "scramble drill." When Brissett rolled out in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 periods, he appeared to be putting that work from earlier in the session into action. 

While all rookies put together what are likely considered far from perfect performances in these OTAs, Brissett and Mitchell both had their moments on Thursday, and often those moments were shared. Watching their on-the-field rapport grow will be one of the developments worth tracking as they build up their reps through training camp.