Brady got a head start on Niners preparation

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Brady got a head start on Niners preparation

FOXBORO -- The Patriots have gone through a logistical grind this season.

Beginning August 22 when the team flew to Tampa, the Patriots were on the road for five out of six games before the end of September.

In October, they flew back and forth to Seattle. Then, after a week in Foxboro, they flew to London to play St. Louis before flying home through the winds of Hurricane Sandy.

They had their Thursday night game against the Jets in prime time on Thanksgiving.

That kicked off a stretch of three night games out of four which will conclude Sunday night against the San Francisco 49ers.

High-class problems? No doubt. The Bills, for instance, don't get many prime-time gigs.

The excuse of tough scheduling and travel is there for the Patriots. Not only do they refuse to use it, they try to completely ignore it.

One of the reasons the Patriots are 10-3 (and the three losses are by a total of four points) is that they have the ultimate nerd at quarterback.

Tom Brady started preparing for the 49ers before he'd eaten his Thanksgiving turkey.

"After our Thursday night game against the Jets, I tried to do a bunch of work on the Niners," Brady said Wednesday morning. "So I put a couple of days in there and actually after the game on Monday night, I felt like I just had to watch their most recent game and I was caught up. So, you try to take advantage of a little extra time, a little planning. I probably wouldnt have done that 10 years ago."

There's a lot to get ready for with the Niners. They have a hard-hitting secondary with safeties Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson and defensive linemen Aldon Smith (19.5 sacks) and Justin Smith. They have one of the league's best linebacking groups anchored by Patrick Willis.

Brady long ago realized that the burden of preparation that's on a quarterback is light years beyond what his teammates have to handle. Which, as they say, is why he gets paid the big bucks.

"Its probably most important for the quarterback position," Brady acknowledged. "I dont think the receivers are necessarily doing that. They study what they need to study. I kind of have my own routine and preparation. A lot of guys prepare differently. I know Matt Light, who we honored at halftime last week, didnt watch much film at all. He said it screwed him up. Hes one of the best players Ive ever played with, so theres something to be said about that too."

Among the myriad reasons it's hard to sustain success in the NFL is the simple fact that, the better your team is, the harder everything gets. The schedule. The media attention. The travel. The time constraints. The effort every opponent brings.

Asked about the difficulty of preparing for an unfamiliar opponent on a short week, Brady said, "Its all about mental toughness. I think thats what it comes down to. You have those situations where you might not feel great or youre flying a long way, but youve got to eliminate all of those distractions and everything. Youve got to put it behind you and youre competing against that team: that team is the opponent.

"This week its the 49ers," he added. "Its not the weather, its not the rest, its not the crowd its the 49ers. I think as long as you stay focused on them and you focus on what you need to do against them, then you let those other things really take care of themselves. The more you waste energy worrying about a plane flight or weather conditions, its really a waste of time. Youve got to focus on your opponent because whatever youre dealing with, theyre dealing with the same stuff."

Not exactly. But, as Brady points out, why bother with what's on the Niners plate. New England has enough stuff to get through itself.

Brady nutritional manual goes on sale, features avocado ice cream

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Brady nutritional manual goes on sale, features avocado ice cream

It was only a matter of time, right? You can finally eat the way Tom Brady does now that his nutritional manual has gone on sale. 

The Patriots quarterback excitedly shared the news with his fans Wednesday on Facebook, directing them to his website TB12store.com. There they could find a few snap-shot looks of the laser-etched maple cover -- natural maple, obviously -- and its contents.

I wanted to share with you guys another step toward achieving your peak performance. Check it out you will love it! #ididntcomethisfartoonlycomethisfar

Posted by Tom Brady on Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Brady's description of the $200 manual explains: "TB12™ Nutrition Manual is a limited-edition 'living document' containing information about our core TB12 nutritional philosophies and featuring a library of 89 seasonally-inspired recipes that you can use to support your TB12-aligned nutrition plan.

"The TB12 Nutrition Manual is designed to be modified and expanded over time using its unique screw post binding: as we periodically update this manual with new or modified recipes, we will send additional pages to all purchasers of the manual."

The recipes inside teach readers how to make such dishes as sweet potato gnocchi with escarole, carrot cake and avocado ice cream, the last of which has become one of Brady's most well-known indulgences ever since his "body coach" and business partner Alex Guerrero told the New York Times about it for a profile that was published last year. 

Patriots contract dance is a daunting one

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Patriots contract dance is a daunting one

We are in the Patriots’ silent spring. Aside from the ongoing mud wrestle Tom Brady’s engaged in with the NFL and the noise surrounding that, it’s quiet with the football team.

Minimal personnel outflow. An interesting haul of B-list free agents. A workmanlike draft of players who won’t likely make much impact in their rookie seasons.

But this calm precedes a roster storm the team is facing over the next nine months.

Nine players of major consequence are entering the final year of their contracts. On offense, it’s not a crisis. Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer is the only expiring contract.

Defensively? Different story. Linebackers Donta Hightower and Jamie Collins, defensive ends Rob Ninkovich and Jabaal Sheard, defensive backs Logan Ryan, Duron Harmon and Malcolm Butler (restricted free agent) are all expiring. As is special teams ace and captain Matthew Slater.

But wait, there’s still more. A bunch of the free agent/trade imports the Patriots made are here on one-year deals: tight ends Martellus Bennett and Clay Harbor, defensive linemen Chris Long and Terrance Knighton and guard Jonathan Cooper.

Add in OL Marcus Cannon, RB LeGarrette Blount, DL Alan Branch, WR Aaron Dobson, RB Brandon Bolden, LB Jonathan Freeny, FB James Develin, WR Chris Harper, TE Michael Williams, G Cameron Fleming and lower-tier free agent signings like DT Markus Kuhn, WR Nate Washington, LB Ramon Humber, CB E.J. Biggers and DE Frank Kearse and overall there are 30 (!!) players with expiring deals.

A few of those players won’t even make it through the summer with the team. And the fact others, like Bennett, Long, Knighton, Cooper, Blount and Washington, are on one-year “show us” deals isn’t bad. It’s smart.

But the volume of consequential players – especially on defense – who’ll be looking for new deals means there’s an interesting dance for Bill Belichick and Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio to engage in.

The Patriots have to do what’s best for their football team. But some of the players whose contracts are up are obligated to do what’s best for themselves business-wise.

And a lot of them are in line for their second contracts. They are facing what will probably be the most pivotal financial period in their lives over the next few months.

Consider a player like Jamie Collins. A second-round pick in 2013, his initial contract was for $3.76M. You take out taxes, agent fees, expenses, etc. and how much money do you think Collins has to show for the three seasons in which he’s been a rising star in the league? Certainly not enough to feel financially comfortable for the rest of his life.

But – barring catastrophic injury – Collins’ next contract is going to be a huge financial haul that should set up him and his family for decades.

By comparison, Lavonte David of the Buccaneers signed a five-year $50M contract with more than $25M guaranteed last August. Both play outside linebacker at a high level. Both were initially second-round picks (David, No. 58 in 2012; Collins, No. 52 in 2013).

Then there are players like Harmon and Ryan – good rising players who are not going to be paid like stars and may never be Pro Bowlers but are going to play in the league for a long time. Last season, Ryan took a huge step forward, starting opposite Malcolm Butler, putting up some outstanding advanced statistics and increasing his profile around the league. Harmon had a similar year. Ryan will have made $2.77M by the end of his rookie deal; Harmon will make $2.71M.

Unlike Collins, who is a freak talent and is going to get teams throwing tens of millions at him, Ryan and Harmon have a little more uncertainty. If the Patriots present them with offers prior to this year, do they take the security of knowing they are program mainstays or do they wait it out and test the market.

Ryan can look at a player like Buster Skrine who signed a $25M deal with the Jets last year and say, “Whoa… that could be me.” Harmon will have to see the offer he gets from the Patriots and compare it to the one the team gave his good friend Devin McCourty last year ($47.5M). Is Harmon half the player McCourty is? One-third? Will another team see in Harmon the potential to be comparable to McCourty?

Hightower, a former first-round pick, is more financially set than the other guys staring at second contracts. Hightower was down to make $7.724M from 2012-15. The Patriots picked up his fifth-year option for 2016 which will pay him $7.75M. So he’s in position to make more than $15M by the end of the season. He’s another player who could command more than $50M in a new deal if he goes to free agency. Would he be willing to take the security of staying in New England for a deal that may not be as lucrative as what he could command on the open market?

That’s what Jerod Mayo did and it proved to be the right move. Mayo – who came into the league under the previous CBA that was more lucrative for rookie first-rounders – agreed to a five-year extension in December of 2011 before his fourth NFL season was up, 15 months before he would have become a free agent. The extension was worth $48.5M. Mayo wound up on season-ending IR in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and he renegotiated his deal a couple of times but there was good security built into that deal. He retired recently having made more than $42M in the NFL.

We could go on with individual situations – Malcolm Butler could reasonably expect to make more than Janoris Jenkins who signed with the Giants for $62M this offseason, but Butler’s two years from unrestricted free agency and making less than $1M in salary this year; Jabaal Sheard needed to prove himself after a slow start to his career in Cleveland led him to a the two-year, $11M deal he signed with the Patriots. He’s en route to doing that and is – thanks to signing that short-term deal – in line to get another crack to cash in while in his prime.

And nobody should begrudge these players for doing so. We all know by now the future physical peril they put themselves in and we will never run out of stories related to young men who blew their money thinking it would never dry up. The players owe it to themselves and their families to make sure they are compensated as well as they can be.

Belichick, Caserio and the Krafts are aware of that too. Their chore is to do right by as many of these guys as they can against a hard salary cap and make sure the team isn’t mortgaged to its eyeballs.

It’s as complex a contractual puzzle as I can recall.