FOXBORO - Toward the tail end of practice on Sunday, the heat, the humidity and Tom Brady's competitive edge combined. One mistake too many led to offensive lineman Donald Thomas beginning a penalty lap with some loud Brady admonitions raining down on him from behind.
It doesn't start for real this week when the Saints roll into town. But it's the beginning of the beginning of real games.
And he wants it to be right sooner rather than later.
"You take six months off, so theres quite about a bit of time between February and when we start," Brady explained. "Theres a new group and youre doing new things and the communications different thats why were practicing. You get out here in this situation and its an important situation, were working on the two-minute and you cant afford mistakes, you know all 11 of us have to be on the same page. Thats why we do the two-minute at the end of practice, because youre tired, youre drenched in sweat and thats when your concentration needs to be at its best because thats when the game is on the line."
After a dozen days of practices, it's good to hear talk of "games" and not perfecting fundamentals and "just getting better every day."
It's an indication that the urgency of inter-team competition is about to take over.
Brady wouldn't go so far as to say he's looking forward to the Saints practices and preseason game as a measuring stick, though. It is, it seems, all about how the Patriots perform. The opponent is irrelevant.
"Well see how it goes," he said of the Saints practices, which begin Tuesday. "I think weve done it before, so hopefully we can get a lot out of it. Theyre the Saints a very good team. Its fun to have a game week and weve been trying to string practices together. Weve had some good ones, weve had some ones that havent been great and you try to learn from your mistakes and come back and not repeat them. So now you get to see a different set of defenses, opponents, matchups and personnel and were going to see where were at."
With the reduced amount of on-field practice time under the new CBA, there's been an adjustment in terms of preparation.
Brady addressed that, saying, "There hasnt been as much on-the-field work, but youve got to take advantage when youre on the field. Everyones really at the same spot. Were all playing by the same set of rules. Whoever maximizes their time on the field, their time on the walkthrough, is going to have an advantage. I think our coaches put a lot of emphasis on the walkthroughs and in the meeting rooms. Certainly when we get on the field were not expected to come out here and make a bunch of mistakes; because were only coming out here once a day weve got to bring the intensity and weve got to get things right."
And bringing his intensity is a priority.
"As an older player its not like I have to study my playbook a ton," he pointed out. "I mean I know what were doing, I know why were doing it and I know the calls. Its more mentally making sure that you bring emotion and energy and making sure that you have the enthusiasm and the execution is good.
"Everyone is working on something. Its not like you can just go through the motions out here or else you dont improve. Im competing just like everybody else. Im competing for my role and my spot and trying to be a good leader and trying to set a good example as a quarterback. I think thats my challenge: to come out here every day and bring everything that I have to try to make us a better team. "