Brady lauds Luck's impressive rookie season

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Brady lauds Luck's impressive rookie season

FOXBORO -- It's hard to believe Andrew Luck is a rookie. Especially for Tom Brady.

By now, we all know how Brady describes his rookie season.

"I was like fourth-string and eating nachos before the game in the stands," he said after Thursday's practice, when asked about Luck's first NFL season.

It's a recycled line that Brady has used when comparing his rookie season to another's.

But it's true. Compared to what Luck has done this year -- 10 passing touchdowns, 5 rushing touchdowns, and 2,631 yards in the air -- Brady might as well have been eating nachos in the stands. But that was because Brady only appeared in one game during his rookie season in 2000-01. He went 1-for-3 for six yards.

Brady didn't want to get into comparing a potential rivalry with Andrew Luck to his former Indianapolis Colts rivalry with Peyton Manning, on Thursday.

"My focus has been on what that defense does," said Brady when asked about the old rivalry with Manning. "Its always the Colts defense and its always centered around two players and those two guys are still there. Thats really the challenge for us this week, is trying to figure out how to block that entire front. There are a lot of different looks from the last time we played them, trying to understand the scheme and how theyre doing things but theyre good and they really rush the passer and thats a big challenge."

But as much as Brady would like to end the "Colts rivalry" talk, there's no hiding from reality. And that reality is that Manning is now in Denver. And his replacement has already left his impression on the league.

So Brady did spend a few moments, on Thursday, reminiscing about the first time he met Manning. It was Brady's second season, and just his first full season, in 2001-02.

By that point in time, Manning was already a two-time Pro Bowler, and had been to the playoffs twice in his fourth full season.

Manning, the veteran. Meet Brady, the new guy.

"Yeah, I remember I was out there warming up for the game and he came over and he said, Hey Tom, Im Peyton,' " recalled Brady.

But Brady hinted towards not making such a gesture before the two teams play on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

"I dont know," said Brady. "Well see. Usually I dont go out to the field too early anymore. I tend to just keep to myself."

So while Luck probably shouldn't expect the same treatment that Manning gave Brady back in 2001, the Colts' rookie quarterback should still realize that the Patriots' veteran quarterback respects the success he's having this early in his career.

"I always admire those rookies who can do it because it is such a challenge, whether youre a defensive end like Chandler Jones, or Donta Hightower or Andrew Luck or any of these rookies who really play a big role for a certain team," said Brady. "Its a real credit to them and their ability to transition and focus on all these new things that have really come about and go out there and play well.

"I had quite a few -- 18 months -- to develop camaraderie with the guys that I played with, and it was a lot of time and practice and extra coaching sessions and so forth. For those rookies, coming right from college to this position, is very challenging."

Horford admits he was 'very emotional' after 'special' win

Horford admits he was 'very emotional' after 'special' win

CLEVELAND – For about 30 or so seconds following Boston’s 111-108 Game 3 win over Cleveland, Al Horford was not Al Horford.

He’s a passionate player, but seldom is it on display in as outwardly a fashion as it was following their Game 3 victory.

In an interview with CSN’s Abby Chin after the game, Horford tried to put into words what the victory meant.

But the aggressive high-fives to teammates passing him by, the intense way he looked into the camera … that spoke volumes about what this game meant to the veteran big man.

“It’s big, it’s big!” Horford said in between high-fives with Jonas Jerebko and other Celtics who came past him.

“A lot of people doubting us out there!” Horford said, staring intently into the camera as if he was saying, ‘yeah, I’m talking about you!’”

Less than 24 hours after the game, Horford’s emotions had cooled down considerably.

“It was an emotional game,” he told CSN following a short practice at the Q Arena on Monday. “Just, having to hear … since the blowout, everybody counting us out. Everybody really believing that it was over.”

The Celtics came into Game 3 having lost both Games 1 and 2 at home by a combined 57 points which includes the worst playoff loss (Game 2, 130-86) in franchise history.

So with that as the backdrop, knowing full well that no one outside of their locker room gave them an ice cube in hell’s chance at winning Game 3, the victory brought about a level of satisfaction that Celtics players had seldom experienced before if at all.

“The emotions at that time were high for our group,” Horford admitted. “And it shows what we’ve been talking about all year, a resilient group that has a lot of fight in them. We were hit with some adversity with Isaiah being down but our group responded.”

Thomas re-aggravated a right hip injury in Game 2, and was later ruled out for the rest of the playoffs. 

After falling behind 77-56 in the third quarter, the Celtics closed out the third with a 26-10 run to come within 87-82 going into the fourth quarter. During the run, Marcus Smart had 11 points which turned out to be equal to LeBron James’ scoring output … for the entire game.

This is Horford's 10th NBA season, all of which have included a trip to the postseason.

That, combined with having won a pair of national championships when he played at the University of Florida, serves as a reminder that the 30-year-old has been on the winning ledger of big games before.

But even he acknowledged Sunday’s Game 3 win was … different.

“I have had plenty of moments like this,” Horford said. “But this was definitely emotional. This was very emotional, exciting, on the road, no one really giving us any chance. To be able to come through like that, it just felt great. I’ve been part of emotional wins, but this one was a special one.”

That was evident in Horford’s energy-charged, post-game comments.

“Heart! Heart! This team got heart!” he yelled. “We got beat bad (in Game 2), but it’s all about how you rebound!”

And we get that message, loud and clear!

'Ecstatic' Thomas was with Celtics teammates via FaceTime after Game 3 win

'Ecstatic' Thomas was with Celtics teammates via FaceTime after Game 3 win

CLEVELAND – Gone but definitely not forgotten.

Isaiah Thomas, out for the rest of the playoffs with a right hip injury, wasn’t in the Q Arena physically, but his presence – and his face via FaceTime – were inside the locker room in the initial moments following their 111-108 Game 3 win over Cleveland.

“We called him right after the game,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley. “He got to celebrate with us a little bit. It’s sad that he’s not here. We wish he was here with us. We just want him to get better.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens added, “I didn’t even realize that had happened until later on. one of my first text messages was from Isaiah.  He’s hurting not being out there but he’s completely invested, for sure.”

He initially suffered the injury on March 15 at Minnesota, but re-aggravated it in the first half of Boston’s Game 2 loss to the Cavs. Less than 24 hours later, Thomas was deemed out for the remainder of the playoffs.

Instead of Thomas being the rock of sorts that the Celtics lean on with his play, he has become their rallying cry for the remainder of the playoffs.

“All we can do is play hard for him,” Bradley said. “He was excited with the way we played. We’re a family. Other guys got an opportunity to step up for us. Marcus (Smart) had a big game for us. It could be somebody else next game.”

Smart led the Celtics with a career-high 27 points which included a career-best seven 3’s going down.

And most important, the Celtics avoided going down 3-0 which would have all but sealed their fate in this series considering no team in league history has ever come back for a 3-0 series deficit.

Doing so without Thomas, the Celtics’ leading scorer and the top regular season scorer in the Eastern Conference, made the win all that more impressive for Boston.

“It meant a lot,” Horford said. “We know, Isaiah gives us so much and gave us so much this year. For him, we definitely wanted to come out and fight for him and our season and our team. It felt good to keep believing despite being down big. Just felt good to win the game and bring life back to our locker room. Because going down 3-0, that’s a death sentence pretty much. This was big.”

Not only to the Celtics players but also to Thomas who also texted head coach Brad Stevens full of excitement following Boston’s surprising win.

“He was excited,” Horford recalled. “He was ecstatic. I know he wishes he was here being part of it. We just need to keep doing it for him and our group and doing the best we can.”