Brady on playoffs: You never take it for granted

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Brady on playoffs: You never take it for granted

FOXBORO -- Ten years have passed since a joyfully overwhelmed Tom Brady first hoisted a Lombardi Trophy above his head. 
He's 35-years old, now. He's also a better quarterback than in that 2001 title year. It seems Brady breaks a passing record or leapfrogs three record-holders every game he plays. A win against Houston in Sunday's Divisional Playoff would make him the winningest quarterback in NFL postseason history. 
Looking back on that first Super Bowl win, does he even recognize himself as the player he is today? 
"That was some kid, back then," Brady smiled. "You really don't quite understand what has happened or what's been accomplished until you try so many times and you don't get to accomplish those things. It's very hard to win that final game of the year. We've had a chance and lost a few. It's hard to win this Divisional Playoff game." 
He knows well enough. 
Brady has 22 playoff games, and 16 wins, under his belt heading into this weekend. 10 of those wins, including three Super Bowl championships, came in his first 10 tries. The Patriots have gone 6-6 during Brady's personal ascent. 
That one last win has been elusive. 
"The margin for error is less. You make one mistake, you're going to be watching next weekend. A lot of what we talk about in our meetings is making sure that we've got everything covered. You spend extra time talking about every little detail, every little play. And not that last week wasn't important, but the ramifications are different. We've got to be at our best."
You have to wonder how much the failure to recapture championship glory can tinge a season in retrospect. Falling just short is what makes Patriots fans cringe to look at that 16-0 banner at Gillette Stadium; not a mark of greatness, but a reminder of the ultimate letdown.  
New England has had 10 seasons with 10 or more regular season wins since 2001. The franchise has had 10 playoff berths in the last 12 years. 
But for the players, what does it matter without a title? Who starts training camp hoping to be second-best in the league? 
Brady struggled a bit in addressing the bitterness of being great enough to just barely fall short.
"I think every year -- I said to someone yesterday -- we try to win every game. It's not like I hate to use the word like that season meant nothing. There's always something to be gained from every game, every season. But at the same time I think that when you lose a game, whether it's the first game of the year or the last game of the year no one wants to be on the losing end. I think that you just put everything into it and if you win, great, you continue to move on. When you lose lose, you learn from it. Hopefully it motivates you for next year."
So maybe he doesn't quite recognize that 23-year old kid gripping 2001's Lombardi trophy. But he probably respects the hell out of him now. 
"You certainly never take it for granted; it's hard to get to this point. You've got to work pretty hard. There's a lot of teams that have worked hard, but certain things have to go your way and you've got to win a lot of games, you've got to put a lot of practice in, a lot of preparation to get to this point. It's as exciting as it is."

Morning Skate: Not a dry eye as Canucks draftee gets the call

Morning Skate: Not a dry eye as Canucks draftee gets the call

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while getting ready to check out GLOW on Netflix.

*This video of a Vancouver Canucks draft pick tearing up while watching the video of his brother celebrating him getting picked is all that is right with the NHL Draft.  

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Adrian Dater has Avs first-round pick Cale Makar talking about his hockey background, and why it doesn’t matter.

*The Calgary Flames are excited about their prospects and the pieces they were able to acquire last weekend.

*The Washington Capitals have re-signed Brett Connolly for a couple of years at short money and he appears to have found a home in DC.

*The Chicago Blackhawks are still in talks with Marian Hossa about how to resolve his contract and the allergic skin condition that might have prematurely ended his hockey career.

*Will the Tampa Bay sports go through a dry spell when it comes to Hall of Fame athletes now that former Lighting forward Dave Andreychuk has been called to the Hockey Hall?

*It looks like young Pierre Luc Dubois will be put in a position to contribute with the Columbus Blue Jackets this season.

*Alex Prewitt has a preview of the NHL free agency period and the stress levels that many players go through in it.

*For something completely different: This video of Drake and Will Ferrell hoop handshakes was pretty solid, and funny.

 

Drellich: Hanley Ramirez has to improve or Red Sox need to try others

Drellich: Hanley Ramirez has to improve or Red Sox need to try others

BOSTON — It doesn’t really matter what’s holding Hanley Ramirez back: his health, his desire to play at less-than-100 percent, neither, both. The Red Sox need him to produce more at the plate, as the designated hitter, or need to play someone who can produce more.

The suggestion of putting Ramirez on the disabled list so that his shoulders (and now, his left knee, where he was hit by a pitch Sunday) may heal is reasonable. If you can’t hit well — if you can’t even be in the lineup — why are you on the roster?

Ramirez was out for a second straight game Tuesday night. 

Flat-out benching Ramirez in favor of Chris Young or Sam Travis or both for a time makes sense too. Young will DH again Tuesday and Travis will start at first against Twins left-hander Hector Santiago. 

Try one, try all. The route to better production doesn’t matter. As long as the Sox get some, be it from Ramirez or somewhere else.

After Mitch Moreland, who’s playing with a fractured big toe on his left foot, homered and had another impactful night on Monday, Sox manager John Farrell made some comments that are hard to read as anything but a message to Ramirez.

“In his most recent stretch, he’s been able to get on top of some fastballs that have been at the top of the strike zone or above for some power obviously,” Farrell said. “But I think the way he’s gone about it given the physical condition he’s in, is a strong message to the remainder of this team.”

Tuesday is June 27. From May 27 on, Ramirez is hitting .202 with a .216 on-base percentage and .369 slugging percentage. 

In the final three months of the 2016 season, Ramirez hit .300 with a .379 OBP and .608 slugging percentage. That’s from the start of July through the end of the regular season. 

The potential for such a second-half surge is hard to ignore. The Sox need to figure out if Ramirez is healthy enough to give it to them, and if not, be willing to give someone else an extended look — be it with Ramirez on the bench or the DL.