Brady goes long on being with Pats

826707.jpg

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."

What will it be like when Goodell shows up in Foxboro?

What will it be like when Goodell shows up in Foxboro?

Tom E. Curran in the Cumberland Farms lounge joins Sports Tonight to discuss what he thinks it will be like when Roger Goodell attends the Patriots home opener on September 7.

Burkhead's former running backs coach: 'He's going to flourish' with Patriots

ap_16347043823461.jpg

Burkhead's former running backs coach: 'He's going to flourish' with Patriots

PHOENIX -- Rex Burkhead was buried on a deep running back depth chart in Cincinnati, but in New England he may finally have a chance to show his offensive value. That's how Burkhead's former running backs coach and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson feels, at least.

Before he was hired as Browns head coach last season, Jackson worked closely with Burkhead for three years and saw the 5-foot-10, 210-pounder's versatile skill set on a daily basis. With the Patriots, under Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels, Jackson believes Burkhead has a chance to see that skill set maximized. 

"He's very talented," Jackson said during the league meetings at the Arizona Biltmore. "He's a guy that was playing behind some very talented players [with the Bengals], and so he's going to get his opportunity now, and he's going to flourish. He's a really good player. A really good player.

"He's very versatile because he's a good runner, a good pass-catcher. He's a good blocker. He's very bright. He's been a sensational special teams player there so he brings a lot of different elements to that football team."

The Patriots signed Burkhead to a one-year deal earlier this offseason that could pay him more than $3 million -- a sign that they're hoping he'll factor heavily into the offense in 2017. With LeGarrette Blount still on the free-agent market, Burkhead is currently the biggest back on the Patriots roster alongside Dion Lewis, James White and DJ Foster, and he could be in line for a significant amount of work in short-yardage situations and on first and second down.

Burkhead served primarily as a special-teamer during his four-year career in Cincinnati, but in Week 17 of last season, because of injuries to his teammates at the position, he was the Bengals lead back and ran 27 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns. We took a closer look at the qualities he put on display that day right here

It was a performance that gave Burkhead's profile a where-did-that-come-from type of boost as he headed toward unrestricted free agency, but his head coach at the time wasn't surprised.

"Not at all. That's why we drafted him," said Bengals sideline boss Marvin Lewis, who went on to explain why Burkhead was an inconsistent offensive contributor leading up to that game.

"A lot of times when Rex got opportunities to play, he wasn't quite 100 percent and so that kind of limited him some. Even in preseason opportunities and so forth like that where you'd go into the game, and it'd be Rex's -- in my mind, Rex's ballgame -- to carry the ball in the first or second quarter and he wasn't able to suit up that day.

"That's one of the things he's battled over his career is just being 100 percent completely healthy. [But] he's just a hard-working guy who always wants to be out there."

And in New England, it looks like he'll have the chance to be out there more.