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FOXBORO -- Tom Brady's not looking to see a specific number of snaps or throw a certain number of passes. He just wants to get into a rhythm.
That's his goal for Friday's game in Detroit. It's a pretty abstract concept, a football game's rhythm. Yet it's one of the things quarterbacks reference all the time. There's a pacing, a feeling, that takes some time to adjust to behind center. When you have it, you know it. When you don't, you're not exactly sure how long it might take.
For Brady, someone who missed the first month of last season and came back to perform at an MVP level, it probably doesn't take all that long. But the process still exists, and he's looking forward to going through it again later this week.
"For me, it’s just feeling the rhythm of the game, and it’s different than practice," he said Wednesday. "The rhythm of practice is very different, and the only way to simulate the game is to play. I can draw on a lot of experience, but it’s nice to get out there and actually do it. I mean, it was fun being out there last week. It will be, obviously, fun being out there this week, but you’re just trying to build up for one game, the start of the season in September. Everything is building toward that."
What's particularly helpful in these preseason games, Brady explained, is getting out there with new teammates to work together at a different pace. This year in particular, there are plenty of new faces surrounding Brady in the huddle between receiver Brandin Cooks, running back Rex Burkhead, tight end Dwayne Allen and others.
"Those snaps that you’re taking with new players are really important," Brady said. "It was nice to get Rex a touchdown pass [in Houston], and just for him to feel what it’s like for all us to look at another guy’s eyes in the huddle during the course of a game and saying, ‘Look, this is where we’re at. This is football. This is exactly what we’re going to be doing when the season kicks off on Thursday night.' "
FOXBORO -- Even though the games don't count yet, this is a stressful time of year for NFL teams.
It's one thing to be a coach. There are decisions to make in terms of how your team will be built. There are preparations to make for Week 1, but there are also still two preseason games ahead. That's a good number of balls in the air, or "plates spinning," as Tom E. Curran likes to say.
But to be a player, particularly a player on the fringes of what will be the 53-man active roster, is an entirely different ordeal. Veteran players could see their careers end soon. Young players could be forced to uproot and try to start anew somewhere else. Livelihoods are on the line.
Bill Belichick was asked in a press conference on Wednesday how important it is for players on the bubble not to press too much at this time of year despite that stress. But as Belichick put it, stress is simply part of the job. It's unavoidable no matter what time of year it is, which means that in a way, playing and performing under stress now might be a good indicator of how certain players will handle it down the line.
Here's Belichick's answer in full:
"I think that's a good question. It's a fair question," Belichick started. "But this is the National Football League, and there's pressure every week. There's pressure this week. There's going to be pressure in September. There's going to be pressure in October. There's going to be pressure in November. We're going to be under stress all year. Every week. And we're going to be under stress out on the field every week against every opponent. Playing in the National Football League that's what you sign up for. If you're looking for vacation weeks and weeks off or we play some Division 4 team, all that, that doesn't happen in this league. There's stress every week.
"There's stress in training camp. Yeah. There's plenty of it. There's stress on the coaching staff to get the team ready, to pick the right players. There's stress on each player to establish his role, or make the team, or play for playing time, whatever it is. There's stress on everybody, and there's stress on every team. We're not in any different situation than any other team in the league is. Every player on every one of those teams is having the same thoughts that our players are having, I'm sure. One way or the other. Either the guys who think they're on the team are trying to get ready to have a good year, or there are a lot of guys who aren't sure whether they're on or they're not or what they're role is. And there are a lot of coaches who don't know the answer to that question either. We're trying to figure it out. There is no right answer at this point. It's still a process.
"But there's pressure every week in this league so if there's too much pressure in August, there's probably going to be too much pressure in November. This is the world we live in. If you tell me a week in the National Football League when there's not pressure, I don't know when that is. Every week's a tough week. Every week's a good team. Good players, good coaches who work hard and have a lot of good things you gotta deal with. And if you don't deal with them, you're not winning that week. That's the NFL."