Tom Brady talks award, Super QBs

DALLAS -- In an interview on NFL Network, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady commented on winning the Associated Press Offensive Player of the Year award, his recent foot surgery, the Patriots' offense, leadership and what he likes about Super Bowl quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers.

Here is the Q&A from the interview with Fran Charles and Steve Mariucci:

What does winning Offensive Player of the Year mean to you?

“I appreciate it. I think obviously we had a great regular season as a team, but we just didn’t really take advantage of our opportunity there in the month of January. The two teams that are there playing this week certainly have earned it. They should be very proud. It’s going to be a great game.”

Early in the season, the Patriots traded away Randy Moss and conventional wisdom was that you would no longer be able to stretch the field. But you finished up the [regular] season beautifully, going the last 11 [regular-season] games without throwing an interception. What was the difference for you during the second half of the season, which allowed the Patriots offense to take off?

“It’s definitely a collective effort by the group of skill players that we have and the offensive line. I think when you trade away a talent like that, a guy who is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, other guys have to step in and do their job and fill the void – a big void [left] by a great player. BenJarvus [Green-Ellis] rushed for 1,000 yards. Danny Woodhead made up for the loss of Kevin Faulk. Kevin was one of the best players that we’ve ever had on the team; Danny stepped in and played a great role for us. The group of receivers, with Deion [Branch] and Wes [Welker], and Julian Edelman and Brandon Tate, they did an incredible job, really committing themselves to the passing game -- that we were going to do whatever we needed to do to get the ball in the end zone. Obviously, the tight end position, with two young tight ends – Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, and with Alge [Crumpler], we had a great group of skill players. It was a lot of fun each week trying to find different ways to utilize all of those guys so that we can go into the game feeling really good, feeling prepared, with the game-plan [and] understanding that if we just went out and executed well that we were going to score some points.”

You mentioned those young tight ends, but you were young on the other side of the ball as well. When you won those Super Bowls, you were a leader on the team as a quarterback, but you had some leadership help on defense with some veterans. Now, you’re such a young team, and you seem to take on the responsibility of the entire team. Is that an additional responsibility that you welcome, because it seemed to be a little different than those Super Bowl years?

“It’s a privilege. I wouldn’t say it’s as much a responsibility to have that type of role on the team, where the coach really trusts you, where the players can elect you as a captain on the team. It’s something that’s the greatest award you can have as a player – the respect of your teammates and the respect of your coaches. I really relish that. That’s something about playing quarterback that I’ve always really enjoyed. Along with myself and Jerod Mayo and Alge Crumpler and Vince Wilfork and Kevin Faulk, it was a great group [of captains]. I think all those young players really did rely on the veteran leadership and the captains to guide us over the course of the season. The young players really responded and now those guys will be called upon next year by the younger guys to lead them. That’s what happens with the turnover in the league – you lose Willie McGinest and Ty Law and Tedy Bruschi and Lawyer Milloy and Rodney Harrison, all these great players that I’ve had a chance to play with and learn from most importantly – and now I’m in a position where I try to convey that message to younger players. It’s something I take very, very seriously.”

The two quarterbacks who will be competing in the Super Bowl – Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger – if there was a little something you could take away from their game and implement it into yours, what would it be for both?

“There would be a lot of things. Those are two of the best quarterbacks in the league. They’re both excellent players; I had a chance to play against Ben [Roethlisberger] this year and we played the Packers but Aaron [Rodgers] unfortunately couldn’t play that day. From watching him on film quite a bit this season, he really had a remarkable season of his own. They’re two players who are really accurate passers, especially on the run. That’s something that is extremely hard to do, to make good decisions out of the pocket. I find that’s always challenging for me, when things don’t go like you practice them, what kind of decision-making can you use out there? I think both those guys, some of their strongest attributes are what they’re able to do when they’re moving around and buying time and allowing their guys more time to get open. Both guys really feed off that. They’re great players, and like I said, they’ve led their teams to this game and I’m happy for them both.”