Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, appearing on his weekly radio interview with "Dennis & Callahan" on Boston sports radio station WEEI, discussed the difficult of seeing teammates and friends being released, the development of quarterback Ryan Mallet, his impressions of the Patriots' defense, and whether he worries at all about tight end Rob Gronkowski.
He also confirmed the news that he and wife Gisele Bundchen are expecting their second child together, due at the end of the year. Brady joked that he hopes the baby is delivered on a Tuesday, the traditional day off for players during the season.
Receiver Deion Branch, one of Brady's closest friends on the team and a trusted target, was among the players let go by the team as it finalized its 53-man roster. In days since the transaction, Branch's belongings have been spotted inside his locker, leading some to wonder whether that was a sign that his return to the team is pending in the near future.
"I have no idea. I don't know what any of that means," Brady said. "Deion's a great friend of mine. I love him, I love him as a brother, as a friend and as a teammate. I'm hoping everything always works out. He's just a great person."
And while Brady wishes well to Branch and others who are now looking for a team, he understands the primary task at hand remains preparing for the Tennessee Titans, who the Patriots will face in the regular season opener Sunday.
"There's so many great friends and guys that you've spent so much time with. And it happens every year," Brady continued. "It's a tough part of what we deal with, but my fingers are crossed for all those guys that they find a job.
"The thing is, when you see it, you realize how much you've got to focus on doing your own job. You’ve got to try to be the best teammate possible for the guys in the locker room, try to go out there and get prepared for this week 'cause ultimately, that's what our job is. The guys that are remaining, that's what you've got to do. Obviously, you have a lot of feelings and mixed emotions for those other guys, because they're great friends of ours."
Among the players remaining on the Patriots' roster is recently promoted Ryan Mallett, who has stepped into the primary reserve quarterback job with the release of Brian Hoyer. Brady says the two have recently talked about preparation and expectations.
"He's worked hard to put himself in a position where you're really close to playing," Brady said. "He and I had a great talk this week about being prepared, and the expectation that when I was in that position what I felt. He's a great guy and I've really enjoyed working with him. He's there for a reason. That's what coach's decision is, and he's there because he believes in him. I've really enjoyed working with him also."
While Brady admits that Mallett, like any quarterback, has much left to learn, he believes he is in the hands of a good tutor in offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
"Every year you’re going to learn more and more and more," he said. "And I don’t think you compare when a guy is his in second year to when he’s in his 10th year. There’s a different level of playing experience, but at the same time, he gets some great coaching. Billy [O’Brien] was a great coach for us, Josh is a phenomenal coach, so every year he’s just trying to make improvements and try to improve upon the things your coach asks you to improve upon."
Other highlights from the interview included:
* On whether the Patriots' defense has improved since last season.
“They’re always challenging to me, as far as I’m concerned. I don’t care what they were ranked last year, or rankings. We’ve got a lot of really good football players. Patrick Chung, Devon McCourty and Jerod Mayo, Vince (Wilfork), these guys can really play. This training camp, yeah they’ve been tough to go against, but I felt the same way last year too and they played some great football when they needed to over the course of last season. And there’s going to be games when the offense doesn’t play well and games where the defense doesn’t play well and games where the special teams doesn’t play that well, and we’ve got to still find a way to win and play really complementary football. I think that’s part of what we’re finding out, what kind of team we’re going to be, and I hope we go out and we score every time we touch the ball, whether that happens, I don’t know. That’s our goal on offense, regardless of what the defense does.”
* On the recent contract extensions signed by tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
"They deserve it. They’re a part of this team, and a part of the future of this team, and they’re two great guys who have contributed so much to our offense the last two years and they’re really uniquely skilled guys. Their skill sets, personalities, and they’re a lot of fun to be around, I’m hoping they put together another great year because they’re two guys who have really earned it and are fun to be with and I’ve really enjoyed playing with those guys. They’re neat guys. You develop this close relationships with these guys, I’m in so many meetings with them, and I’m really proud of them."
* On whether he is worried at all about Gronkowski after his busy and noteworthy offseason, which featured plenty of public attention.
"No I don’t worry about him. I’ve got plenty to worry about myself, I’ve got to go out here and doing my job. I’m very confident that he’s doing his and coach is taking care of what he needs to take care of."
* On adjusting to a new center to start the season (with the release of Dan Koppen, the Patriots will start a new player at center to begin the regular season for the first time since 2003).
"Everyone is little different. You’ve got to make adjustments. And we’re working to make improvements too, between myself and the other guys who are playing there. There’s been a lot of guys in there this preseason, which has been good training for us quarterbacks to try to understand the different aspects of the snap, and the snap count. Hopefully by Sunday we’ve got it all taken care of."
* On the possibility of starting the regular season with replacements officials.
"I think coach (Bill) Belichick always says, 'Do business as business is being done.' Like, sometimes the games are called tight, sometimes they let you play. No one really knows how it's going to turn out this week. You really don't know how it's going to turn out every week.
“You understand the refs that are calling the game, they have a history of calling games, so you try to study their history of what they call, and so forth. But you can have all these plans and then they say, 'Well, screw it. We're going to let 'em play.' You figure that out by midway through the first quarter, then you try to adjust the way you're playing. Because sometimes they call it tight, sometimes they don’t call it tight.
“If they’re going to call it tight, then you better watch what you’re doing in terms of line of scrimmage penalties, holding penalties. There’s some penalties they also have to call, like false starts, or defensive offsides, that are plainly obvious. The holding penalties, the illegal contact penalties or (defensive pass interference calls), stuff like that is where there is a little more decision-making involved. No one really knows how those are going to play out. You just play with your technique, and if they call it, they call it. As the game goes on, you see if you can get away with more, get away with less."
To listen to the interview in its entirety, click HERE.