FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. Quarterback Tom Brady had his personal throwing coach, Tom House, in town last week to fine-tune and sharpen his fundamentals entering the playoffs. They worked in the Empower Fieldhouse and Brady relayed that it was standard operating procedure for him.
To some teammates, Brady's attention to detail in that area is one notable example of what makes him great.
"Michael Jordan is my favorite athlete of all time, because of how great he always wanted to be. Tom is the football Michael Jordan. He has that mindset," receiver Phillip Dorsett said. "That's something that I've always liked about him -- he wants to be great. It's the work you put in that makes you great."
Dorsett said he can't think of another player who focuses more on fundamentals than Brady.
Backup quarterback Brian Hoyer agreed.
"Being around it makes you a better quarterback," Hoyer said. "You watch what he does and how focused he is with fundamentals -- front foot, shoulders, eyes, all those things. I remember going back to my first stint here (2009-2011) and I felt like I became such a better fundamental passer just by watching him and doing the same drills. He's obsessed with it."
In some ways, Brady's focus on fundamentals is similar to a golfer and the repetition of a swing. But one notable difference he has pointed out is that quarterbacks are often under duress, so the challenge is being able to rely on fundamentals in those situations.
There's no better time for such a fundamental tune-up than leading into the playoffs.
2. When Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr opined that his team might be the most scrutinized in NBA history after the sharp reaction to a Christmas Day home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, it sparked a thought closer to home: Just as the Warriors have raised the bar high, so too have the Patriots in football. For an even longer period of time. The mental fortitude of the franchise is one of its most impressive attributes, which was referenced, in part, by Brady a few days ago.
3. Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers has put himself in good position to earn a nice free-agent contract in the offseason, and I see some similarities between his situation and linebacker Dont'a Hightower's from two years ago. Flowers should have suitors willing to pay up for him, the way Hightower did, but my sense is that because he isn't a traditional speed-rushing defensive end, his value on the open market will be harder to pin down. In 2016, Hightower explored the open market before ultimately returning. It wouldn't surprise me if Flowers' experience ultimately has some similarities.
4. Although there's always a chance for things to change depending on how deep the Patriots play into the postseason, the sense I get is that it's highly unlikely second-year tight end Jacob Hollister (hamstring) will be healthy enough to be an option for the coaching staff this postseason. Hollister was hardly moving at practice -- with practice-squad tight end Stephen Anderson taking reps before him in individual drills.
5. Patriots safety Patrick Chung kept his word all season. After meeting 10-year-old Jack Berry of Montana at training camp, and promising that he would wear a "Jack Strong" band as long as possible to support his cancer treatment, the band ended up being with him all year. Even better, Chung has become a friend to the Berry family, and Jack's diagnosis continues to improve.
In August, Patrick Chung (pic at left) promised Jack Berry he would wear his "Jack Strong" band as long as it would last. Today, I noticed it was still on Chung's wrist (pic at right). Neat story. Also, most importantly, great to hear of Jack's continued progress. pic.twitter.com/79G7GZl9JO— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) January 3, 2019
6. It was great news for former Patriots defensive tackle Richard Seymour to break through as a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the first time, while cornerback Ty Law is in the final 15 for the third straight year. I think a crowded field looks like their biggest obstacle for enshrinement, as safety Ed Reed, tight end Tony Gonzalez and cornerback Champ Bailey are finalists in their first year of eligibility, which speaks to how strongly their candidacies are viewed. If they all get in, that would leave only two other spots for Seymour and Law to vie for with 10 other finalists.
7. Did you know: The Patriots will extend their own NFL record by hosting a divisional-round playoff game for the ninth straight season. The Dolphins are second, with five straight from 1981 to 1985.
8. One fun leftover from Sunday's Patriots-Jets season finale: As the clock was winding down, and retiring referee Walt Coleman was standing near the Patriots' huddle, left guard Joe Thuney struck up a conversation in which he asked Coleman how much he remembered about his first game. Coleman didn't hesitate as he began talking about that day in 1989 at Soldier Field, when he was a line judge in the Bears' victory over the Bengals. In hearing him retell the story, Patriots players said they gained an appreciation for Coleman's time in the NFL, especially how he kept himself in shape to keep up with the increasing pace of play over the years.
9a. From the financial side: Since players' salaries are paid only in the regular season, they each get paid a share for participating in the playoffs. A player on a division-winning team playing in the wild-card round gets $29,000, and non-division winners in the wild-card round get $27,000. Those in the divisional round get $29,000, and players advancing to the conference championship get $54,000. Then those on the winning team in the Super Bowl earn $118,000, and those on the losing team get $59,000. So for the Patriots, that means players would get paid $201,000 for a run to a Super Bowl title.
9b. From the financial side, Part II: The Pro Bowl might be a meaningless game, but players who win still get $67,000, and those on the losing team get $34,000 each.
10. The Patriots have not filled the final spot on the 10-man practice squad since releasing offensive lineman Toby Weathersby on Dec. 23, and that seems to be a reflection of two things: There obviously isn't a player they truly feel they need/want to sign at this point, and the club's practices at this time of year are being scaled back from an intensity/workload level so they don't have a major need for another practice player. Overall, coach Bill Belichick has noted how rest can be especially important at this time of year.