Quarterback Tom Brady reiterated Wednesday that he thought last year's New England Patriots team was not mentally tough and, looking back, indicated there was a "lack of trust, lack of confidence" within the team.
The Patriots' struggles in the second half of games in 2009 were well chronicled. Of their six losses, they were leading at the half in four of them and tied in another. The Patriots were outscored 94-38 in the second half of their six losses. In addition to their second-half struggles, the Patriots were just 2-6 on the road.
"When it comes down to it, games that we lose in the fourth quarter, games that we lose in the second half, or losing on the road like we did, that can be lack of trust, lack of confidence," Brady said in an interview on Boston sports radio station WEEI on Wednesday morning. "There are a lot of issues you have when that repeats itself time and time again over the course of the season."
The Patriots' up-and-down 2009 season was punctuated by a 33-14 blowout loss to the Ravens in the divisional playoffs. Brady threw four interceptions in the game and the Patriots fell behind 24-0 in the first quarter.
The season also featured some locker room turmoil, with four players -- Randy Moss, Derrick Burgess, Gary Guyton and Adalius Thomas -- all being sent home for arriving late to a team meeting in the middle of a snowstorm in December.
The Patriots lost key veterans on defense -- Tedy Bruschi (retirement), Rodney Harrison (retirement), Mike Vrabel (trade) and Richard Seymour (trade) -- prior to the 2009 season and seemed to be searching for leadership all season.
"Coach [Bill Belichick] always used the words 'mentally tough' to us. I always agree with him. When the going got tough, we didn't get going. We weren't really a mentally tough team last year. I think that's been a big point of emphasis this offseason. Hopefully we find ways to address it with each other and also with Coach bringing in different players and to see if they can bring a little bit of that to our team."
Brady recounted a recent conversation with new Patriots wide receiver Torry Holt to help make his point about the importance of team unity.
"We were talking about some of the Rams teams he played on and he said, 'You know, we just had a lot of great guys on the team,' " Brady said. "My comment to him was that 'to me, that's the only way.' Playing with a bunch of guys that you really don't enjoy spending time with, that doesn't last very long."
Early in his career, Brady earned accolades for being one of the team's hardest workers in the offseason, traditionally winning a coveted parking spot in recognition of his diligence in working out with the team. The last couple offseasons, however, Brady has worked out away from the team as his family grows (he has two sons) and priorities change.
When asked by WEEI's "Dennis and Callahan" program about how he reconciles his life as a football player and father versus the time when he was just a football player, he said that while it was hard to be away from the team, he doesn't regret it and indicated he is still working hard to get ready for the upcoming season.
"It's something that is tough for me, because of part of being a great player, quarterback and leader is participating," Brady said. "There is obviously a little bit of a conflict when I'm not able to be here like I once was. I was pretty much here every workout.
"Now I'm here for significantly less than that. ... I have a son that lives out in L.A., and I don't think I'll regret spending the time with him. He was born in August of 2007 and I didn't really get to see him much for the first six months of his life. There are some months there in the offseason that are a really important time for me. He's not going to remember much of it, but I sure will. I'm still doing what I need to do to be ready, there is no doubt about that."
Brady also said he was excited about the team's offseason additions, in particular at the receiver position, where the Patriots signed free agents Holt and David Patten, who played with Brady from 2001-2004. Brady also noted that receiver Brandon Tate, a 2009 third-round draft choice, "has had a great offseason" after missing all but two games of his rookie year with injuries.
The Patriots quarterback also told WEEI he felt bad for Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning after the Colts' Super Bowl loss; Manning threw a late-game interception that was returned by the Saints for a score, sealing their victory.
"I like Peyton a lot. He's a guy I've watched over the years and just always admired the way that he plays. His style of play is very much my style of play, so I can understand what he's looking at and why he's doing the things he's doing. ... I don't know what happened between he and Reggie [Wayne] there at the end, but I couldn't imagine that Peyton thought he would stop running the route either. Reggie is a great player and obviously there was just a miscommunication between the two of them which happens when you have little option routes like it looks like they had there. ... I felt bad because I never like seeing that happen to a quarterback, because I know how that feels. It feels pretty [expletive], especially to have it happen in a Super Bowl."
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.