Patriots

Brady appreciates Gronkowski changing his diet: 'Hopefully it really pays off for him'

Brady appreciates Gronkowski changing his diet: 'Hopefully it really pays off for him'

FOXBORO -- No one would blame you if you rolled your eyes when resident Patriots party boy Rob Gronkowski discussed how he was taking on Tom Brady's dietary plan and training regimen in the hopes of staying healthy this season and beyond. 

But Brady says that his favorite tight end has worked hard this offseason to take care of his body by doing some of the same things Brady does.

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"I've talked to a lot of different players, and Gronk's really worked hard," Brady said on Friday. "He's gotten older, and I'm proud of him for the effort that he's put in this offseason. He always puts in a lot of effort. He's got a great work ethic. Hopefully it really pays off for him.

"It's a contact sport and you've got to prepare yourself for what we're about to face. We put ourselves in harm's way a lot. To me, you've gotta be proactive about how you condition your body to be prepared for that. He's done a great job of that, as have a lot of guys. Hopefully we can make it a great season."

Brady said that his diet and training style has allowed him to maintain his health even after 17 years of football. "I don't wake up in pain," he said, and he hopes to continue to share his methods with interested players to help them sustain peak performance.

"Hopefully I can share that with a lot of people," he explained. "It'd be great to pass on that wisdom. I feel that's part of my responsibility to do that for other players when they want to seek the same thing. It's been a really enjoyable part of my career."

For Gronkowski in particular, there's a lot riding on his ability to stay healthy in 2017. As part of a restructured deal, he could earn up to $10.75 million this season should he play 90 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done once before in his career), or make 80 catches (which he's done twice), or gain 1,200 yards receiving (once), or be named an All-Pro (three times).

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EX-PATS PODCAST: How Belichick the perfectionist will find flaws in win vs. Raiders

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EX-PATS PODCAST: How Belichick the perfectionist will find flaws in win vs. Raiders

0:55 - Patriots playing great as they stream roll the Raiders but Koppen explains that Belichick will knock them down as he strives for perfection. Also talk about how it takes a couple months into the season for the coaches and players to learn each other again.

5:40 - Stephon Gilmore playing excellent lined up against Michael Crabtree. Malcolm Butler bounces back but gives up the only score to Amari Cooper. Koppen suggest Butler’s contract situation might be affecting his play. 

7:50 - All in on the Patriots defense yet? Giardi and Koppen discuss the defensive play and the upcoming offenses the Patriots will be facing.

10:30 - Dan Koppen talks about job security in the NFL and if he ever worried about somebody else taking his job, and the cutthroat nature of the Patriots. 

13:50 - Tom Brady picking apart the Raiders and Jack Del Rio’s defenses throughout his career. 

17:45 - A debate about Patriots backup quarterbacks and if Matt Cassel was actually a good NFL QB. 

21:20 - A few game notes: Rex Burkhead’s fumble vs. the Raiders, LaAdrian Waddle filling in for Marcus Cannon. 

Speed to burn: Cooks, Brady team up to form most productive deep-ball combo

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Speed to burn: Cooks, Brady team up to form most productive deep-ball combo

The first came in the second quarter, when Brandin Cooks turned on afterburners to beat a Raiders double team and glide underneath a Tom Brady heave for 52 yards. The second came in the third quarter, on the third play from scrimmage of the second half, when Cooks faked an out-route, jetted past rookie corner Obi Melifonwu, and sped into the end zone to make the score 24-0. 

Both deep completions in New England's 33-8 win over Oakland just added to cumulative effect that Cooks has had on the Patriots offense since arriving before the season to become their top deep threat. 

Paired with Brady, Cooks has actually become the most productive deep threat in the NFL. 

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According to Pro Football Focus, Cooks leads all receivers with 431 yards on deep passes (throws that travel 20 yards or more down the field). In second place is Houston's DeAndre Hopkins with 313 yards. 

And Brady, who has long been more effective in the short-to-intermediate range than he has been deep, is now among the league leaders in creating explosive plays from the quarterback position. The Patriots are third in the NFL with 41 pass plays of 20 yards or more, and they are tied for second with nine plays of 40 yards or more. 

"You're always trying to work on that," Brady told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show of his team's deep passing game. "It's not one particular year [you work on it]. I think that's been a concerted effort by our entire offense, trying to make more explosive plays in the pass game. 

"Sometimes your offense is built differently. We actually have some guys now that can really get down the field so that becomes more of a point of emphasis. The way Brandin runs, the way that Chris Hogan runs, the way that Phillip Dorsett runs, they're very fast. You need to be able to take advantage of their skill set . . . 

"When we had David Patten we were throwing it deep. I mean, but David Patten didn't run a lot of short routes. I would say Brandin Cooks, in general, he doesn't run a lot of short routes. Everyone has a different role. If we can get by you, I think that's a good place to throw the ball. if we can't, we gotta figure out ways to throw it underneath and different weeks are going to call for different things based on the strengths of the defenses we're playing, too."

A week before beating the Raiders, against the Broncos and their talented corners, the Patriots had less luck pushing the ball down the field -- though they tried to hit Cooks deep multiple times. In Mexico City, Cooks matched up with a weaker secondary, and he wasn't at all slowed by the altitude, catching six passes in all for 149 yards and a score. 

Per PFF, Cooks has seen almost one third of his targets (30 percent) come on deep passes, which is the ninth-highest rate in the league. He's caught all 11 of his catchable deep passes, three of them accounting for scores.

"Obviously when you're throwing the ball 50-60 yards down the field," Brady said, "your chances of completion go down, but if you hit it, it ends up being a very explosive plays and you can change a lot of field position and get a defense really on their heels if they have to defend every blade of grass on the field." 

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