Brady on his knee: 'Better than last Monday so I'm happy about that'

Brady on his knee: 'Better than last Monday so I'm happy about that'

Tom Brady didn't look like himself at times on Sunday. He was at his best late in the game, driving his team to a go-ahead score in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, but he admitted afterwards that there were throws that he'd like to have back. 

He was dealing with a knee injury that kept him out of two days of practice leading up to the Jets game, which may have thrown off his mechanics, but he told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan that he felt like he was progressing.

"Better than last Monday," he replied when asked how his leg felt, "so I'm happy about that."


Though Brady missed practice time, he indicated that he wasn't ever fearful that he wouldn't be able to take the field at MetLife Stadium for his team's first matchup of the season with the Jets.

"I think I'm always pretty optimistic," he said. "Playing as long as I have, I've kind of dealt with a lot of things over the years, and they're all a little different. When you want to go out there, you want to be productive and help the team win. If you don't feel like you can do that, you know, you gotta let your coaches know that. I felt like by the end of the week I could do that so I got out there and practiced Friday and tried to show everybody that I could do it. Hopefully I'll be feeling a lot better than yesterday come next Sunday."

Brady has prided himself on his dependability, and Bill Belichick praised him for that aspect of his game recently, noting that it's been important to have Brady available to the team on a consistent basis in practices as well as games. 

That's how quarterbacks can prove to their teammates that they're tough, Brady explained. It's not by throwing lead-blocks -- something he almost did on the Patriots' second offensive drive of the game on Sunday, when LeGarrette Blount reversed course and found himself running behind the 39-year-old for a 10-yard gain.

"You want to be available to your team," Brady said. "For a quarterback, it's hard to really show toughness other than being out there every play. You guys saw what happened when I got out in front of a running back. I can't do [crap]. I don't even know what to do when I'm out there. I'm looking around . . . I'm really a fish out of water when I'm out there . . . Things happen so fast. It's like you're on the highway. I'm never out there. It's a weird thing.

"[But] standing there, and making throws under pressure, and taking hits [shows toughness] . . . I've had leg injuries, I've had rib injuries, fingers, shouders, head. But I feel like I just want to put maximum effort over the course of the week to give myself a chance to play . . . I focus pretty hard on that. I've tried to be out there for my teammates every week. Hopefully they can always count on me to do that."

Brady said that he learned a great deal about playing with toughness while behind center from former Michigan teammate Brian Griese and former Patriots teammate Drew Bledsoe. Those lessons have stuck with him and helped him develop a philosophy by which he still adheres.

"The body can endure a lot if the mind is tough," he said. "If you can convince yourself you can do it, I believe 99 percent of the time you can. I always want to be out there with my teammates."

Moving forward, it sounded as though Brady was not concerned with his knee issue impacting his ability to make accurate throws. His misses on Sunday were a product of his impatience, he insisted, not anything having to do with the health of his lower-body.  

"I watched the film last night. I thought I was impatient," Brady said. "That's what I really thought I was early in the game. Just trying to get the ball out of my hand before things developed. Also, missed some balls on some overthrows. We were close on some others.

"We had [Rob Gronkowski] going up the sideline. It looked like he was kind of getting arm-barred. That would've been a touchdown. We overthrow him on a 50-yard bomb by half a yard. That could've been a touchdown.

"We had one that Malcolm had his hands on in the end zone that got broken up. That could've been a touchdown. We had one late in the game: Malcolm up the sideline that was maybe six inches too far. It's real close. We're not missing by four yards. We're just slightly missing a few of those and it could've been a little different the way we felt about the game."

Don't pigeonhole me: How will Adrian Clayborn fit into the Patriots defense?

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Don't pigeonhole me: How will Adrian Clayborn fit into the Patriots defense?

Looking for a two-word answer from Bill Belichick during a press conference? Ask him how a new addition to the roster might fit into the Patriots scheme. 

"We'll see," is Belichick's typical reply in those situations. 


We point that out here because it's hard to know exactly what any new player's role will be with the Patriots, particularly for an edge player like Adrian Clayborn. That spot in Belichick's defense can take on a variety of roles, from pass-rusher, to edge-setter, to coverage player. 

But we can take an educated guess as to how Clayborn will fit in the Patriots defense, based on what we know. That's what the Patriots did when they signed him. They saw certain skills. They saw Clayborn perform in certain situations. They made their projection. 

There's always the chance Clayborn asserts himself in a way that wasn't expected. Or maybe the way he fits with his new teammates will open his coaches' eyes in ways they weren't anticipating. But at this point, as is the case with every new addition, they're hypothesizing. So we will too. 

AGAINST THE PASS: Clayborn was, for the vast majority of his snaps, a pass-rusher for the Falcons last year. He played 631 snaps for the Falcons, which was 53.4 of their defensive snaps. Of those 631 plays, Clayborn rushed the quarterback 477 times, per Pro Football Focus (76 percent of his workload). And of those pass-rush snaps, only one came from the left side. (Clayborn was born with Erb's palsy, which means his right arm has some limitations compared to his left, which impacts the side of the field he aligns on. He played 91 percent of his snaps from the right side in 2016.)  Clayborn played over 80 percent of the snaps during each of his first three seasons in the league as a member of the Bucs so he's been a three-down player before. But recent history would suggest the 6-foot-2, 280-pounder is now more of a sub option.

Here's how Clayborn responded during a conference call on Wednesday when asked if he could chip in on first and second down for the Patriots. "I believe that’s what people have pigeon-holed me in as a third-down player, but I know I can play first, second, third down if need be," he said. "That was my role in Atlanta because that’s what they asked me to do, but I mean, I can play all three downs if you ask me."

AGAINST THE RUN: According to Pro Football Focus, Clayborn has been a negatively-graded player against the run during each of his seven seasons in the NFL. Last year he checked in as PFF's 78th-ranked run defender among edge players, which was far below the ranking Trey Flowers received (19th) but ahead of Deatrich Wise (85th) and Eric Lee (96th). During each of his last three seasons with the Falcons, he has seen his snap-counts break down similarly: about 75 percent of his work came against the pass, about 25 percent came against the run. He can defend the run. He's capable of it. He just hasn't been asked to consistently hold up on the edge on a down-in-down-out basis during the most recent phase of his career. 

THE FIT: Based on his history in Atlanta, it would make sense if the Patriots asked Clayborn to come off of the right edge in passing situations in 2018. That's where his recent experience has been. Keeping him away from the left side not only makes the most of where he's strongest, but it also keeps him from finding himself in coverage. As Belichick has explained in the past, the left end spot (Rob Ninkovich's old spot), going against right-handed quarterbacks, is typically asked to do more in coverage. The right edge has been Flowers' area in the recent past -- he played almost 65 percent of his passing-rush snaps last season off the right, per PFF -- but if the Patriots are fully-healthy up front, Flowers could kick inside to do his rushing. An ideal sub package for the Patriots, it could be argued, would have Clayborn on the right edge, Flowers and either Wise or Adam Butler on the interior, and Derek Rivers or Dont'a Hightower on the left edge. Rivers saw some work off the left side before suffering an injury in last year's training camp. Early last season, Hightower saw time on the left edge. 


Clayborn will have an opportunity to show he can do more than rush off the right side. He said on Wednesday that the Patriots have discussed multiple roles for him. (Perhaps he could rush from the interior, though he's not as long as Flowers or Wise, whose arms make them good matchups for stouter guards and tackles.) Wherever those opportunities come, Clayborn knows he'll have to make the most of them if he doesn't want to be pigeonholed. The deal for two years and $10 million he just signed in New England doesn't guarantee him myriad responsibilities.

"Whatever I can prove I can do,” he said. "I know I can rush the passer. I know I can set edge in the run. I mean, there’s a couple of different positions that they believe I can play, so it’s up to me to prove I can play them."


Ex-Patriot Ricky Jean-Francois signing with Lions

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Ex-Patriot Ricky Jean-Francois signing with Lions

Former Patriots defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois is signing with the Lions, according to Jordan Schultz of Yahoo Sports.

The 31-year-old had six tackles in six games for the Patriots in 2017. He'll reunite with ex-Patriots defensive coordinator and now Lions head coach Matt Patricia in Detroit.