FOXBORO -- It wasn't quite, "We're on to Cincinnati." But it was close.
Predictably, the focus for a good portion of Patriots coach Bill Belichick's press conference Wednesday focused on quarterback Tom Brady's return. Brady's suspension ended on Monday, and Wednesday will mark his first practice with the team since before its preseason finale.
Despite several Brady-centric questions, Belichick's message was consistent. This week isn't about rolling out the red carpet for Brady, and it's not about feeling good about going 3-1 in Brady's absence. It's about the Browns.
"Right now we're focused on Cleveland," Belichick said. "Trying to get ready to go in Cleveland. Can't do anything about what was or wasn't in the last four weeks. We're into Cleveland week, and that's all our focus is. Not worried about last week. Not worried about next week. Not worried about last year. Worried about this week against Clevland. That's it. Period. This week. Cleveland. We're focused on Cleveland this week. Period. Cleveland."
Can Belichick feel like he can finally exhale with Brady back? "Feel like we need to go out to Cleveland and play well in order to win," Belichick replied. "That's what we're going to try to do."
But what about the team's effort and intensity levels? Does Belichick think those may be raised now that Brady is back from a ban that he fought for over a year? He paried again.
"I think our team needs to prepare well this week to go out and play well against Cleveland in Cleveland," Belichick said. "That's what we need to do."
OK, well, how does Brady seem? Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said on a conference call Monday that Brady looked to be ready to go. Had Belichick seen the same?
"We'll go out and practice today and see where the whole team is," he said. "You'll have to ask Tom how he's personnally feeling. That's something I can't answer."
There must be something different about having arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play back in the building and out of the practice field. There must be some process the team has to go through to re-acclimate with Brady around, right?
"I dunno we'll just work through it," Belichick said. "We'll do the same thing we do every week. There's always players that fall into that category [of coming back after an extended absence], whatever the position is. We'll take it day by day."
Belichick added: "We'll do the same thing this Wednesday we do on every other normal Wednesday. We go out there and practice, we make the corrections, we come back in, go over some new stuff for tomorrow, for Thursday, then try to correct the things on Wednesday that need to be corrected. That's what we do."