By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com Staff Reporter Follow @mary_paoletti
Week 1 of the 2011 season marks Tom Brady's 12th year in the league.
The Patriots quarterback was asked Wednesday if, at this stage in his career, he ever considers his own football mortality.
"I think you realize how tough it is to win games over the years," Brady said after a pause. "I think when you're out there as a veteran player you provide the leadership for the team because you've been experienced in this program. We're hoping to go out there every year and put together a winning season. It's frustrating when we don't do that, it's frustrating when you have a bad day of practice."
More than a decade under his belt and he's griping about practice? Yes.
Nothing about the job, whether during preseason or the playoffs, becomes less important over the years. That's actually Brady's point -- that maturity means sharpening the senses and attacking the game comprehensively. But experience also equals a loss of innocence. You endure heartbreak. You lose games and you lose teammates. Sometimes you watch injuries happen and other times you feel them yourself.
"Every time you take the field it could be your last time," Brady said. "You've got to put everything you can each week in to the games. This week, who knows if it's your last week? You really don't. Maybe that perspective has helped as well.
"Injuries are certainly a part of the game. I've certainly been fortunate over the years to be able to play consistently. It's flukey things that happen out there. You sprain an ankle the wrong way you're not out there and you can't help the team win. And that's disappointing because if you're not out there helping the team, you're pretty much useless to the team."
Brady knows from experience. He missed the 2008 season after undergoing knee surgery. That battle, in combination with a lengthy game log, is why every practice is as important as every game. And, yeah, it gives Brady plenty to think about.
"Missing a whole season . . . that was as hard as can be . . . to watch. But you come back with hopefully more resiliency, little bit more mental toughness and you understand that each week you have a great gift. You got a gift to go out there and do something you really love to do. Play at a high level and ultimately help the team win."