With uncertain schedule, Brady returns to familiar territory


With uncertain schedule, Brady returns to familiar territory

By Danny Picard

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady wasn't present at the start of Tuesday's practice, but the angst level in Patriots Nation -- so high two weeks ago when Brady missed his first practice -- is non-existent. After all, the Patriots' quarterback has missed the last two Wednesdays and still played, and played well, in the next game.

More of a concern is the fact that the team's preparation schedule is all over the place with only three days between Sunday's win over the Colts and Thursday's Thanksgiving Day matchup against the Lions. Brady even pushed up his day to speak to the media in this compressed week.

"I think it has its physical challenges and its mental challenges," Brady said of the short week. "We got after it pretty good yesterday. No one is really sure what day it is around here. It doesn't feel like a Tuesday, I'll tell you that. But as football players, we adjust. We do what we've got to do. We put a lot of installation in and try to understand what they do well, and what they don't do so well, and try to go out there and execute well on game day."

Brady pounded home the notion that coach Bill Belichick doesn't allow for any type of psychological letdowns. And the Pats -- a couple of of them, at least -- have been through this before; they defeated the Lions, 20-12, on Thanksgiving Day in 2002.

"It was a very inconsistent day on offense," Brady remembered. "Tedy Bruschi had an interception return for a touchdown. I hit Troy Brown on a late third down that helped seal the game, but other than that, we didn't do much offensively.

"You've got to get up, ready and early. It's an early game, earlier than we normally play 12:30 p.m. instead of 1 p.m., and it's about 48 hours away, so we've got to really get excited for the game and understand what we're going into."

The good thing is, the Lions have to deal with just as quick a turnaround as the Patriots do. They're just able to do it without much travel.

But going to Detroit isn't entirely foreign territory for Brady. His days playing at the University of Michigan always bring back positive memories.

"I think it was very rewarding for me," said Brady on his time as a Wolverine. "I had so many great friends and coaches over the years. It's a very tough football program and I think our head coach, Lloyd Carr really demanded the best out of us every day in practice, very much along the lines of what Coach Belichick does. That taught me about competition and what it means to be a leader.

"That was always a big thing we talked about at Michigan, was our leadership and our effort and our toughness. That definitely prepared me for playing for Coach Belichick. It's a great school, and it's always fun going back there and seeing a lot of my old friends."

Brady admitted that he couldn't play in Michigan's current system, under coach Rich Rodriguez, who utilizes quarterback Denard Robinson as more of a "wildcat" type QB.

"I'm the slowest guy out there on the field, so, yeah, it's a little different watching them now," said Brady. "Whatever it takes to beat Ohio State, not that we've done that very often lately, but hopefully it's our year."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard

Vikings hold off Lions 30-23 to extend win streak to 7


Vikings hold off Lions 30-23 to extend win streak to 7

DETROIT = Case Keenum threw for two touchdowns and ran for a score in the first half to give the Minnesota Vikings a double-digit lead and they went on to win a seventh straight game, 30-23 over the Lions in the traditional Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit. Click here to read more. 

Pats can find reasons for thanks everywhere

Pats can find reasons for thanks everywhere

The Patriots hit Thanksgiving with an 8-2 record, a stranglehold on first place in the AFC East, and a rest-of-the-season schedule -- save for the much-anticipated meeting with the Steelers on Dec. 17 -- almost bereft of quality opponents. So they have a lot to be thankful for.

But here are some things you may not be aware of . . . 


Whoever came up with the stuff Tom Brady's resistance bands are made out of -- it's actually "surgical-grade dipped latex tubing sheathed in ballistic nylon," according to the TB12 website -- probably deserves a tip of the cap from the entire region. The 40-year-old uses the bands extensively as part of his training regimen, and he currently leads the league in passing yards, yards per attempt, quarterback rating, rating under pressure and touchdown-to-interception ratio. 


Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia was retired just a couple of years ago. He traveled. He spent time with his grandchildren. Then the Patriots called. After some time to think about it -- and after talking it over with his wife Susan -- Scarnecchia opted to come back after two years away from the game. At 69 years old, he's helped this year's unit overcome some early-season struggles, and he still seems to be on top of his game. Think the Patriots are happy he had his wife's blessing to jump back in? 


You weren't expecting this, were you? Bill Belichick has said he's not a fan . . . but that's on game days. "I’m done with the tablets," he said last year. "I’ve given them as much time as I can give them. They’re just too undependable for me." But when it comes to players using tablets on their own time? They're incredibly useful. Whereas years ago players would have to come into the facility early or stay late in order to watch extra film, now they can study from the comfort of their own homes, on a team flight, or while riding in a car (as long as they aren't driving). For teams that have players who want to be over-prepared, having access to all-22 video at any time can be an advantage. 


Who's this, you ask? He's the Los Angeles-based back specialist who operated on Rob Gronkowski's back last year. He operated on the big tight end in 2009 and 2013, and his latest procedure seems to be holding up as well as possible. Gronkowski quickly regained his strength and athleticism, and he continues to be his team's most dynamic offensive weapon. He has 41 catches for 619 yards and five scores this season, and he's been used extensively as a blocker in the running game and in pass protection. Gronkowski deserves credit -- as does the Patriots medical, training and nutrition staffs -- for being so effective in his return to the field, but the Patriots are probably thankful that last year's back surgery went as well as it did.  


Trey Flowers has been arguably his team's most dependable defender this season. According to Pro Football Focus, he's been on the field for 606 snaps, which is fourth among edge defenders. His 338 pass-rush snaps are second among 4-3 defensive ends, per PFF. He's played through injury at times, and he's remained productive. Against the Raiders he had three quarterback hits and three hurries. So why would the Patriots be thankful for Flowers Construction Co.? That's the Huntsville, Alabama company run by Flowers' father, Robert, who put Trey to work when he was growing up. The work ethic he learned on-site has helped him go from a fourth-round pick who lost most of his rookie season to injury into a playing-time iron man and one of the team's most reliable defenders.