Tom Brady gives Antonio Brown route-running lesson at Patriots practice

Tom Brady gives Antonio Brown route-running lesson at Patriots practice

FOXBORO — It didn’t go on for too long, but Tom Brady will probably take any opportunity he gets with Antonio Brown to go over the finer points of route-running. 

The pair did just that at Thursday’s practice as they went over the details of how to set up a defender at the tail end of the Patriots warmup period. Brady played the role of cornerback at times, showing Brown how to attack him. Then Brady had Brown play the role of corner, apparently showing Brown what he wants Brown to do in certain situations based on a defender’s leverage. 

The conversation lasted about two minutes and was somewhat animated as the quarterback-receiver combo shared their perspectives with one another. Given that the quarterback’s understanding of where his receiver is headed is based in part on body language, it makes sense that the two were deliberate in their footwork and, at times, with their upper-body movements. 

Brady and Brown have been teammates for just over a week, and the pair connected four times in Miami for 56 yards and a touchdown. They also were not close on a handful of targets in the third quarter when Brady expected Brown to do one thing and he did something else. 

Brown spent extra time at the Patriots facility last week to get caught up on plays as quickly as possible, but there is no substitute for one-on-one work with Brady as he gets acclimated to Brady’s preferences. Even receivers like Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman have spent recent seasons getting in extra training camp reps with Brady long after establishing themselves as trustworthy targets. It’s an ongoing process, being one of Brady’s go-to options.

For Brown, who’s dealing with very limited practice reps with Brady going into meaningful games, there’s an immense amount of ground to make up. Every little bit of information he can glean from Brady could help, which is why it wouldn’t be surprising to see the two continue to have conversations like the one they had before Thursday’s practice began in earnest.

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Dolphins player: Referee told me to 'stay off' Patriots QB Tom Brady after legal hit

Dolphins player: Referee told me to 'stay off' Patriots QB Tom Brady after legal hit

The NFL has been accused of doing too much to protect quarterbacks over the last decade or so, and Miami Dolphins linebacker Raekwon McMillan's latest comments won't do much to put an end to that view point.

McMillan told reporters Wednesday that the referee in Sunday's Week 2 matchup between the Dolphins and New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium told the Miami linebacker to "stay off" quarterback Tom Brady after a legal hit. Referee Bill Vinovich and his crew officiated the game.

It's impossible to know this official's rationale without hearing his side of the story. Maybe he felt that while McMillan's hit was legal, it was close to roughing the passer and he wanted to help the Dolphins linebacker avoid a 15-yard penalty later in the game. Or, it's possible, he didn't want the game to get out of hand given the lopsided scoreline throughout the afternoon. The Patriots ultimately won 43-0.

In fairness to the NFL, the rule changes it has made in recent years to protect quarterbacks were smart decisions. Quarterback is the most important position in the sport, both in terms of on-field performance and success from a business perspective. These players are the league's most marketable stars. In fact, a recent poll of league executives and other experts concluded that six of the 10 most marketable players in football were quarterbacks, led by Brady and Kansas City Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes (in that order).

Brady was on the injury report Wednesday with a calf injury, but it's not known if it happened on McMillan's hit.

McMillan's frustration is understandable, but we shouldn't be surprised that referees in 2019 are looking out for the safety of quarterbacks. And we should expect more caution going forward given the recent injuries to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

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Aaron Rodgers has great response to critics of Patriots QB Tom Brady

Aaron Rodgers has great response to critics of Patriots QB Tom Brady

Some of the criticism thrown at New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is just silly.

The most famous hot take on Brady's alleged decline came in the summer of 2016 when Max Kellerman said on ESPN's "First Take" that Brady would soon "fall off a cliff." Well, in the three years since Kellerman's bold remark, Brady has won two more Super Bowl titles (in three appearances) and an MVP award. 

Sometimes, you just have to laugh at these critics.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers admitted to doing that during his appearance Tuesday on ESPN Radio's "The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz." Here's the exchange:

Question: Do you look at Brady the way we all do? Like, what the hell? He's 42, what the hell, Aaron.

Rodgers: "I do. I think I laugh with him a little bit when they replay some of the remarks, especially after that Chiefs game I think a lot of us remember from (2014) when the Chiefs kind of blew them out on a Sunday or Monday night and everyone was (saying), 'This is it. Brady's done. The Pats are done.' You look at what they've done since then. That's the beauty at times in this sport and playing, for him, at obviously such a high level. Sometimes you're looking around and you're like, 'Man, maybe I need some inspiration this week,' and having something like that to go back to whenever you want. People are just waiting for him to like regress, and it's like, it's not happening. Not happening. But the first time he has a game he doesn't throw three (touchdowns), it's gonna be like, 'Here it is. Here's the beginning.' And sure enough, there's a little more ammo for him to be like, 'What you say? Oh yeah? OK, cool. I'm going back to the Super Bowl.'" 

Rodgers has faced his own share of criticism over the last few years as the Packers have struggled to find playoff success, so he has a bit of an understanding of what Brady has dealt with over the last decade or so.

Brady and Rodgers went head-to-head last season for just the second time, and the Patriots prevailed in a 31-17 win at Gillette Stadium. It's possible that meeting was the last one before Brady retires, unless of course they square off in the Super Bowl.

And, judging by the way the Patriots and Packers have played through two games this season, a Brady-Rodgers showdown in Super Bowl LIV certainly is a possibility.

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