FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick has a saying: "Dependability is more important than ability." And no player during Belichick's tenure in New England has been more dependable than Tom Brady.
Since winning the quarterback job in 2001, Brady has missed starts for only two reasons: A torn ACL in 2008 and Deflategate. That's it.
He has made 228 starts in that span, dealing with an array of injuries that have impacted his shoulder, ribs, ankle and hand just to name a few. Despite those, Brady has consistently performed as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
Yet as important as his performances have been, his ability to be available week-to-week, both on game days and during practices, has been priceless for the Patriots offense.
Take this week for example. Brady absorbed a hard shot to the area just above his right knee courtesy of Seattle safety Kam Chancellor in last Sunday night's loss to the Seahawks. Though Brady admitted after the game that the hit caused him soreness, he has not been limited in this week's practice, and he's in line to start during this weekend's homecoming against the 49ers -- his first game in San Francisco since entering the league.
"Very impressed," Belichick said when asked about Brady's durability on Friday morning. "There are a lot of great qualities that Tom has. That's right at the top of the list.
"Certainly it's very important for him to be healthy, but it's important for the team, on a weekly basis, to be able to go out there and practice and get the timing with the quarterback who's going to play in the game with the other people -- the linemen and receivers and so forth -- who are going to play with him.
"If you're missing one receiver then maybe you get the timing with the other 10 players . . . If you're missing the quarterback, you could still get it and certainly we have a good quarterback in Jimmy [Garoppolo] and Jimmy could go out there and run everything that Tom can run. We've seen that. I'm not saying that he's not capable or qualified to do it. He is. And he does a great job of it. And when we put Jimmy in there, it's really seamless. You can't, unless you were actually looking at the position, if you could just block out that position and say which guy was in there at quarterback, I don't know if you would know a lot of times.
"But for the quarterback to have that kind of consistency with the snap count, the cadence, the way that his voice or mannerisms or reminders in the huddle -- little things like that -- the whole timing at the line of scrimmage, and running the plays in practice . . . That is a huge carryover to the games. Again, Tom's consistency to do that, not only for himself but for the rest of the team, and the ability for the rest of the team to be able to count on that is very important."
There's a lot there to pick through, including Belichick's insistence that Garoppolo looks just as good as Brady does in practice "a lot of times," but Belichick continued to roll on the four-time Super Bowl champion and the preparation that he puts in to ensure that he's available for all of the games and practices he's participated in over the last 16 years.
"Tom works very hard on his physical conditioning," Belichick said. "Recover, rest . . . It's really 24/7, 365 days a year. I don't know if it's 365 days a year. But every day that I see him here, he's doing those things. He's not just in here to put in time. He's in here to work on his training, work on his conditioning, get treatment, do whatever he can do to physically maintain or improve where he's at. Absolutely, it's a daily, multiple times a day, but it's a daily thing for Tom."