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Brady understands the urgency as Pats enjoy bye

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Brady understands the urgency as Pats enjoy bye

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Tom Brady was 24 years old in his first season as a starter. It ended with a Super Bowl triumph.

Now he's 35 and without a championship in seven years.

Yet as the time he has left to win another title decreases, the 13-year veteran doesn't consider each new playoff chance more meaningful. For Brady, they're all very important.

``From the day we're born, I think we're always one day closer to dying, since we're a little kid,'' the New England Patriots quarterback said Thursday. ``(But) I don't quite look at it like'' this chance means more.

``I know it's meaningful for our whole team, what we're attempting to accomplish,'' he said. ``You don't take these things for granted. It's a privilege to be in this position that we're in and certainly one of four teams to have played well enough over the course of the year to deserve the first-round bye.''

The Patriots (12-4) find out this weekend who they'll host in the divisional round on Jan. 13. The Houston Texans will be the opponent if they beat the Cincinnati Bengals in Saturday's AFC wild-card game. If the Texans lose, the Patriots will face the winner of Sunday's game between the Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts.

They've played all three this season, beating the Colts 59-24 and Texans 42-14. They lost to the Ravens 31-30.

Regardless of the opponent, preparations already have begun. Brady, in fact, brought a stack of papers into his weekly news conference on Thursday and set them on the podium.

``We've been working hard to figure out a bunch of things,'' he said. ``There's a packet full of things we need to do better and things that we're really trying to work hard to improve on.''

Brady will soon throw his first postseason pass since the final play of last season's Super Bowl, a desperation heave that fell incomplete in the end zone, clinching the New York Giants' 21-17 victory.

``I think every guy in the locker room wishes they could have done a little more,'' Brady said after the game.

The Patriots have a lot of work to do to get back to that spot, in New Orleans on Feb. 3. And bye weeks haven't always been a successful steppingstone.

They had a bye in the 2010 season, then lost in the divisional round to the New York Jets, 28-21. The previous season, without a bye, they were beaten by the Baltimore Ravens 33-14 in the wild-card round. Both games were in Foxborough.

Clearly - week off or no week off, and even with home-field advantage - there are no guarantees in this league.

The Patriots were 6-2 at home this season, finishing with a 28-0 win over the Miami Dolphins in which Brady threw two touchdown passes and the defense posted its first shutout in three years.

``We've worked pretty hard to get to this point. I don't think you want to go in there and change everything,'' Brady said. ``There is always pressure in this game. There's pressure in practice. There's pressure to make the team. There's pressure to keep your job. Certainly there's pressure to win games and that's what we're going to try to do.''

Brady was the Super Bowl MVP in wins over the St. Louis Rams in the 2002 season and the Carolina Panthers two years later. The following season, wide receiver Deion Branch earned the honor against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Before that game, Branch sat with former NFL stars Dan Marino and Cris Carter for a television show. Marino and Carter had just one Super Bowl appearance between them in tremendous careers.

``They were just looking at me like, `You're playing in your second Super Bowl in your third year?' It was like they'd give up anything, all those records that these guys have, just to play in another Super Bowl,'' he said. ``You should take full advantage of every opportunity because you never know if you get the opportunity again.''

At 33, this may be Branch's last. He was released and re-signed twice by the Patriots this season.

``Regardless if this is your first, second, third year or if it's your 10th or 11th,'' he said. ``You never know if you'll make it back.''

Brady has said he'd like to play into his 40s and shows no sign of faltering. He threw for 34 touchdowns and just eight interceptions this season and was the second highest-rated quarterback in the AFC, behind Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos.

None of that matters now. It's the second season. And another week of practice for what Brady hopes will be a long playoff run begins on Monday, with a true opponent to prepare for.

``When we figure out who we'll play,'' he said, ``we'll jump right into that and get going.''

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Ravens' options in a potential Matthew Judon trade

Ravens' options in a potential Matthew Judon trade

According to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Ravens have expressed interest in moving on from Matthew Judon through a trade this offseason. 

Judon, who isn’t under contract for next season, was tied for 19th in the league in sacks with 9.5 — a team-high. He was also the team-leader in quarterback hits with 33. The next best pass-rusher was Tyus Bowser, who registered 10. 

Lined up for a big payday, and with a high-priced franchise tag an option, the Ravens could lose their second pass-rusher in as many years on the free agent market should they elect to not pay Judon the elite pass-rusher money he’ll likely command.

Which brings the Ravens to the report from Schefter that indicated the team could move on from Judon, 27, through the sign-and-trade route. 

Should Judon, or the Ravens, walk away from the negotiating table in free agency, two options exist: The Ravens could either let him walk freely to another team and likely receive a 2021 third-round pick as compensation, or place the franchise tag on Judon. 

With the franchise tag option, the Ravens could keep him for a season and essentially kick the can down the road for a year, or trade him for a return that would likely be greater than the compensatory third, and more importantly, the help would be immediate. 

A few weeks ago, coach John Harbaugh said re-signing Judon would be, “pretty hard,” but that the team was going to try.  

But if the Ravens aren’t able, or are unwilling, to sign Judon, a potential blueprint for a future trade might have been laid out last year by the Chiefs. 

Last season, the Chiefs traded Dee Ford to the 49ers for a second-round pick just a month before they sent first and third-round picks to the Seahawks for Frank Clark and a third-round pick.

Ford had 13 sacks in 2018 and 29 quarterback hits while Clark had 13 as well and 27 quarterback hits. They both immediately signed long-term, expensive contracts with their new teams. 

Baltimore could make a move similar to that with Judon and get better, and more immediate, compensation for him and later add a pass-rusher with the draft capital than the team added.

The Ravens have just under 29 million dollars in cap space, meaning they’ve got the space to sign Judon to a long-term deal or keep him on the franchise tag, but they’d need to make some moves to be able to field a full roster. And that full roster, if Judon isn’t in Baltimore in 2020, needs pass-rushing help. 

Baltimore had 37 sacks as a team, and just over a quarter of them came from Judon. It also had 111 total quarterback hits, and 29.7 percent came from Judon. 

So the report that the Ravens could move Judon could play out, perhaps the most interesting aspect of a Judon trade would be the replacement the Ravens would need to have lined up.

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With big decision looming, Ravens guard Marshal Yanda mum on retirement plans

With big decision looming, Ravens guard Marshal Yanda mum on retirement plans

Ravens guard Marshal Yanda has a decision to make on his playing future, but he's in no rush to make it.

The 35-year-old is under contract with the Ravens through the 2020 season, but will take the next month or so to decide if he wants to continue playing or hang up the cleats.

"I'm going to take my time now," Yanda told Ravens.com regarding his future. "Done playing for the year, just take some time over the next month and basically just go with my heart and see how I feel."

The eight-time Pro Bowler was a vital piece in the NFL's best rushing attack in 2019. Yanda, the leader of the offensive line, started and played in 15 games this season for Baltimore, missing the regular-season finale as the Ravens rested multiple starters with the No. 1 seed already clinched.

Following Baltimore's upset divisional playoff loss to the Titans, a visibly disappointed Yanda refused to address his future, but he was definitely thinking about it then.

But if Sunday's Pro Bowl was the last time Yanda put on the pads, he didn't treat the game or experience any differently.

"Not necessarily," Yanda said if he cherished Sunday's Pro Bowl differently. "You're not in that frame of mind. I definitely didn't think about [my retirement decision] too much today, just because it was the Pro Bowl. It's more of a relaxed game, not like a really intense game.

"I didn't have those feelings as much as the Tennessee game," he continued." Yeah, it's a possibility. But those feelings were more in the Tennessee game."

Even at age 35, Yanda remains one of the best guards in the game. He's made the NFL's second-team All-Pro squad the past two seasons and has been a Pro Bowler every season since 2011, minus the 2017 season where he played just two games due to a season-ending ankle injury.

There's no debate: Baltimore would greatly benefit from Yanda returning.

"You want people that want you back," Yanda said. "You want to be playing very well when you end. Nobody wants to fade out; you want to go out strong."

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