FOXBOROUGH — Though he understands why it happened, Tom Brady didn’t want all of the fuss surrounding the left knee injury he suffered in practice last Wednesday, downplaying the incident and saying he and his teammates have endured worse.
“You guys were all there,” Brady said Monday. “Things come up in practice a lot of times, it’s certainly a physical game, different guys get knocked around at different times, I got knocked around, and like I said earlier today, we tried to be smart about what we were doing, I had to go and get some treatment and get to work. That’s what I like to do most.”
The Patriots quarterback took a tumble when Buccaneers defensive end Adrian Clayborn bull-rushed Nate Solder back into him. Brady sat on the grass for several moments holding his left knee, then left the field with head trainer Jim Whelan.
“Any time you go down it’s a little scary, but that’s the sport,” he said. “It happens in the game, it happens in practice, and I’m certainly not the first or the last to have that happen.
“I’m fortunate that it wasn’t very bad. I was able to get treatment and get back on the field with my teammates and get back to work.”
Leaving practice early wasn’t his call, Brady said, but it was the best option.
“I don’t want to make a fuss about it, but at that time, I didn’t have too much of a choice,” he said. “It was nice to go out there and play and play against a good team in Tampa. We had good days of practice and now we come back to our own practices and get focused on Detroit because that’s kind of what we have to do now.
“Everyone’s getting into game mode. It’s been fun to play back-to-back games. We got another one that’s happening quickly, on a short week, and I’m excited to be out there and play.”
There were many fans who questioned why Brady was not wearing the knee brace he’s worn in games since returning from the left ACL tear he suffered in 2008, but Brady has never really worn it in practice.
That may be changing now.
“I had it today, so everyone was very pleased,” said Brady. “Mr. [Robert] Kraft felt pretty strongly about me wearing it. He said, ‘What’s the problem?’ I said, ‘I’ll wear it.’ I just — sometimes when you wear the brace a lot, you get used to wearing the brace, and I like to keep a nice strong leg, and if it wasn’t strong, something bad would have happened.”
Running back Stevan Ridley said last week the players knew as soon as they returned to the locker room after practice that Brady’s injury wasn’t severe, and Brady backed that up on Monday, saying he knew as soon as he got to the training room and got checked out.
Brady has played four series (three of which ended in touchdowns) and a total of 39 snaps over the first two exhibition games, and has been an impressive 18 for 20 for 172 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. He’s thrown to several receivers, and likes the direction the offense is headed.
“It’s about team football,” he said. “It’s about our whole team being on the same page and the anticipation of what we’re trying to do as an offense. Offensive football is always about 11 guys being on the same page. We’ve done a decent job of that the first two weeks in the preseason and those are good test runs for us, and we have another one.
“It’s all build-up for one thing, and that’s the opener. This week it’s Detroit and we’re going to try to see if we can work hard to be on the same page so we can go out and produce against Detroit. They’ve got a very good team, a very challenging front, and it will be a big test.”
Brady likely will play the entire first half against the Lions, though his outing could go longer. When the Patriots faced Detroit in Week 3 of the preseason two years ago, the offense played so poorly in the first half Brady played the first series of the third quarter as well.
The quarterback again spoke highly of his young teammates, and how hard they’ve been working to get things right.
“They’ve got a lot of opportunity, that’s the thing. They’ve been there a lot, much more opportunity than some guys get in certain years when you have a lot of veteran players at certain positions,” Brady said. “The more opportunity, the better you get. They had a lot of opportunity the other night, KT [Kenbrell Thompkins] and Aaron [Dobson] and Josh [Boyce] at the receiver position, with Danny [Amendola], what Julian [Edelman’s] been able to do coming back from his injury, and [Zach] Sudfeld, he’s had a lot of opportunity.
“Guys are trying to make the most of it, find their role, and as you see on a daily basis, guys that keep making plays keep making plays. You love seeing that.”
Granted, it’s Brady doing the asking, but when he’s requested they do more, the youngsters have jumped right in.
“They’ve worked their butts off to get to this point. I’m not the talent evaluator or scout or anything like that, I just love having them as teammates and have been impressed with their work ethic,” Brady said. “Any time I ask them to stay after and throw and to work and talk about routes, that’s what we do. So they still want to learn, they still want to get better. Hopefully they want to do that for a real long time.”
Thursday’s game will likely mark the final in-game preseason work for nearly all of those players, and while it’s a dress rehearsal of sorts, Brady has tried to prepare his teammates. What they’ve seen so far is nothing compared to what the Bills will throw at them in Week 1, or the Jets in Week 2. Teams go vanilla in the preseason and open the playbook when the regular season starts.
Still, time on the field is time on the field, and time to learn valuable lessons.
“Last week was important, this week is important because it is the week we have. Nothing’s going to simulate what happens on opening day. That has a different feeling than any of these games; that’s just the way it is,” Brady said. “But this is an important game because it’s an important step in our process to see where we’re at as a team. We’re going on the road, tough environment, we went there a few years ago and didn’t do very well, so we’re going to have to do better than we did the last time.”