FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots might be on the verge of a little summer vacation, but Tom Brady remains all business.
Brady has been known to do a little jet-setting in his free time, but he said the break between minicamp, which wraps up Thursday, and training camp is a time for vocation, not vacation.
“Well, I think we really had our vacation. That part is over,” said Brady in his State of the Quarterback address Wednesday. “Not that you shouldn’t enjoy time with your family or stuff like that, because for the next seven months we’re pretty busy every day.
“I think you just focus on being prepared for [training] camp. It’s really a time to start accelerating your preparation because you’ve got a lot of time [where] you know the things you need to improve on. Maybe it’s conditioning or any particular aspect of your game that showed up in this camp.
“You have five weeks to work on it and make it better and come into camp at the most important time really at your best.”
This has been an interesting offseason for Brady, who is approaching his 15th year in the NFL. The man under center for the Patriots has been under scrutiny. The Patriots drafted his ostensible successor, Jimmy Garoppolo, in the second round this spring, and there has been constant discussion, analysis, and debate about the quality of Brady’s play waning.
All of this is playing out against the backdrop of Brady’s pursuit of a fourth Super Bowl title.
Brady, who will turn 37 in August, was asked if the Doubting Thomas crowd motivated him.
“Um, I’m always pretty fired up,” he said after a chuckle. “I think there are people that always have opinions about us as athletes. I think you just try to go out there and do your best. You go home at night realizing you left it all on the field.
“Some days you don’t play your best, but that’s sports. I’ll try to go out there and be the best I can be this year.
“I don’t know. Everyone is a little biased. My wife thinks I played pretty good. My mom thinks I played pretty good.”
Defenders of Brady will point to his lack of weapons, not Father Time, as the reason his numbers declined in 2013. Brady had to break in three rookie wide receivers (Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins, and Josh Boyce). The Patriots added Brandon LaFell in the offseason, but otherwise have the same cast of wide receivers and the same uncertainty surrounding the health of tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Professor Brady gave pass-catching pupils Boyce and Thompkins high marks (Dobson is still out after foot surgery), while warning that youth can’t be an excuse for not executing.
“It’s been great,” he said. “I love working with those guys. So, we’ve had a great relationship since they got here over a year ago. They’ve put a lot of time in and a lot of effort to get to the point that they’re at now. Now they have to take advantage of it.
“You’re only a young player for a certain amount of time in the NFL. At some point, people are just waiting for you to produce. Nobody can really make mistakes, not if you want to be a good offense.
“The best teams have the most consistent, dependable players. That’s what everyone out here is trying to be for our team.”
Brady said he has enjoyed working with his latest understudy, Garoppolo. He praised Garoppolo’s leadership skills.
“He’s obviously a very talented young man,” said Brady. “He works hard every day. He’s out here at practice. Ryan Mallett, one of my good friends out here, he has missed a couple of days.
“We got a good quarterback room. I think everyone displays good leadership, a good positive attitude. We try to be the ones that are held accountable for our actions.”
Brady also offered some insight into how he learned the offense as a young player and transformed himself from an unknown sixth-round pick into a canonized quarterback. He reminisced about arriving with the Patriots in 2000 and learning the offense through a quarterback school, daily sessions from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., getting drilled on the playbook, which was new to everyone that year, Bill Belichick’s first as Patriots coach.
“Taking notes, going home at night and going through drawings and sketches, you’ve got to do it,” said Brady. “You've got to put in the time.
“If you want to be special at this game, you’ve got to do whatever it takes. Some things come a little more naturally to certain people than others. The mental part came pretty naturally for me. I think I really had to work hard on the physical part, what it takes to be an NFL player.
“There was a reason I was a sixth-round pick, because I didn’t have much ability. I have to try to work hard to improve those things over the years, while still keeping my mental game sharp.”
Brady, who snapped a photo with Mexican national soccer team coach Miguel Herrera before a friendly match at Gillette Stadium earlier this month, was also happy to discuss another type of football: the World Cup in Brazil.
His Brazilian supermodel wife, Gisele Bundchen, has been selected to hand out soccer’s most coveted hardware to the winner July 13 in Rio de Janeiro.
“I was watching, yeah,” he said. “It’s been pretty fun to watch the last week or so. There are a lot of good games. We’re pretty focused on the football stuff here, but obviously what’s going on in the world and sports is great. I love watching.”
Brady was noncommittal about going to Brazil to catch some World Cup action in person, though. His mind remains focused on winning American football’s most iconic trophy for a fourth time.