FOXBOROUGH — Tom Brady expects to play in the final exhibition game against the Giants Thursday night, but knows it’s not his call.
“I expect to,’’ Brady said Tuesday at his locker. “That’s how we’ve been preparing, so it’s always up to coach [Bill] Belichick, but I’m ready to go.’’
New England has faced New York in the fourth exhibition game for nine straight years; Brady did not take the field for the game last season, but he did in 2010 and ’11.
He did not play in the fourth exhibition game from 2004-09.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin told reporters on Tuesday that he will play his starters for 12-15 snaps, which could increase the chances Brady and the rest of the first-teamers will also see action.
After the offense’s poor showing in Detroit last week, Brady wants to end the preseason on a high note.
“We want to finish strong,” he said. “We’ve had some good practices, we’ve had some weeks against other opponents which have been good, but the fourth preseason game, [it’s] really to see what we can accomplish here this last week. It’s been a good week of practice, so that’s always a positive.”
Brady mentioned several times that the Patriots open the regular season in 10 days and the importance of being as ready as possible to face the Bills Sept. 8 in Buffalo. There is also the desire to get rid of the bad taste left from the 40-9 loss to the Lions in which the first-team offense turned the ball over four times, on a Brady interception and fumbles by Zach Sudfeld, Shane Vereen, and Brandon Bolden.
New England practiced in full pads Monday and Tuesday, and at this point the team has had around 20 practices since the start of training camp, six against the Eagles and Buccaneers.
Brady noted that the constraints of the collective bargaining agreement mean every opportunity takes on greater importance.
“All the games are important, all the practices are important, the walkthroughs are important, and with the way things are now with the CBA and the limited amount of time we get on the practice field during the preseason, everything we do ends up being important,” he said. “We always joke, Coach comes in and says, ‘all right guys, today’s a big day’ because it is a big day.
“Whatever we screw up today we can’t really get to it tomorrow, so every day is important and the more days we get right the better we’re going to be at the end of the year.”
The limited practice time, combined with the number of new faces Brady is working with, are factors he pointed to in wanting to play Thursday.
“The game experience and being in there with guys you haven’t played with is very important, so we’ve had a lot of different guys, different faces, especially at the skill positions, that have to be a big part of our offense this year,” he said. “The more time we can get under game conditions, when we’re on a clock, there’s play clocks, there’s game clocks, different substitution packages, stuff like that, there’s a lot of stuff to do. In 10 days we play a real game, so there’s a final chance to see where we’re at . . .
“I think there’s always something to be gained from the competition. I think you have to go out there and always be prepared and whatever [Belichick] wants to do, for however long he wants to play us, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re ready to go.”
Brady was serious when talking about playing, as you’d expect, but he softened immediately when talking about the annual tradition the veterans carried out on Tuesday, giving the rookies embarrassingly bad haircuts.
“They look good, don’t they? It was a lot of fun today. Probably the most exciting part of camp, watching all that hair get cut off,” Brady said, laughing. “It was actually a lot of fun. There were some good ones, some creativity. Guys sit around and think about what they want to do.”
Punter Ryan Allen had his spiky hair trimmed from front to back in lines, to appear as though he had cornrows, and offensive lineman Chris McDonald had a tuft of curly hair at the top of his forehead and some at the nape of his neck, but the rest of his head was bald.
Defensive lineman Michael Buchanan had Vince Wilfork’s No. 75 etched into the back of his head.
Brady couldn’t recall what his rookie cut was, but knew exactly who did it.
“Ty Law and Lawyer Milloy got me pretty good. I’ll never forget that,” he said.Shalise Manza Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.