FOXBOROUGH — Tom Brady insists he has no idea what’s being said about his Patriots, positive or negative.
Before the season even started, there were questions about the team, certainly questions about the offense and how Brady would adjust with a number of new faces on the field with him.
And now that New England was less than crisp in eking out a win against Buffalo, Shane Vereen will be out at least eight weeks after needing surgery on his left wrist this week, Danny Amendola’s short-term future is cloudy because of a groin injury, and Rob Gronkowski’s return is up in the air, the tenor of opinions concerning the Patriots in recent days has changed.
The level of worry has been amped up (if you’re a fan) and the chorus of “it’s over” has grown louder (for those who aren’t fans of the Patriots) as the team prepares to face the Jets Thursday night at Gillette Stadium.
But Brady has fought perception before in his football career, and he welcomes the chance now to show what the Patriots are, not what it looks like they might be.
“I think the great part is we have a chance to do something about it,” Brady said Tuesday. “So regardless of what anyone may say to us, or think, we have a chance to prove everybody wrong or right. That’s the great part about playing professional football, is you have the chance every week to back up what you think, and one week leads to another week.
“Just because you won last week doesn’t mean you’re going to win next week. Just because you played well one week doesn’t mean you’re going to play well the next week. Anything happens on any week, and hopefully our preparation is good and strong this week, and hopefully we’re prepared to go out there and face a very good team on a short week. I’m excited for the opportunity.”
As he often does, Brady pointed to one of coach Bill Belichick’s doctrines: ignore the noise. Ignore the positive being said, ignore the negative being said. How the outside world feels about the Patriots is different than how the 53 players and coaching staff feel, and their feelings are all that matter.
“We’re 1-0,” Brady said. “There are 16 teams that are 0-1. We’re in as good a position as any team and we have a lot of football left. There is a lot of football between now and the end of the year, so we’ll see how it all plays out.”
Earlier Tuesday, Belichick was asked about running back Stevan Ridley, and whether he’d spoken to Ridley since he was benched Sunday for fumbling.
Belichick said he had, and added that Ridley’s responsibility is the same as every player’s: to be ready to play.
“They can’t control coaches’ decisions,” Belichick said.
But with Vereen on the shelf until at least Week 11, New England may have to turn back to Ridley and hope that he can quickly move past whatever it was that caused him to put the ball on the Ralph Wilson Stadium turf twice on opening day.
Brady, perhaps knowing how much Ridley is now needed, threw his confidence behind the former Louisiana State standout.
“We never like to see each other make mistakes, but they happen,” Brady said. “We fumbled the snap on the goal line [against the Bills], I threw an interception. You’ve got to be able to bounce back from those things. Football’s not necessarily a game of perfect, it’s just you try to limit what your bad plays are so they’re just ‘not really bad’ plays or really critical plays in the game.
“I think the mental toughness from all of us [is needed] to try to bounce back; I know Stevan is a very mentally tough kid, and I love having him back there. I love giving the ball to him, watching him run. He’s done a great job since he’s been here.”
With Jets coach Rex Ryan a much more reserved version of himself these days, the Patriots-Jets rivalry doesn’t have the same hype accompanying it that recent iterations have had.
The closest thing to trash talk there’s been was New York defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson telling a New York radio station that the Jets will be 2-0 after Thursday night. Ryan did back up his player Tuesday, saying, “You’re never going to win unless you believe you can.”
But Brady is still looking forward to playing the Jets, and what it means to face their division foe.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “I mean, it’s Boston-New York. It’s been that way for a long time, long before me, and any time you see them on the schedule you think of all the great games that you’ve had against them and you think how challenging the game will be. We know a lot of the faces, we know the scheme. There are some new faces that are part of the rivalry, so it’s going to be an exciting game.
“It’s our home opener, which is always fun for us players, so hopefully we can go out and play really well.”Shalise Manza Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.