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Tom Brady has become an old hand at avoiding big hits

Tom Brady hopes to avoid hits like this one last season by the Texans’ Jadeveon Clowney.
Tom Brady hopes to avoid hits like this one last season by the Texans’ Jadeveon Clowney.(File/Jim Davis/Globe Staff)

FOXBOROUGH — Tom Brady is attempting to stave off the vicious cycle that eats up so many aging quarterbacks.

They become less mobile, less able to avoid oncoming rushers, so they take more hits, which they’re less able to recover from.

“I think most athletes, by the time you get to a certain point, you start to figure it out mentally, and physically it becomes really hard,” Brady said Friday.

This is where Brady’s favorite buzzword — pliability (which was printed across the shirt he wore to his press conference Friday) — comes in. Brady isn’t a star scrambler, but he’s never been that. He’s still subtly able to move in the pocket to extend plays and stay upright, something that’s been a major point of emphasis in his training in recent years.

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It’s a skill that should be a major help against the Texans Sunday.

“We’ve had a lot of experience with this defense,” Brady said. “We practiced against them at the Greenbrier last year. I think we know the caliber of talent that they have.

“I think they have some of the best players in the league at their position — J.J. Watt, [Whitney] Mercilus, [Jadeveon] Clowney. They’ve got some really good linebackers. [Cornerback] Johnathan Joseph, I play against him a lot.”

Yes, Brady is in possession of the most important right arm in New England, but how he maintains his lower body and his core may have more to do with his longevity. That’s where the power comes from that allows him to stay nimble and avoid hits.

Texans coach Bill O’Brien was asked if Brady appears to have maintained that ability to use his legs from when O’Brien was with the Patriots from 2007-11.

“To me, I think he’s actually improved,” O’Brien said.

Watt had similar thoughts from the perspective of someone who’s worked to bring Brady down in the pocket for years.

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“He’s very comfortable back there,” Watt said. “I mean, he knows what he’s doing, his O-linemen know where he’s going to be, he knows how to shuffle around and slide around to get into the open spot.

“I think he has a great relationship with his O-line in that matter where they know where he wants to set up and he knows where he wants to set up, and if he needs to make an adjustment, he can.”

Watt said Brady has been good in that regard his entire career, and that there’s been no dropoff. That’s the kind of thing that Brady credits to his work with trainer Alex Guerrero, deep-tissue massages on his legs and work with bands.

Of course, it doesn’t always work. Brady had a great season last year but was sacked five times in the win over the Texans. Whether he can be more elusive (and the offensive line more effective) this year remains to be seen, and it’s possible the task will be tougher given that the Patriots might not have the same caliber of receiving corps. If those guys can’t get open, Brady becomes the world’s most pliable sitting duck.

Brady said Friday that he has confidence in the receiver group but doesn’t expect it to be a finished product in Week 1.

“Phillip [Dorsett] and Chris [Hogan] have obviously played a lot. I’ve played a lot with them last year,” Brady said. “And Cordarrelle [Patterson] is new and he’s done some good things. Obviously, it’s the reason why he’s here. He’s a really good player and he’s been productive in the league.

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“To be on this team, you’ve got to be a good football player and, you know, the guys that are out there, I have certainly a lot of confidence in.

“Hopefully — again, we’re all going to be learning on the fly and you’ve got to build as the season goes. We’re in a certain place now, but this is not where we want to be as we get through the season.”


Nora Princiotti can be reached at nora.princiotti@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @NoraPrinciotti.