‘This team cares a lot about each other’: Tom Brady talks resolve of these Patriots
FOXBOROUGH — Tom Brady isn’t sure how the story of this Patriots team will end up — he hopes there’s a few more chapters to be penned — but the quarterback knows resiliency will be a major theme.
“Every team has its own unique identity, and this team cares a lot about each other,’’ Brady said Thursday afternoon. “We play for each other and we’re playing to win. I think that’s what we’re here for. We’ve shown we can compete. We’ve shown we could overcome some adversity. We’ve been counted out a few times and showed back up with a lot of resolve. We have great character on this team.’’
The Patriots have twice bounced back from rare back-to-back losses this season. After dropping consecutive games in Jacksonville and Detroit to fall to 1-2, New England rattled off six straight wins. The team uncharacteristically stumbled late, too, losing in Miami and Pittsburgh before bouncing back with two wins to close out the regular season, seal their 10th straight AFC East title, and grab a bye week for the ninth season in a row.
“Our story’s still being written, and fortunately we have an opportunity to write it,’’ said Brady. “We’ve got to go out there and play our best. Every team we play next week — and beyond, hopefully — [will be] a great team. They’ve earned it. The team we play will have won a playoff game and we’re going to have to play our best game of the year.’’
Brady and his mates could know their next foe by Saturday night if the Texans beat the Colts. If not, they’ll face the winner of Sunday’s Chargers-Ravens game.
Nate Ebner was selected as New England’s recipient of the 2018 Ed Block Courage Award, given annually to the “player who best exemplifies the principles of courage and sportsmanship while also serving as a source of inspiration.
Ed Block was a longtime trainer for the Baltimore Colts who dedicated much of his time to helping children.
Ebner returned this season after tearing his ACL in 2017 and led the Patriots with 13 special teams tackles. Ebner, who played rugby for Team USA at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, has collected at least 10 special teams tackles in every season except 2017.
“It’s a great honor,’’ said Ebner. “All the people that have come before me that have won that award, it’s really special to be named among that group. It just means a lot. It’s nice to be recognized. And I can name a lot of people in this locker room who deserve something like that and have a great story and work extremely hard.’’
Ebner said 2018 has “been a grind” and added that the support he receives from all walks of the organization has been crucial.
“It’s been as hard any season I’ve had in the league, I can definitely say that,’’ he said. “But again, I can’t do it without all the help I get, and I get so much help and support, not only from my teammates but the training staff and just the whole building is extremely helpful in my progression throughout the entire year. I’ve had a lot of shoulders I’ve been able to lean on throughout the process, so it’s made it a lot easier.’’
Devin McCourty missed his second straight practice as the safety continues to recover from a head injury suffered in last Sunday’s regular-season finale. McCourty is expected to be ready to go when the Patriots take the field Jan. 13 for their divisional-round matchup.
“Dev’s our leader. He’s very smart. He gets us lined up and we feed off him [and Dont’a] Hightower and those guys,’’ said Patrick Chung. “It’ll be fine. He’ll have time to heal. I’m not really worried about not having him. He’s a tough dude. We’ll go from there.’’
Tight end Dwayne Allen also was absent for the second straight day — the only other player missing. Allen has been dealing with a knee injury since the Week 10 loss to the Titans.
Fervent University of Georgia fan David Andrews acknowledged he gave up on the Sugar Bowl early. “I fell asleep, I think, when we fumbled it. D’Andre Swift had a fumble and I kind of tucked it in,’’ Andrews said of the Bulldogs’ 28-21 loss to Texas. The center said he knew bad things were in store after a little mascot mayhem. Bevo, Texas’s 2,700-plus-pound longhorn, made a mini charge toward UGA, Georgia’s 60-pound bulldog, before kickoff. “We got punked early by the longhorn or whatever,’’ said Andrews. “UGA took a loss there and we ended up taking a loss.’’ . . . Six practice squad players were designated as the team’s practice players of the week. Quarterback Danny Etling, tight end Stephen Anderson, receiver Damoun Patterson, defensive linemen Frank Herron and Trent Harris, and linebacker Calvin Munson, as well as active squad safety Obi Melifonwu were lauded for their efforts in getting the team ready for last Sunday’s game against the Jets.