NASHVILLE — As always, Tom Brady responded quickly.
Would he ever follow in the footsteps of good buddy (and chirping nemesis) Mike Vrabel and get into coaching when (or if?) his playing days are over?
“Oh hell no!,’’ he said with a smile and shake of his head Thursday. “I’m never coaching. Playing’s enough for me.’’
The 42-year-old Brady may not have a coaching title, but he has been in teaching mode for quite some time now, and that’s particularly true during this year’s training camp, which came to an end with a second straight scorching day at the Saint Thomas Sports Park.
Injuries have ravaged the Patriots receiving corps, so Brady has had to take a direct role in coaching up a young crop of players to fill gaps until the regulars return.
Julian Edelman (thumb) and Demaryius Thomas (Achilles’) have yet to practice. Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris, and N’Keal Harry, all of whom have had solid camps, didn’t participate in practice Thursday.
Rookie Jakobi Meyers, a summer standout from the get-go, was the only familiar face with the varsity.
This led to a lot of opportunities — and teachable moments — for young receivers Braxton Berrios, Gunner Olszewski, Damoun Patterson, and Ryan Davis as they ran with Brady and the starters Thursday.
Veteran Dontrelle Inman also saw an uptick in snaps with the Brady group.
“I think training camp’s an interesting time with a lot of bodies and there’s a lot of guys in and out,’’ Brady said. “Some years, you might have three guys set, or four guys set, and I think this year we haven’t really had that.
“It’s good work for the quarterback, just to make a read and then make a throw, and whether we come up with it or not, at least we’re going to the right place and making a good decisive play. So, there’s still a lot to be gained with guys moving in and out, and that’s just the way it’s been here.’’
Near the end of Thursday’s work, the Patriots were struggling in their two-minute offense, and the boiling point for Brady came when Berrios ran the wrong route. The two got together and then hooked up on a long touchdown two snaps later.
“I think that’s the learning curve for a lot of players and being on the same page,’’ said Brady. “Really, I think so much is him expecting the ball to be in a certain place and me expecting him to be in a certain place.
“I think the chemistry between a quarterback and receiver, a quarterback and a tight end, is so important because it’s all anticipation. If you’re waiting for things to happen in the NFL, you’re too late.’’
After 19 seasons and umpteen receivers, Brady knows a thing or two about helping pass catchers assimilate to NFL speed, and he’s only too happy to impart his wisdom.
“I have, obviously, a lot of experience, so I know where guys should be, so I’m trying to tell them, ‘If you want the ball, this where you’ve got to be,’ which is hopefully good learning for those guys, and it’s good teaching for me,” he said.
“I always say the quarterback can’t do anything without the receivers, and the receiver can’t do anything without the quarterback, which makes it a great relationship. That’s why we work hard at it, that’s why you spend the time with those guys and you get all of the work in.’’
Two days of smashing into each other often will cause tempers to rise between teams, and there were several flareups Thursday.
The biggest dustup occurred when Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore mixed it up with Titans receiver A.J. Brooks after a close battle. It set off a minor but short brawl. There were other cases, too, especially among the linemen during one-on-one trench battles.
Coaches and players acted quickly to put out all the fires.
“That happens, man,’’ said Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan, himself at the center of some heated exchanges. “I mean, it’s a competition. People want to get into it. People want to get chippy. One guy does one thing and it just escalates, and it kind of snowballs a little bit. Then you nip it in the bud.
“Both teams handled themselves very well in those situations.’’
Lewan, who is facing a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, will have his appeal heard Aug. 22.
After playing the Titans Saturday, the Patriots will play again next Thursday when they host the Panthers, and Brady was asked if the quick turnaround reduces his desire to play in the preseason. “I don’t know,’’ he said. “I just expect to play, and if [Bill Belichick] says, ‘You’re not playing,’ then I’m not playing. I think there’s a lot of things that factor into his decisions, but I’m not involved in any of those, so I just show up and practice. That’s been my role, that’s been my job, so I’m trying to show up and do a good job.’’ . . . The Patriots are 0-6 all-time vs. the Titans/Oilers franchise in the preseason.
Jim McBride can be reached at email@example.com.