FOXBOROUGH — Tom Brady is about to embark on his 20th NFL season and one of the goals is to become the oldest quarterback to start all 16 regular-season games.
Being able to answer the bell week after week and season after season has always been a source of pride for the 42-year-old Brady.
“I think that’s been something I feel like is a very important part of my job. I can’t help the team if I’m not out there, and I work pretty hard to make sure that I am,’’ he said on Wednesday. “A lot of that prep comes in advance. That’s been well-documented over the years. Being out there, I think one thing that I’ve gained over many years is appreciation for doing things that I love to do and how fortunate I am to have found a profession that I love.’’
Brady, who teased and gestured at reporters that he was “not the only old guy in here, for the record,” still enjoys digging in and studying how to perform better.
“The little nuances to the position, the nuances to the sport, to the scheme, the chess match between offenses and defenses,’’ he said. “So many great players have played this game and to still be doing it is something that I treasure. I love being the quarterback for this team, and hopefully I can stay healthy.’’
Brady has a new challenge as he and his teammates prepare to open up Sunday night against the Steelers. His receiving corps and his offensive line were overhauled in the last week of camp.
Some of the guys who are expected to be among his top targets (Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, and Demaryius Thomas) missed a large chunk of the summer.
Brady also lost his center, David Andrews; has a new left tackle in Isaiah Wynn; and the top backups on the line are all new. There’s been an emphasis on getting up to speed, quickly.
“It’s part of football. It’s a challenging thing, and that’s why it’s not always as fluid as you would have hoped it to be because you prepare for eight months for this game, and then you’re getting used to guys we haven’t really played with,’’ Brady said. “We [traded for] three or four new players at the end of cuts that are backups to different positions and they don’t have any experience. Look, we’re going to work as hard as we can, like we always do.’’
According to Brady, there’s always room for improvement.
“I don’t think this team ever feels like we’re a finished product, and I don’t thing we finish many practices and Coach [Bill] Belichick has been like, ‘Man, we’ve got this all figured out.’ I think we’re trying to work at it every single day and put the time and effort and energy and commitment into it for each other, and you see how that pays off after a long season.’’
Antonio Brown brought his headaches and helmets to Oakland, and a common thought is that JuJu Smith-Schuster assumed the lead role for the Steelers’ receiving corps, but coach Mike Tomlin wasn’t about to anoint Smith-Schuster, or anyone else, just yet.
“We’re just beginning those things,’’ Tomlin said on a conference call. “This regular season is a clean slate. I think the story will be told as we play games and they perform and find a division of labor and a level of consistency and performance.’’
Tomlin bristled when asked about the relative calm around his team and his training camp, given the Le’Veon Bell holdout of last summer and the late-season distractions Brown was at the center of.
“We don’t pay attention to the story lines. That’s stuff that’s fed from the exterior,’’ Tomlin said. “It was a good camp, but shoot, it was a good camp a year ago. But really, you measure camps by how you perform over the course of the season, and from that standpoint, stay tuned.’’
Andrews was put on injured reserve last week, but it’s clear the man whose Instagram handle is “Bear” isn’t going into hibernation any time soon. The center and two-time captain was on the practice field helping out his fellow offensive linemen during an early drill in the team’s full-padded practice. Every eligible player was in attendance . . . The Patriots appear relatively healthy as only Thomas (hamstring), tight end Matt LaCosse (ankle), and safety Obi Melifonwu (ankle) were on the season’s initial injury report. All were limited . . . Country star Chris Lane will host a free concert at 7 p.m. on Thursday in Lot 22 at Gillette Stadium to celebrate the Super Bowl champion Patriots. Captain Devin McCourty and the Patriots cheerleaders will be on hand, as well.