Tom BradySun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.
Tom Brady

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

FOXBORO (AP) -- Tom Brady was a solid student as a rookie learning the New England Patriots playbook.

The physical part of playing quarterback was tougher.

"The reason I was a sixth-round pick was I didn't have much ability," the two-time NFL MVP said Wednesday. "So you've got to try to work hard to improve those things over the years while still keeping my mental game sharp."

Heading into his 15th season, Brady wants to do that as long as possible no matter what critics say. A recent Pro Football Focus story said he wasn't one of the league's top five quarterbacks.

Do such opinions fire him up?

He laughed then said, "I'm always pretty fired up so I think there's people that always have opinions about us as athletes and you just try to go out there and do your best. You go home at night realizing you left it all on the field and some days you don't play your best, but that's sports."

Brady wondered where those comments originated.

"Were they Jet fans or Dolphin fans or Bills fans? Patriots fans?" he said with a grin. "Everyone's a little biased. My wife thinks I play pretty good. My mom thinks I play pretty good."

In 2000, though, he was just one of four Patriots quarterbacks. Drew Bledsoe was the starter, John Friesz threw 21 passes, Michael Bishop threw nine and Brady only three.

But he had plenty of time to watch and learn. Since that was Bill Belichick's first season as head coach, all the quarterbacks were learning a new system.


"I was pretty fortunate to come in at the time that I did with coach Belichick," Brady said.

Back then, the Patriots held an offseason quarterback camp.

"We had a lot more time than the kids have now," Brady said. "We had a quarterback (camp) where we met five days a week for like nine hours, all on going through the playbook. And that was really helpful for me.

"If you want to be special at this game then you've got to do whatever it takes," he said. "Some things come a little more naturally to certain people than others. The mental part came pretty natural for me. I think I really had to work hard on the physical part, what it takes to be an NFL player."

Now it's Jimmy Garoppolo's turn to be the team's rookie quarterback. His leadership and poise have stood out during three weeks of organized team activities and this week's minicamp.

"Whoever plays that position has to take a strong leadership position," Brady said. "There's no one else that's going to do it if the quarterback doesn't do it so that's a trait that all the good quarterbacks have and Jimmy's got very good leadership skills."

Offseason practices with the Patriots are much more intense than the ones Garoppolo had at Eastern Illinois.

"I don't even know if you can compare the two," Garoppolo said with a chuckle. "It's night and day."

There's little time to waste with so much to learn in so little time. Every day missed with an injury is a setback.

"When you get behind in training camp, it's hard to make up," Brady said. "Things are moving so fast at that point and improvements are so dramatic every day with installation and correcting all the errors.

"You're only a young player for a certain amount of time in the NFL and at that point people are just waiting for you to produce. Nobody can really make mistakes, not if you want to be a good offense."