By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Tom Brady has been around for quite a while, so when he hears of people criticizing his game — say, a writer claiming he’s no longer a top-five quarterback — he doesn’t really let it bother him. At this point, he’s just about heard all there is to hear.

Yet on Wednesday at minicamp, the Patriots’ quarterback was asked if hearing criticisms like that works to get him a little more fired up to play.

“I’m always pretty fired up,” Brady said with a laugh. “I think there’s people that always have opinions about us as athletes. You just try to go out there and do your best. You go home at night realizing you left it all on the field. Some days you don’t play your best, but that’s sports. I try to go out there and be the best I can be this year.”

Brady then inquired about the source of the criticism.

“Were they Jets fans or Dolphins fans or Bills fans? Patriots fans?” Brady asked. “I don’t know. Everyone’s a little biased. My wife thinks I played pretty good! My mom thinks I played pretty good.”

To help gain some fans outside of his immediate family, Brady spent most of his time with the media talking about the work that it takes to get better each day on the practice field. That work is necessary for himself as well as his receivers, who can’t be called “young” anymore.

“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,” Brady said. “Nobody can really make mistakes, not if you want to be a good offense. The best teams have the most consistent, dependable players, and that’s what everybody’s trying to be out here for our team, because that’s gonna make our team the toughest to beat.”

One player who can be considered young is quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who’s hit the ground running in his first practices as a rookie. Brady’s been a fan of the newest member of the team’s quarterback club.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with him, I think he’s obviously a very talented young man. So it’s been fun to be out here. He works hard every day,” Brady said. “We’ve got a good quarterback room. I think everyone displays really good leadership, a good positive attitude, we try to be the ones that are held accountable every day for our actions. If the quarterback messes up, it’s hard to make a good play. So the more a quarterback can do the right thing on the field — whether that’s a Mike call or whether that’s anything involved with the scheme, and then the physical action of the play, throwing the ball to the right guys, the right coverage, making the right read — that’s what quarterback’s all about.”

Garoppolo’s command in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage has stood out to Brady early in the rookie’s career.

“That’s the role and responsibility for our team. 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. It’s a trait that all the good quarterbacks have, and Jimmy’s got very good leadership skills.”

Because training Garoppolo for the NFL is a part of Brady’s job as the veteran starter, the conversation shifted back to Brady’s first season in 2000, when he was in Garoppolo’s shoes.

“I was pretty fortunate to come in at the time that I did with Coach Belichick. I got to learn the offense at the same time that everybody else did, because my first year was everyone else’s first year too. So we had a lot more time than the kids have now,” Brady said. “We had quarterback school, where we met five days a week for like nine hours, all on going through the playbook. That was really helpful for me, so by the time that I went to OTAs, I pretty much knew everything. Then you have an opportunity to go out there and compete. We kept four quarterbacks my first year. It was just a great position for me to be able to sit back and learn and watch and understand the things I needed to do to help us. And when I got my opportunity, I tried to take advantage of it.”

Brady’s opportunity came in the form of throwing just three passes in his rookie season, but he obviously stepped onto a much larger stage in his second season. He was prepared, he said, because of all the work that went into his first season. And it is that, more than anything else Brady could ever say to Garoppolo, that should let the rookie know what he’ll have to do if he wants a chance to shine in the NFL.

“School, 9 to 5, taking notes and going home at night and going through drawings and sketches. You gotta do it, you gotta put in the time,” Brady said. “If you want to be special at this game, then you have to do whatever it takes. Some things come a little more naturally to certain people than others. The mental part came pretty naturally for me. I think I’ve really had to work hard on the physical part, what it takes to be an NFL player. There’s a reason I was a sixth-round pick, because I didn’t have much ability. So I’ve got to try to improve those things over the years while still keeping my mental game sharp.”

Read more from Michael Hurley by clicking here, or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.


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