BOSTON (CBS) — For Tom Brady, Thursday marked the start of his 15th training camp with the New England Patriots.
While the rigors of a summer full of workouts isn’t as enticing for the soon-to-be 37-year-old quarterback as it once was, Brady always makes sure to make the most of each and every time he sets foot on the field.
“It goes fast, so you just appreciate it. There are very few people who have the opportunity I have,” Brady told the collection of reporters who gathered around him following the team’s first practice. “You appreciate the moments you have and every year is something different. This could be your last training camp — you never know. So you have to make it count and you can’t take anything for granted.”
As has been the case in his last 14 training camp, as cliche as it may sound, Brady is just focused on getting better.
“It’s a long training camp and we have to string a lot of good days together in order to be the team we want to be. It’s going to be a lot of effort and a lot of work,” he said. “There is no easy way about it, you just have to grind and put the work in, listen to the coaches to try to make the improvements. Hopefully when we start the season we’re a lot better than we are now.”
The 2013 season was a somewhat frustrating campaign for Brady and the New England offense, as the veteran quarterback put up some very un-Bradylike numbers with a pack of unfamiliar pass-catchers. Brady completed just 60.5 percent of his passes, the second-lowest completion percentage of his career, and it was clear he and his receivers (other than Julian Edelman) struggled to get on the same page for the better part of the season.
With a season in the system under their belts, we should see improvement from the likes of Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins. But Brady was quick to point out that everyone on the roster needs to be better in order to reached the ultimate goal at the end of the season: another Lombardi trophy.
“It’s about making improvements, and it goes from the guy who is the newest on the team to the guy who is the oldest on the team,” said Brady. “It’s really everybody; there is nobody who is immune to it. You have to put the work in, give it all you’ve got and hopefully on a daily basis you can continue to make improvements. This game is a very humbling game. You can’t ever think you have it all figured out. You have to go out and prove it every day.
“We can’t be error repeaters,” Brady stressed. “You can’t make a mistake today and then correct it but come back and make it again tomorrow. [You do that and] you don’t go anywhere, you just tread water.”
Signs of improvement was apparent early on Thursday, when Thompkins laid out to haul in a Brady pass. Plays like that, even in training camp, can go a long way in the offense gaining confidence.
“He made some great plays and he’s certainly capable of it. It’s exciting for a quarterback when you see a guy make those efforts and lay out and catch a ball,” Brady said of Thompkins. “He’s a guy who has put a lot of work in and fought really hard. It’s fun to be out there with him and he’s a guy who I have a lot of confidence in and a lot of trust.
“It’s great to see a competitor like that, and when a guy makes a play like that it really elevates the team,” Brady added.
Another boost to the offense is the presence of tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was medically cleared for full participation in camp. Gronk’s production was sorely missed during his two injury absences last season, and Brady said it was a welcome sight to have No. 87 — and all his energy — on the field on Thursday.
“The more guys we have out here healthy, the better we’re going to be,” he said. “Everyone is really starting at the same place. It’s the first opportunity to put shoulder pads on and the real physical aspect of the sport comes out. In the off-season it’s just shorts and t-shirts, and you’re just throwing the ball – about a quarter of the game. We’re going to see what we’re made of, and we have a lot of tests ahead.”
After their first practice session, Brady put in some extra time with Gronkowski on the smaller practice field at Gillette.
MORE PATRIOTS COVERAGE FROM CBS BOSTON