BOSTON (CBS) — It’s a simple action that takes place on every single down in the NFL, and it’s one that often gets overlooked. It is the center-quarterback exchange, and though it is often taken for granted, it remains the most crucial element to every single play. Without a successful snap, there can be no 80-yard run and there can be no great touchdown pass — there can’t even be a victory kneel-down.
For Tom Brady, he spent much of the early part of his career not having to worry about his relationship with his center, as Dan Koppen served in that duty from 2003-11. But in the years since, he’s seen a rotation of big men take over at center, and that change continues this year with Ryan Wendell and Dan Connolly both making snaps for Brady. Rookie Bryan Stork also hopes to get in that mix as well.
On Wednesday, after a rainy practice at Gillette Stadium, Brady spoke about the intimate relationship he has with the men who give him the ball.
“I’ve got confidence in those guys. I love both Dan and Wendy, I love those guys. They work so hard,” Brady said. “The center-quarterback relationship is a pretty special one. I’ve got my hands on their butts probably more than their wives, so, you know, it’s a pretty unique trust and relationship you have.”
From the chuckling assembled media came the follow-up question: “Is that off the record?”
“It’s the truth,” a smiling Brady said. “So, one way or another, that’s football.”
While trust with his centers is not a problem for Brady, he talked in detail about building that same trust with his receivers, including what it takes to establish a relationship that will work during the stressful moments of NFL games.
“If it doesn’t happen in practice, it’s hard to think that it’s just magically going to happen in a game. You have to be able to do it in practice over and over and over again in order to earn the trust of your teammates and your coaches so that when you go out there, you see something that happened in practice, then you have confidence that it can happen in a game,” Brady said. “But if it’s never happened in practice, when it matters the most why are you going to try to do it in the game? So I think that’s really what we’re trying to develop and we get a lot of reps in practice on a weekly basis. So that’s what everyone’s trying to do for each other.”
On that note, Brady spoke positively about Brandon LaFell, the newcomer to the receiving corps.
“I’ve really enjoyed being with him. He’s added a lot,” Brady said. “He’s got a real love for the game. He does a great job out there getting open, he just keeps making more plays. So that’s been really fun for a quarterback to see, guys out there really working hard to make improvements and that really do it, and hopefully it continues to carry over. But it’s been a lot of fun to be with him — and Julian [Edelman], Danny [Amendola], same thing. KT [Kenbrell Thompkins] is making a bunch of plays. All those guys who have been out there have been great, and the offensive line keeps building, it’s really the strength in our team, so I’ve got a lot confidence in our group.”
Brady did not play in the Patriots’ preseason opener last week against Washington. As for how much he’ll play this Friday night at home against Philadelphia? Brady is leaving that up to Bill Belichick.
“As much as Coach will let me,” Brady said when asked how much he expects to play. “He makes those decisions. I’ll be ready to play for as long as he wants me to. That’s very valuable playing experience for me, too. It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been doing it — you’ve got to go out there and play under game situations and get your body going at the level that it needs to be at.
“We always look forward to the games. You play the game; you don’t work the game. So that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re going to go out and play and have a lot of fun. We’ve got a day of prep tomorrow, and then we’ll go out there and let it rip on Friday.”
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