FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — In packed stadiums, Tom Brady had one of his worst statistical seasons.
Behind the scenes, he’s working hard to have a better one. And, more importantly, carry the New England Patriots further, to the Super Bowl, than they went last season.
Brady has heard coach Bill Belichick stress throughout their 14 full seasons together “that whatever matters to you as an individual, it’s far distant from what the team goals are,” the quarterback said Monday.
Achieving those goals is a year-round pursuit with intense offseason preparation setting the stage for the regular season.
“What you’re trying to establish this time of year is what kind of team you’re going to be,” Brady said during the Patriots third week of organized team activities. “Who’s willing to put it all on the line when there’s really no glory in this. There’s no glory in an OTA practice. There’s no glory in the weight room or out there on the conditioning field, but it’ll show up at some point.
“It’s a long season, so, at some point, the mental toughness, the discipline of the team always shows up and those are the things that we’re trying to work on.”
Last season, Brady was 17th in the NFL in passer rating, 21st in completion percentage, 22nd in average gain per pass attempt and 11th in touchdown passes.
Of course, Wes Welker left before the season for the Denver Broncos, Aaron Hernandez was charged with first-degree murder last summer and Rob Gronkowski was limited by injury to seven games.
The Patriots’ leading returning receiver was Julian Edelman, and he had just 21 catches in 2012. He followed that with 105 receptions in a breakout season, but the rest of the receiving group suffered from injuries and inexperience. The only significant addition to the group is Brandon LaFell, who had a career-high 49 catches in his fourth NFL season last year with Carolina.
“There’s always ways to find improvement,” Brady said after posing for photos with winners of the 2014 Myra Kraft Community MVP awards in honor of team owner Robert Kraft’s late wife.
“You’re always working with lots of other guys. So it’s not necessarily just my improvement, but how my improvement relates to the rest of the team. And we all change from year to year.”
Receivers Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins are entering their second season with the Patriots. Brady is starting his 15th and wants to play as long as possible.
“The thing that I’ve learned over the years is you’ve got to pay the price in advance,” he said. “You just can’t run out on the field and expect things to be better without putting the time in and extra effort. I try to be really consistent and dependable for our guys, and I think that’s what the quarterback position needs to be.”
The Patriots won their fifth straight AFC East title last season and 10th in the past 11. But Brady was outplayed by Peyton Manning in the AFC championship game. Denver won 26-16 as the Patriots made it nine straight seasons without a Super Bowl title.
The offseason intensity increases next week with a three-day minicamp followed by training camp next month.
For Brady, there’s no time to waste. “I don’t think there’s any time that we come out of a meeting thinking, ‘Man, we’re great. We’ve got everything figured out.’ It’s really a time of year where you’re going to make a lot of mistakes,” he said. “You’re going to give great effort and you’re going to fail and then you’ve got to gain trust in each other and become more consistent.”
Then, after speaking with reporters for nearly 10 minutes, Brady was eager to return to work. “Back to practice,” he said with a big smile.