Tom Brady, Patriots prepare for ‘unpredictable’ opening night

Andy Hart
September 05, 2019 - 11:52 am

The advent of a new NFL season brings a challenge to Bill Belichick’s always-prepared, information-heavy Patriots.

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Hearing Tom Brady talk about the season opener this week, it rekindles memories of the opening line of the old Full House TV show theme song – “Whatever happened to predictability?”

No, Brady isn’t looking for a milkman, paperboy (what’s that?) or evening TV.

Rather, he and his Patriots head into Sunday night’s opener against the Steelers at Gillette Stadium – a familiar New England foe with the teams having met as recently as last December in Pittsburgh – knowing there is in many ways a lack of information regarding both teams on both sides of the ball at this early point in the process.

That’s especially true with all comers this season, including the Steelers, gunning for the defending Super Bowl champs.

“I think that you work a long time to get to this point, and these outcomes are very unpredictable because you have the competitive landscape of the league, and you have these other teams that are working extremely hard to beat us,” Brady said. “I mean, we don't know how it's going to go. You put up a plan, you think it's going to work or else you wouldn't have confidence in it, and then you get into the ring so-to-speak, and then you go at it. They're going to show us a lot of things that we haven't seen, and that's just the way the early part of the football season goes. Eventually teams settle into what they are going to be and what they're confident in and what they're doing a good job at. Your identity begins to take shape and then it changes. Guys come in and out of the lineup, they're hurt, some guys are having better years than expected, some guys aren't.”

Thanks to a few unique factors, there are even more questions about the New England and Pittsburgh passing attacks than might normally be the case. The Steelers traded away Hall of Fame receiver and organizational headache Antonio Brown in the offseason. The Patriots lost Rob Gronkowski to retirement.

Magnifying the unpredictability for Brady is the fact that he never took the preseason game field with three guys now expected to be among his top targets in 2019 – Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon and Demaryius Thomas.

Ask about having “trepidation” given the limited time he’s worked with those guys this summer, Brady simultaneously tried to take it in stride but also acknowledged that it’s less than ideal.

“It's part of football. It's a challenging thing, and that's why it's not always as fluid as you would hope it to be because you prepare for eight months for this game, and then you're getting used to guys we haven't really played with,” Brady said. “Look, we're going to try to work as hard as we can, like we always do. I don't think this team ever feels like we're a finished product, and I don't think we finish many practices and Coach Belichick has been like, ‘Man, we've got this all figured out.’ I think we're trying to work at it every single day and put the time and effort and energy and commitment into it for each other, and you see how that pays off after a long season.”

The key being the fact that it is indeed a long season. Regardless of what happens on opening night against the Steelers there is a long process between now and where Brady’s offense will be come winter. Because as unpredictable as the early part of the season may be, quite predictably the Patriots should be competing for playoff positioning and a chance to defend their Super Bowl title in January.

“The season's not over in two weeks, the season's not over at the end of September, or October, or November. It's a long year and we've got to make improvements,” Brady concluded. “Up to this point, I hope we've made a lot of improvements since the beginning of training camp, but again I think that's going to work all the way through the entire season too. We'd like to, like I said, win these games because they're all important and they all matter, but we're going to have to go earn it.”

Related: Tom Brady’s Patriots looking for a ‘fast start’ in September