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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady countered the characterization in an ESPN The Magazine story that he “seemed liberated” after the team traded backup Jimmy Garoppolo.

The ESPN The Magazine story said “some players and staffers noticed that Brady seemed especially excited, hollering and cajoling.”

“I think that’s just such a poor characterization of anything. In 18 years, I’ve never celebrated when someone has been traded, been cut,” Brady said Tuesday in his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI’s Kirk and Callahan Show. “I would say that’s disappointing to hear that someone would express that, or a writer would express that, because it’s so far from what my beliefs are about my teammates.

“I think I’m very empathetic toward other people’s experiences. I know those situations aren’t easy. I’ve never been traded or released, but I can imagine how that might feel. I would never, ever feel that way about when Jimmy got traded, when Jacoby [Brissett] got traded. I’ve kept in touch with all those guys. When Matt Cassel was gone. All these guys I’ve worked with, I felt like I had such a great relationship with all the quarterbacks I’ve worked with. I kept in touch with basically everybody. So to characterize that as a certain way is just completely, completely wrong.”
Brady said he didn’t read the ESPN The Magazine story “cover to cover” but felt like he “got most of it.”

Asked if the story bothers him, he said on the program, “I think there are a lot of things that are said. I think you can go about your life, and certainly here with this team, and try to do what I’ve always done for a long time, and be a good teammate, and work as hard as I can to help the team win, and then somebody can write something to contradict that, and I think it’s up to everybody to believe what they want to believe.
“I don’t put too much thought into it, really. I feel like I have a great relationship with my teammates. If others don’t feel like they have a great relationship with me, that’s one thing, but I try to do what I’ve always done and be the best teammate I can be. I don’t think that’s ever really changed in my mind.”

Brady also denied preventing Garoppolo from working with Alex Guerrero while defending his relationship with his personal trainer and business partner.

“You guys obviously know how I feel about Alex and the work we’ve done together,” Brady said. “I just keep doing what my process has been and worked [for me] for a long time.”

Asked what was true in the story, Brady called that “a tough question.”

“Everyone has different truths,” Brady said. “When you talk about the way I see things, the way you guys see things, the way the writer may see things, the way Coach Belichick may see things, everyone has different truths based on their perspectives. I feel like I go about my business like I have every year, and again, I like to speak for myself, because that’s how — I don’t want to speak on someone else’s behalf or what their experiences are. I try to do the best I can do, like I’ve always done.”

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The hot topic of conversation in the New England Patriots’ locker room Tuesday was the concerning number of hits that quarterback Tom Brady has taken this season: 32 in just five games.

Often one to get right to the point, running back James White said simply, “We have to do a better job protecting him. We’re all accountable for that.”

Indeed, there isn’t just one reason Brady is being battered at such a troubling rate. Everyone has had a hand in it.

Consider …

Offensive line has been up and down: The starting line of left tackle Nate Solder, left guard Joe Thuney, center David Andrews, right guard Shaq Mason and right tackle Marcus Cannon can be more consistent, but there are still plenty of plays on which they are providing Brady enough time. It isn’t all on the line, but that’s a fair place to start. An incomplete pass to receiver Chris Hogan up the left sideline early in the fourth quarter Thursday was a good example: Hogan was open, but Brady was rushed to throw as Robert Ayers hit him. “We hate to see him get hit. Keeping him clean, keeping him upright, that’s our goal every week,” Solder said.
Running back blitz pickup a wild card: White is the ace in this area, but he wasn’t in the game on the play on which Brady was strip-sacked and lost a fumble in Thursday’s win over the Buccaneers. As linebacker Adarius Glanton looped around Cannon, it appeared as if Mike Gillislee never saw him coming. Boom! Brady had his back turned on a play-action fake and never had a chance.

Tom Brady has been hit 32 times through five games, and the reasons why are many.

Tom Brady has been hit 32 times through five games, and the reasons why are many.

Tight ends are part of that, too: On the same play on which Glanton dislodged the ball from Brady, tight end Dwayne Allen couldn’t hold the left edge in a one-on-one matchup against defensive end Noah Spence, who arrived at Brady the same time as Glanton. It was a crunching blow and a reminder that tight ends are part of the protection as well.
Brady’s decision-making: Although it doesn’t count as part of the 32 hits, when Brady dropped back to pass on third-and-goal from the 6-yard line late in the second quarter, he seemed to have receiver Danny Amendola open over the middle but instead tucked and ran, absorbing a hit from nose tackle Clinton McDonald in the process. Brady might have been referencing that play when he said on Westwood One radio, “We’d score more points if I made some better plays in the red area. So that’s really where it starts for me.” He also talked about holding on to the ball too long at times, which is a result, in part, of the team having more of a vertical attack in 2017.

Josh McDaniels’ approach: The offensive coordinator has had his hand forced at times, calling so many pass plays because the Patriots have had to play catch-up. The Patriots have attempted 195 passes and had 128 rushing attempts. Turning more to the running game at times is one easy solution to limit hits on Brady; the key is striking the right balance between preservation and aggressiveness.
Receivers can uncover more consistently: When Brady was sacked on third-and-1 early in the second quarter against the Buccaneers, the Patriots showed a pass-based look by emptying the backfield and spreading things out. The Buccaneers rushed four, and as Brady looked down the field the Buccaneers appeared to have all five pass-catchers covered well. It wasn’t as if the rush got there immediately. Even CBS analyst Tony Romo noted, “The ball has to come out at some point.” Not if no one is open, though.

Credit to the opposition: The Patriots have played some of the NFL’s better defenses, a point Brady made in his Westwood One interview, saying, “We’ve played some of the best defenses in the league. That’s part of it. We’ve been in very competitive games where we’ve had to throw the ball at the end.”

Bill Belichick’s take. During his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI, the coach said of the hits on Brady, “We need to work on everything. The passing game is timing, between the quarterback and receivers; getting the ball out on time. It’s protection; giving the quarterback enough time. It’s having the right play that gives you those options. So all the above. I think we need to do a better job all the way across the board. We can all do better.”

Patriots determined not to stall at finish like they did in ’15 regular season

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It’s football déjà vu for the New England Patriots in the final two games. Just like the end of the 2015 season, when they were 12-2, they finish this season with games against the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins.

What they’re aiming to avoid, once again at 12-2, are similar results — back-to-back losses.

“It’s kind of like we’re in the same position [as] last year — same opponents, obviously same goals,” safety Devin McCourty, one of the team’s captains, said Wednesday. “Last year, whatever we thought of how good of a position we were in and ‘blah, blah, blah,’ the season didn’t end the way we wanted [it] to.”

Part of ensuring that doesn’t happen this year is by adopting “a huge sense of urgency,” which isn’t always easy for players at a time of year when many around them are relaxing and enjoying holiday cheer.

“The biggest thing we always talk about is past games, last year, and the biggest thing is learning from those experiences,” McCourty said. “Obviously those games have no bearing on this year’s games, but just learning, ‘What did you do that week? Did you go the extra step to try to prepare? Did you go the extra mile at the toughest part of the season — two games left, Christmas, New Year’s, holidays — just trying to put in a little extra?’”

McCourty said that’s something that he and fellow captains Dont’a Hightower, Tom Brady and Matthew Slater, among other veterans, have been stressing to the rest of the locker room.

The message, of course, starts at the top with Bill Belichick.

“He talked about last year being in the same position — two games left, trying to play your best football to end the season,” McCourty said. “I think that’s what he’s [stressing] — finish down the stretch, something that we obviously struggled with last year.”

Part of the Patriots’ struggles last year were the result of an unusual offensive game plan in the season finale at Miami, when they ran the ball 21 times in the first half and threw just five passes. But that aside, the message has been loud and clear inside Gillette Stadium this week, with the team undergoing a “reset” of its goals after capturing the AFC East title in Denver.

“We all have an understanding that we need to do more,” said Slater, the six-time Pro Bowl special-teamer. “One of our goals, yes, is to win the division, but that’s not all we came here to do. We understand we have a lot of work to continue to do to hopefully get to where we want to be.

“We’ve had a taste of the ultimate goal. A lot of people around here have had that taste. Once you get a taste of it, I think it’s something you’ll always [want more of]. … Nobody is complacent. Nobody is popping the champagne bottles or anything like that.”

Pats’ Alan Branch faces 4-game suspension after positive marijuana test

New England Patriots defensive tackle Alan Branch is facing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, league sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Branch tested positive for marijuana and will appeal the four-game suspension.

The suspension will not start until after the appeal is heard, so Branch is expected to play Sunday against the New York Jets.

He has started nine of the Patriots’ 10 games this season and has one sack and 33 tackles. Last season he appeared in 16 games, starting 15, and finished with one sack and 35 tackles.

Branch, 31, was suspended by the Patriots for a few days in August for violating team rules.

Branch joined the Patriots in the middle of the 2014 season. He had been released by the Bills in August 2014, when he was entering the second season of a three-year, $8.5 million deal ($3.1 million signing bonus) but made headlines with a DUI arrest.