FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — With his team coming off its first loss of the season, New England coach Bill Belichick has been in no mood to dwell on the return of a certain quarterback this week.
“Right now our focus is on Cleveland, trying to get ready to go in Cleveland. We can’t do anything about what it was or wasn’t the last four weeks,” Belichick said. “That’s it, period. This week, Cleveland.”
Tight end Rob Gronkowski agreed with his coach’s assessment, with one caveat.
“It’s just like any other week, except Tom’s back at quarterback, baby,” he said.
After a quiet first two days since the expiration of his “Deflategate” suspension, Brady and the Patriots returned to the practice field Wednesday for the first time to begin preparations for the Browns.
Though banned from the Patriots’ facilities during his suspension, Brady was allowed to workout with personal trainer Alex Guerrero and kept busy throwing passes with former Patriots receiver Wes Welker.
But it remains unclear just how game ready he is, and how much rust he needs to peel away prior to Sunday’s trip to Cleveland.
After missing the preseason opener to attend a memorial service, and then accidentally cutting his thumb prior to the second preseason game, Brady had limited reps with new additions like Martellus Bennett and Chris Hogan. The same was true with Gronkowski, who didn’t dress for any preseason games and was limited by an ongoing hamstring injury.
“We’ve been practicing with Tom for a while now. So we’ve got to go out and do what we’ve done since the first day I’ve been here,” Gronkowski said. “We just gotta go out there and work hard. I don’t see why things are gonna change just like that. We had all camp. We just gotta focus on the Browns, prepare for the Browns and do what we gotta do as an offense.”
Danny Amendola said the first successful completion Brady made with him since his return came in the form of a big hug.
As for what happens between now and Sunday, he expects that will take care of itself.
“I know he’s been working hard wherever he’s been. That’s no secret to me, and it’s every day for him,” Amdendola said. “I’m sure it will all come natural for him.”
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels thinks that simply being around teammates and following their normal routine would go a long way in getting the 39-year-old quarterback back up to speed.
“I think experience helps any player. If they’re injured or what have you, they come back, or if they miss some time for whatever reason,” McDaniels said. “But I also think there’s an acclimation period in the game of football that’s hard to simulate unless you’re playing football.”
Brady may not have to be at peak shape against a Browns defense that is yielding 28.8 points per game — ranking 27th in the NFL.
Brady has also had lots of success against Cleveland, having won five of his six career starts against the Browns, while racking up seven career 400-yard passing efforts.
That includes the last meeting between the teams in 2013 in which Brady passed for 418 yards and two touchdowns, including a 1-yard strike to Amendola with 31 seconds remaining that proved to be the game winner.
This game is on the road, but Amendola anticipates seeing a giddier quarterback than usual.
“He’s gonna be juiced up. We’re all gonna be ready, we’re all gonna be juiced up,” he said. “We’re gonna have a lot of good energy out there. We’re excited to get one good day of practice under our belt today and go from there.”
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