FOXBORO - Tom Brady gave another State of the Union message Wednesday, and all appears well in his eyes.
"Everyone's been working hard," the Patriots' quarterback said after a rain-soaked practice with the Philadelphia Eagles at Gillette Stadium's practice complex. "The competition has been at a high level. There's a lot of guys that are competing for spots, and that always brings out the best in all of us. When you see that and guys dig deep, it's been a lot of fun to see. Every position, there's guys fighting to earn their role, and that's what training camp is all about. It's really where you build your team."
That being said, it remains to be seen this preseason how Brady looks in an actual game. The 37-year-old veteran has been close to brilliant in his practice reps against either his own defense or those of the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles, but if he gets to play in Friday's home preseason opener (7:30 p.m.; Ch. 4, 12) - and the emphasis is on "if" - it will be his first actual game action of the year.
Brady said he still didn't know if he would be playing Friday night, but he said he'd like to.
"As much as the coach will let me," he said. "He makes those decisions and I'll be ready to play for as long as he wants me to. That's a very valuable experience for me, too. It doesn't matter how many years you've been doing it, you've got to get out there and play in a game to get the body going at a level that it needs to be at."
There may be good reason for Brady to get some meaningful game-condition snaps. The center position has been in a state of flux; rookie Bryan Stork has been out with a leg injury, taking him out of the competition that was expected in this camp. Veterans Ryan Wendell (the incumbent starter) and Dan Connolly have been alternating as the snapper, and that rotation is likely to continue for some time more.
"I have confidence in both of those guys," Brady said. "I love both Dan and Wendy they work so hard. The center-quarterback relationship is a pretty special one. I got my hands on their butts probably more than their wives. It's a pretty unique trust and relationship that you have."
Media members chuckled at Brady's description of the job.
"It's the truth, one way or another," the quarterback said "That's football."
The football itself was a slippery thing Wednesday, as the monsoon-like conditions made for dropped passes and less-than-crisp route running. At one point, coach Bill Belichick stuck his nose into the offensive huddle and implored the Brady-led offense to get on the stick.
"I think it was poor execution on the drive before, and we just couldn't get much out of it," Brady said. "We got another opportunity, which usually doesn't happen. In the NFL, you usually don't get a second chance. But in practice you do, and we all went out and did a better job.
"We always talk about how sometimes when you leave the field it's never as bad as you think it is and it's never as good as you think it is," he added. "And a lot of times, that's how the games are too because little things add up in both ways. They add up if you do them poorly and they add up if you do them well. When we do things well, when we don't make unforced errors, when we control what the New England Patriots can control, we can be a pretty good team. We just can't do things that really are unforced errors, where the other team doesn't have to do anything to stop us, but we stop ourselves."
Brady said that the task of gaining a rapport with his receivers continues, and that it has made progress during the joint workouts of the past two weeks.
"We're learning every day, whether it's the locker room or the meeting room or the practice field, where you probably learn the most because that's where you've got to go out there and prove it," he said. "That's where you develop trust and confidence in one another, and if it doesn't happen in practice, it's hard to think that it's going to just magically going to happen in a game.
"You have to be able to do it in practice over and over again in order to earn the trust of your teammates and coaches, so when you go out there, you see something that happened in practice and then you have confidence in the second half and the game," he said. "But if this never happened in practice, when it matters the most, why are you going to try to do it in a game? That's really what we're trying to develop and we get a lot of reps in practice during a weekly basis - certainly during training camp we get a lot of reps, so that's what everyone's trying to do for each other."
Before Friday's game, the Patriots and Eagles will have an expanded walkthrough today to touch upon some of the agenda that might have been curtailed by Wednesday's inclement weather. Brady, meanwhile, made it sound as if he really wanted the chance to test his own progress in game conditions.
"We're always looking forward to the games," he said. "You play the game, you don't work the game. That's what we're trying to do, go out and play the game and have a lot of fun. We've got a day of prep tomorrow and then we'll go out and let it rip on Friday."