Tom Brady says he still feels rusty, which is scary.
The New England Patriots quarterback has led his team to a pair of wins and a combined 68 points in his first two games since returning from a four-game suspension to begin the season that was imposed by the NFL for his part in the deflation of footballs during the 2014 AFC Championship Game victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
With Deflategate finally behind him, the 39-year-old Brady has thrown for 762 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions in helping the Patriots improve to 5-1. He has completed 57 of 75 passes for a sizzling 76 percent.
Yet Brady says he does not feel he has completely returned to form as the Patriots get set to play the Steelers (4-2) on Sunday at Pittsburgh.
â€śIâ€™m still trying to just get back into the kind of football shape that I need to be in,â€ť Brady said. â€śBeing here for two weeks has been great and the practices and so forth have been really good for me. Thereâ€™s no way to really replicate the kind of intensity and duration of what a practice is, and then certainly what a game is, when youâ€™re not doing those things.
â€śItâ€™s been good to be able to do those things for the last couple of weeks, but thereâ€™s a long way to go.â€ť
That must be discomforting to the Steelers, who will start backup Landry Jones at quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger injured his left knee in last Sundayâ€™s 30-15 loss to the Miami Dolphins and underwent arthroscopic surgery the next day.
â€śTom Brady is showing no ill effects of the time away,â€ť Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. â€śHis accuracy is exceptional. His still vision is exceptional. One of the things that he is really doing well, and often gets overlooked, is his ability to extend plays when the ball doesnâ€™t come out on rhythm. He moves around, he finds eligibles. He stretches the field both horizontally and vertically in those moments.
â€śThat has produced a lot of big plays for them. Weâ€™ve got to be really good as he starts to do those things. He does everything well, but that is something that is jumping off the video that is often overlooked or underrated.â€ť
Brady was asked if he was motivated to prove the league and his detractors wrong following the suspension. However, he dismissed that idea out of hand.
â€śIâ€™m always pretty motivated to be at my best for my teammates,â€ť Brady said. â€śI donâ€™t think anything about last week or last year or five years ago. I love the game. I love the sport. I love being out there pushing my teammates because I know they push me to be my best. The biggest motivator for me has always been to win for my teammates.â€ť
That mindset has helped Brady led the Patriots to four Super Bowl titles and six AFC championships during his 17-year career, as he and Bill Belichick have formed one of the most successful quarterback-coach combinations in NFL history.
â€śYou have a routine and you trust the guy next to you,â€ť Brady said. â€śWhen you know your teammates are going to do their job, it frees your mind 10 percent. You know guys are going to pick up defenders in protections. You know the receivers are going to run the right routes.
â€śGreat teammates are guys you can count to be dependable every week. No one can do your job for you. You have to be accountable. (Belichick) tells us that multiple, multiple times a day but itâ€™s a good reminder.â€ť