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Super Bowl LI: Tom Brady zeroes in, embracing another magic moment

By Jeff Reynolds, The Sports Xchange
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New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady speaks at a press conference at the JW Marriott in Houston, Texas on February 2, 2017. The New England Patriots will play the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI on Sunday at NRG Stadium. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady speaks at a press conference at the JW Marriott in Houston, Texas on February 2, 2017. The New England Patriots will play the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI on Sunday at NRG Stadium. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

HOUSTON -- Tom Brady took the podium Thursday while families of players on the roster of the New England Patriots unloaded from buses in front of the JW Marriott in Houston.

"For the families it's great -- they're coming in as fans, they get to enjoy it," Brady said. "For me personally, I don't plan on doing anything other than getting ready to play football. There's plenty of time after Sunday to do that."

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The Patriots are whittling their play sheet to a final 70 plays for the game. He said Thursday's practice focused on the red zone, and brought a lot of energy.

The intentional focus on scoring, long the norm under head coach Bill Belichick for a Thursday practice, takes on added importance when you consider the Patriots haven't found the end zone in the first quarter in six previous Super Bowls with Brady at quarterback.

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"We say 'do your job' about 100 times a day, and guys are focused on doing their job," Brady said.

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Thursday that Brady does let his guard down. He makes time for golf, and for his family, but he's wired to lock in more and more the closer he gets to game day. It's Brady's routine, and McDaniels said the Patriots appreciate his personal protocol.

"For me, it's important to take the time for events like (Family Night)," McDaniels said. "This is the first time I've had all of my kids here with me (at a Super Bowl). All four of them."

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Brady's personal situation is unfamiliar even as he's approaching his seventh Super Bowl. At 39, he's not just a year older. He said being a father of three has significant constraints and the health of his mother, Gayle, adds emotional strain to typical preparation.

Brady said he remains "hopeful" his mother, ill the past 18 months, can make it to Houston, but as of Thursday evening he wasn't certain of her presence.

"I talked the other day about compartmentalization," Brady said. "I owe it to the team to be focused on them when I'm at work and when I'm preparing. I think over the course of a long career, you have to. You can't let everything that's going on in your life affect you. Everybody is dealing with something. I have a lot of people that keep me grounded."

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Brady will not venture a guess whether he might retire before Belichick -- the 64-year-old Belichick declined to talk about his future -- but he has come to realize that day is drawing near. With a seventh Super Bowl to play together on Sunday, Brady said he's banking on memories and "wouldn't have it any other way."

Owner Robert Kraft said in the hallway at the team hotel toward the end of the Patriots' final media session on Thursday that Belichick can coach the team "as long as he wants."

McDaniels, who withdrew from consideration for head coaching vacancies last month, said he can't envision Belichick retiring. Brady finds the idea hard to fathom, too.

"I don't know what he plans on doing. He's the best," Brady said. "He's so focused on coaching and doing anything he can to help the team win. There's no BS with Coach Belichick. Coach does a great job of every week putting urgency on the team and making us understand we're going up against a very competitive team that could beat us if we don't play our best.

"It's important for us to have a leader like that who brings it every day -- April or February -- he's doing the best he can."

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