It's that time: Cleveland, say hello to Tom Brady
CLEVELAND >> The last thing the Browns need right now is a ticked-off superstar quarterback making his NFL return.
Cleveland, say hello to Tom Brady .
While the "Deflategate" saga might never be forgotten, it's behind the New England Patriots and their four-time Super Bowl champion QB. And, for sure, Brady won't have forgotten the four-game punishment from Commissioner Roger Goodell that he fought to overturn and eventually had to serve.
He might say otherwise, and that the deflated footballs scandal is in the past, but Brady rarely needs an extra edge when he suits up. And boy does he have one Sunday at Cleveland.
"It was great to be back in the building," Brady said on Westwood One Radio this week. "Certainly great to be back to work. It's been a long four weeks for me, but I'm excited to get started on my preparation for Cleveland. I'm anxious for the week ahead. I want to get back out on the practice field. This is what I love to do and now I have an opportunity to do it."
What might he do to the Browns (0-4), the NFL's only winless team and ravaged by injuries? What Brady usually does, which most often is a good thing for New England (3-1).
"His demeanor is always focused. He's always ready to play and always ready to roll," says 2015 All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski, who barely has rolled this season because of a hamstring problem. "So as an offense as a whole we just have to go out there, stick together, practice together, get ready for a tough Browns team, a defense that is always working hard and nonstop and always playing to the whistle."
If not playing particularly well.
Some other things to watch Sunday:
THIRD QB: Like the Patriots, the Browns also are on their third quarterback. Unlike New England, which went 2-0 with Jimmy Garoppolo starting and 1-1 with rookie Jacoby Brissett, Cleveland has had no success with its QBs: Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown, both sidelined by injuries, and rookie Cody Kessler.
"Obviously, Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, and he has played it for a long time and done a lot of great things," said Kessler, who has not been awful despite his inexperience and the lack of talent around him. "As a young quarterback, that is something you want to do. You want to play for a long time and be as successful as he has and continue to work hard."
JUST IN TIME: Brady returns just when the Patriots are hitting a rougher stretch in their schedule. Their wins have been over Arizona, Miami and Houston, a combined 5-7, and they come off a three-game homestand. Beyond Cleveland, New England faces Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Buffalo — which blanked the Patriots last Sunday — and, after a bye, Seattle.
CROW FLIES: Isaiah Crowell has busted loose for the Browns, who lead the NFL in rushing.
Crowell has run for 394 yards in four games and is averaging a league-best 6.5 yards per carry. He gained 112 violent yards on just 15 carries last week, breaking free from Redskins defenders on nearly every play.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who embraces any defensive challenge, knows the Patriots have their hands full.
"Crowell's strong, tough, breaks tackles, makes a lot of yards on his own," he said. "Very explosive through the hole, breaks a lot of arm tackles. You've got to do a good job with him in the running game. He's got great ball security."
The third-year back was involved in a controversy earlier this summer when he posted an illustration of a handcuffed police officer being stabbed. Crowell has not only expressed his remorse, he donated his first game check of nearly $35,000 to the Dallas Fallen Officer Foundation.
PRYORITY: After three years of trying to master the switch from college quarterback to pro wideout, Terrelle Pryor is showing signs he has the tools to succeed. Pryor is averaging 15.3 yards for his team-leading 19 receptions, completed 3 of 5 passes for 53 yards, rushed for 15 yards and a TD, and generally has been a solid influence in the locker room.
"He has shown the ability to really do everything that you could ask of a receiver really, or a football player," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "He has made great plays down the field, taking the ball away from defenders, has shown great timing and ball skills to get the ball, he's made good run-after-catch plays, taking short passes and turning them into long runs with his speed and his elusiveness, his ability to break tackles and pick up extra yards. And then he's been productive in the quarterback position throwing, running and just ... adding another dimension to the offense and another thing that the defense has to spend a lot of time working on."
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