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There was a minor ripple through New England this week when QB Tom Brady questioned the team's mental toughness in two different interviews, although the timing clearly was interesting given that the Celtics and Bruins were in the middle of heated playoff series and the Red Sox remained Page One news with their struggles. But Brady said what team sources indicated to us back in November: that the Patriots were a shadow of their former selves, at least in that one regard.
"Coach (Bill Belichick) always used the words 'mentally tough' to us," Brady told Boston sports radio station WEEI. "I always agree with him. When the going got tough, we didn't get going. We weren't really a mentally tough team last year. I think that's been a big point of emphasis this offseason. Hopefully we find ways to address it with each other and also with Coach bringing in different players and to see if they can bring a little bit of that to our team."
The Patriots did clean house a bit, adding an interesting mix of young and old. And for the second straight year, the team had a deep draft class, selecting 12 players each of the past two seasons. Avoiding the second-half struggles that Brady also addressed in the WEEI interview could become easier if this year's rookies and second-year players find ways to carve out bigger roles, making the team able to substitute more often and stay fresh in the fourth quarter.
For the most authoritative NFL draft news and free-agency analysis, visit ProFootballWeekly.com.