Tom Brady squeezed through a mob of cameramen and reporters and stepped onto a small riser in a courtyard at the University of San Diego.
Noticing the backdrop, he smiled.
“A rose garden,” the New England Patriots quarterback said with a laugh. “That’s awesome. It is. It’s a little different.”
The rain had stopped and the sun was out. Brady held his weekly news conference just before the Patriots (9-3) held their second practice in San Diego. They flew straight here after their loss at Green Bay on Sunday in order to cut down on late-season travel.
On Sunday night, they’ll play the resurgent Chargers (8-4).
“December is when football season is. This is what it’s all about,” Brady said. “Regardless of what you’ve done to this point, everybody’s season is decided at this point in the year. This is when you’ve got to be at your best. We got off to a really slow start last weekend; hopefully we can rebound this weekend and play much better.”
The Patriots lost 26-21 to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, snapping a seven-game winning streak. The Chargers had a thrilling comeback at Baltimore for a 34-33 win, their third straight.
Brady and Rivers have both excelled in Decembers past.
“Like I said, this is the strength of our team, it’s not my strength,” Brady said. “I think that really speaks to the work ethic, the discipline of our guys, the mental toughness. It’s not easy to get up every day, on a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and grind through it like we do. I think that although it may not be really short-term, the positive feelings from some of those things in the end, that’s when it pays off the most. I think you just have to grind through it. It’s hard for everybody. It feels a little easier out here on days like this. But ultimately it comes down to your execution and how well you go out and play.”
It rained Wednesday when the Patriots had their first practice at USD.
It was clear Thursday.
“It’s been good,” said Brady, who grew up in San Mateo, south of San Francisco. “I think we’ve had a good couple days and got off to a good start yesterday. It’s still kind of early in the preparation. Now it starts to feel like California weather, as opposed to yesterday. Hopefully we’ll have another good day of practice. Guys have a lot of time to kind of be together and spend a lot of time that we don’t typically get to spend so that’s been a real plus.”
The Patriots were once again cheered by several at USD as they walked from their locker room in the Jenny Craig Pavilion to the football field.
Despite the Patriots’ attempts to block out the outside world, people walking along a public sidewalk could watch as Brady dropped back to pass and running backs hit holes. The Patriots wore jerseys without numbers. Nonetheless, some players didn’t need numbers to be identified, such as big tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Brock Abshire, a Patriots fan who attends Palomar College in northern San Diego County, snapped photos from different vantages.
“I had this circled on my calendar nine months ago,” he said, referring to Sunday night’s game. “This is pretty cool. I wasn’t expecting it.”