Patriots receiver Brandon LaFell came to the defense of Tom Brady on Wednesday after Broncos players publicly criticized his on-field behavior.
“He’s not a whiner,” LaFell said, “he’s a winner.”
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Other teammates also stuck up for the Patriots quarterback, including cornerback Malcolm Butler, who said of the Broncos’ trash talk: “That doesn’t win football games. It doesn’t bother me.”
The chirping began Monday, when Denver defensive end Antonio Smith called out Brady for constantly working the officials. Asked if that makes him a crybaby, Smith said: “That would be an accurate statement.
“I’ve never seen any quarterback look to the referee right after he gets sacked more than Brady. Every time he gets sacked, he looks at the ref like, ‘You see him sack me? Was that supposed to happen? He did it a little hard. Please throw a 15-yard penalty on him. Get him fined.’ ”
The next day, Broncos lineman Malik Jackson said on NBC Sports’ “Pro Football Talk Live” radio show that Brady “definitely threw some temper tantrums” Nov. 29 in a 30-24 loss at Denver, the Pats’ first defeat of the season. “I know I wouldn’t be whining like that, but some people do,” Jackson said. “So he’s definitely a whiner, but he’s actually a big-time player, competitor, too.”
Brady shrugged off the insults Wednesday during his news conference. When asked if he tends to work the refs more than other quarterbacks do, he said: “I’m not sure. I’m not sure what the other quarterbacks do, so . . .
“If the refs want to throw the flag, I love when they throw the flags on the defenders, absolutely. It advances our team. So that’s just part of football.”
The war of words — which included Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski’s tweet that the Broncos are “good at giving low blows” — is sure to add even more intrigue to Sunday’s AFC Championship Game in Denver.
Brady is a four-time Super Bowl winner and three-time Super Bowl MVP, but he’s 2-6 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Yet the Broncos’ Peyton Manning is having the worst season of his career (nine TD passes, 17 interceptions) and at 39 could be playing his last game. But neither future Hall of Famer can be counted out, especially with a spot in Super Bowl 50 on the line.
“Peyton is a great player,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “We’ve had tremendous battles against him through the years. There isn’t a player off our team that I have any more respect for than Peyton Manning, so his preparation, his consistency, his skills, I would never, ever, ever underestimate him under any circumstances.”
Not surprisingly, Belichick wouldn’t add to the bulletin-board material. “We’re focused on the Denver Broncos and the game,” he said, “so all the rest of that is a bunch of hot air.”