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DeMarcus Ware: Patriots QB Tom Brady is one of the “5 toughest players I ever faced”

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The Patriots quarterback is joined by two other quarterbacks, a running back, and an offensive tackle.

Former Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos EDGE DeMarcus Ware retired this offseason and he join The Players Tribune to discuss the 5 toughest players he ever faced.

Ware starts off by showing how EDGE Von Miller was so destructive and how Miller taught him a few new tricks. There’s a breakdown of Miller destroying Patriots OT Cameron Fleming, too, if you’re not prone to nausea. But the five players that Ware highlights are certainly interesting.

The first is former Falcons and Eagles QB Michael Vick and Ware describes how Vick’s unorthodox footwork in the pocket worked to the quarterback’s advantage.

“Vick’s feet were so quick that when he was under center, he would take an eight-step drop, then he’d take three steps up into the pocket,” Ware explains. “And he did all that in the same amount of time it would take a normal quarterback to take a straight five-step drop. So he’d end up in the same spot — right there in the pocket, five yards deep — but those extra three steps on his drop would force the pass rushers deeper upfield, which would give him an extra split second to find a receiver downfield before the pocket collapsed. It also stretched the pocket out, creating bigger gaps for him to escape through on the ground.”

The three others are Vikings and Saints RB Adrian Peterson, whom Ware describes as having “a linebacker’s mentality;” Seahawks OT Walter Jones, because when “he punched you in the chest, you felt like your heart was going to go flying out of your body;” and Colts and Broncos QB Peyton Manning, whom Ware calls “the smartest player on the field.”

The fifth player is Patriots QB Tom Brady and the way that Ware discusses the reigning Super Bowl MVP shows how much defenders respect Brady’s toughness.

“The keys to Tom’s game are recognizing the blitz and getting the ball out of his hands quickly. You rarely see him hold onto the ball,” Ware says. “The way to beat Tom Brady is to hit him. As many times as you can, hit him. And even then, it might not be enough. In the AFC Championship Game a couple of years ago, we sacked Tom four times and we hit him 20 times.

“Twenty times.

“The thing was, every time we hit him, he got back up. We hit Tom more times than any quarterback had been hit in any game that season, and he still had his team a two-point conversion away from tying the game late in the fourth quarter. The dude is relentless.

“Everybody knows what Tom Brady can do with the football. He has great arm strength. He’s accurate. He throws a great deep ball.

“But he can also take a hit.

“Like, 20 of them.”

Ware talks about Brady’s intelligence and ability to read defenses, but I feel like there are certain mentalities for players; defenders are tough, offensive players are finesse. When a defender credits your toughness, you know you’ve made it as an offensive player.

Pro Football Focus had Brady down for 4 sacks and 16 quarterback hits in that 2015 AFC Championship game, the most hits on a quarterback in a single game since 2006. And yet Brady had the Patriots a failed two-point conversion from forcing overtime.

Brady didn’t need to show the same toughness in 2016 as the Patriots put forth a much improved offensive line, but it’s certainly nice when a future Hall of Famer like Ware takes note.