The last seven training camp practices, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady swiftly left the field on the opposite end of the practice facilities than the one the media was patrolling. He was, like teammate Martellus Bennett referred to him in a recent interview, a silver fox: you see him one moment, and he is gone the next.
Today was different. After the most spirited practice of this camp, which saw Brady play at the same intensity as if it was a playoff game, the Patriots quarterback did not disappear. Instead, he faced the media – for the first time since he decided to accept the NFL’s four game suspension for allegedly being at least generally aware of potential equipment violations by a part-time employee.
Of course, Deflategate and the suspension were the central topics but Brady more or less gave the same answer every time: it was a personal decision to stop the legal fight and right now, he is just focusing on getting better and helping the team.
"It was just a personal decision [to drop the legal fight]," the future Hall of Famer stated. "I try to come out here and just focus on what I need to do to get better and help our team, and like I said, I'll be excited to be back when I'm back. I'll be cheering our team on and hope we go out and win every game."
Winning the first four games surely would be easier with Brady under center – especially, if he plays on a level like he did today. He attempted 25 passes and not a single one of them fell incomplete. Four went for scores. In short, Brady was on a different level today. To make sure he has similar success when he returns from the suspension, the 39-year old has not changed his approach. "Honestly, I'm just trying to be as good as I can be every day."
"I think I just try to go out there and lead by example, try to bring it and show my teammates that I'm ready to bring it mentally and physically every day." Brady has been able to do that over the course of the offseason, but the biggest challenge he, his teammates and his coaches face still lies ahead. But he knows that they – just like his family – have his back and vice versa.
"My family's been everything to me, and obviously, the support of my teammates and coaches, Mr. Kraft and Jonathan, the whole team and all of our fans. I said the other night, I think we've got the best fans in the world, and we do," Brady said. "Hopefully we give them a lot of reasons to cheer this year."
Brady is forced to wait until week five to help give the fans something to cheer. However, he is already looking forward: "I've tried to move on from it. I try to just, like I said, focus on the positive, being here with my teammates and getting better. You don't want to go out and do anything but try to be a great example for your teammates. We've got a lot of competitive guys that have been out here on the practice field and I think that's where the focus needs to be."
And until he is able to actively influence the Patriots’ on field-fortunes again, Brady will be just like a regular fan: "Like I said, I'm just going to be rooting for us to win every game that we're playing that I'm not in," he said before adding: "and certainly when I'm in I hope we win every game, too."