New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has spent most of his offseason not only away from the spotlight but also absent from his team’s voluntary strength and conditioning program. This led to relatively ungrounded speculation about his future in the NFL and whether or not the first-ballot Hall of Famer would decide to end his legendary career.
Of course, this will not the case. After all, Brady’s agent Don Yee said earlier this offseason that his client would be back, the quarterback already started working out together with wide receiver Julian Edelman, and Brady himself is famously on record saying that he wanted to play until his mid-40s. He mentioned the latter again yesterday, when he appeared at the Milken Institute Global Conference in California (transcripts via ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss).
“I have personal goals. I want to keep playing,” Brady stated during the one-hour talk. “I’ve said for a long time I want to play to my mid-40s. I was told three years - when I was 36, 37 - ‘you can’t keep playing; no one wins Super Bowls [at that age].’ It’s a great challenge for me. I think I’ve been challenged my whole life. I feel like I can do it.” Brady went on to mention that his training regimen through his TB12 method helps him sustain his level of performance.
In general, Brady has opted for a different offseason approach than in years past by not participating in the Patriots' offseaon workouts. “Part of this offseason for me is certainly about still preparing for what’s ahead in my next journey, my next mountain to climb with this group of teammates, but it’s also that a lot of people are getting the short end of the stick in my life - certainly my wife and my kids.”
“Football is year-round for me,” the reigning league MVP continued. “It’s a lot of thought, a lot of energy and emotion put into it, but I need to invest in them, too. My kids are 10, 8 and 5. They’re not getting younger, so I need to take time so I can be available to them, too. ... I’ve really spent the last two or three months doing those things, and I think I’m really trying to fill my tank up so that when I do go back, I can go back and I think I’ll actually be, in my mind, a better player, a better teammate, because I’ll be really rejuvenated.”
Asked whether or not he feels happy, Brady answered that he had his moments but also pointed out that he was “absolutely” happy with the people he worked with inside the Patriots organization. “It’s just my personality, I always look at things as the glass is half full,” said Brady. “I think there are different times; when you’ve been on the same team for a long time, you have relationships for a long time, they ebb and flow like every relationship.”
“But there are no people I’d rather play for or be committed to than the team I’ve been with for a long time, and really the fans and the community.” And even though Brady “pleaded the fifth” when asked about whether or not he felt appreciated by the Patriots' leadership in owner Robert Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick, he went on to say that both are trying to get the best out of him: “They’re trying to treat me in the way they feel is going to get the best out of me, and I’ve got to get the best out of myself.”
Brady also was aked about his relationship with Belichick in general. The 40-year old - as has to be expected - painted a prettier picture than one that was often portrayed through the media. “We’ve had a great relationship, a very respectful relationship for a long time. I feel like he’s the best coach in the history of the NFL. He has a management style [with] players, and he would say, ‘Look, I’m not the easiest coach to play for.’ I agree. He’s not the easiest coach to play for but he’s the best for me.”
“I think what he’s proven is that whatever talent he has, he maximizes his talent,” continued Brady, who has played under Belichick since becoming a sixth-round draft pick in 2000. “What more could you ask of a coach than that? That’s what I want as a player. [...] He’s been an incredible coach, he’s been an incredible mentor to me. He’s taught me so much football. To be a 22-year-old kid and come and learn from him, I wouldn’t be sitting here without his coaching.”
Brady went on to say that he wouldn’t have had the success he enjoyed - five Super Bowl titles, a combined seven MVP awards, and countless other accolades in a Hall of Fame career - without Belichick being the talented coach he is, as well as other members of the organization from the coaching staff through the players. “It takes everybody to do it.”
Moderator Jim Gray also asked Brady about the Patriots' loss in Super Bowl 52, a game that saw New England's passer throw for a record 505 yards but still come up short in the end. When asked whether or not he was over the defeat, Brady said that his perspective and experience helped: “I’ve evolved and grown so much since I started. Just based on the circumstances of my life, I can deal with them better than I have in the past, where it was really the only thing.”
“It’s not that it’s not an important thing, but there are a lot of other important things in my life, especially my family and my kids and teaching them the lessons I hope they’ll learn just from watching me do something I love to do.” Of course, Brady's family might have seen a different outcome in February had the team - particularly on defense - made just one or two more plays to prevent the Philadelphia Eagles from seemingly scoring at will.
One of the biggest questions after the game was therefore the benching of starting cornerback Malcolm Butler. Brady was asked about it but was unable to offer any insight into the decision-making process. “I haven’t gone and discussed those things. I don’t ask, I don’t make the decisions. I wish he would have played, but the coach decided not to play him, and we still had a chance to win.”
“I don’t know what was part of that decision-making,” Brady continued. “But I know we were trying to win the game. I don’t think we were trying to do anything but win. It’s unfortunate we lost, but give the Eagles a great deal of credit. They deserved it - and we’ll be back next year trying to kick their butt.”