Few players in NFL history has had the same level of experience as the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady: at age 42, he is currently in his 20th year in the league. Needless to say that the future Hall of Famer and consensus greatest quarterback of all time has seen it all, and can bring a unique level of leadership to the table. Earlier this week, Brady spoke about just that during his weekly appearance on WEEI’s Greg Hill Show.
“There’s a lot of human elements,” Brady said when discussing his approach to leadership in pro football. “As a player, as a person, I care deeply about my teammates. I want everyone to be the best they can possibly be. From the day I started with this team, even back in college, you try to provide leadership, and you try to care for people. You try to provide whatever you think you can to help them reach their highest potential — whatever situation it is.”
The human elements Brady mentioned did of course become a topic for himself and the Patriots over the course of the last two weeks, when the team had controversial wide receiver Antonio Brown under contract. The team ultimately parted ways with Brown after new serious allegations against him were brought forward, but his presence still casted a shadow over New England during and after its Week 3 victory over the New York Jets.
“I’ve had a lot of teammates over the years — so you invest not just your head, but your heart. You invest your soul” said Brady about the men with whom he played during his career. “That’s what makes a great team. That’s what makes a great brotherhood. So I think in the end, the endearing trait about sports for me is the relationships I get to build, because they’re very meaningful. That’s at the heart, I think, philosophically, [of] my life.”
“It’s really about great relationships and seeing guys from all different backgrounds. I think it brings all of us together in so many ways,” he continued. “People that know me, I think, know how optimistic I am and just my belief that positivity and optimism can overcome a lot of things. There’s a lot of things that get in the way of that, and again, I think we’re in a culture where we want to cast judgment so quickly on people.”
Brady, of course, has fallen victim to this as well in the past: in early 2015, the quarterback was accused of at least being generally aware of footballs being artificially altered to give him an advantage. Even though the science behind ‘Deflategate’ was later disproven by various entities, the court of public opinion and NFL leadership itself had made up its mind by that point and branded its biggest star and premier franchise as guilty.
“It’s so easy for us to blame and shame because everyone has a voice now,” Brady said about the topic of judging people prematurely without specifically naming Brown or other players. “A lot of them can just be nameless, faceless comments that are very difficult for people. You love too much, that’s a problem. You hate too much, that’s a problem. You win too much, that’s a problem. You lose too much, that’s a problem. Everything ends up being a problem.”
“We want to disparage people so quickly,” he added. “And it just speaks to me that a lot of people are probably hurting, because when you’re not feeling great, you want other people to know that. I think it becomes very emotional. [...] It’s a tough life. Life is not easy. Football is not easy. Evolving and growing as people is not an easy thing. I’m very different now — at 22 than I am at 42. So I have a lot more perspective. Life is challenging for all of us.”
“We all go through different aspects of our life and we try to do the best we can do. We develop friendships and relationships, people that support us, and sports has a great way of bringing a lot of people together,” Brady said. “I believe the more you care for people, the more you love people, the more you find joy in your life, the better our society is. The better our communities are. The better our teams are. The better our families are. That’s how I feel.”
Brady caring about the people around him has been well documented in the past, with this offseason just the latest example: the quarterback actively supported wide receiver Josh Gordon, who at that time was still indefinitely suspended, in his quest to overcome his substance abuse issues. Brady and Gordon worked out together in spring, while the quarterback and his wife, Gisele Bündchen, also went out to dinner with the 28-year-old.
“You just have to focus on, look at yourself, and ‘What do I believe in? What are my beliefs?’” Brady told WEEI on Monday. “I’m responsible for my own beliefs. I’m responsible for my own actions. And I’m going to do the best I can do to contribute in the best way possible. I’m not going to add on. I’m not going to be a part of this culture that can become very negative, can become very blaming, very much point fingers.”
“I think as a parent, what responsibility do we have to teach our children? What society do we want this to become? How do we choose in the role we have to make a difference, to contribute in a positive way? And if we don’t, that’s our choice,” he added. “For me, based on my upbringing, my choice is something that’s different than that.”