While the New England Patriots are headed towards an uncertain future, the greatest player in franchise history is preparing to play in yet another Super Bowl with his new club. Tom Brady, now the starting quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has led his team to the title game in his first season — extending his own record for Super Bowl appearances to 10.
The first nine of those obviously came with the Patriots, and during a media conference call on Thursday Brady took the time to reflect on his stint with the organization.
“I had an incredible 20 years,” the future Hall of Famer said. “I wouldn’t change anything over the course of 20 years. That was magical, and all the relationships I developed, those shaped me into who I am as a person, as a player. My kids were born in Boston. I have great affection for the city; everything that Boston has meant to me and my family. All of New England, not just Boston.”
The story of his time with the team is well known: Brady arrived in New England as a sixth-round draft pick back in 2000 and one year later was elevated to the starting role following an in-game injury suffered by Drew Bledsoe against the New York Jets. Brady never looked back, leading the Patriots to their first championship and solidifying himself as the face of the previously unsuccessful franchise.
Five more titles followed, but last spring Brady had to make a decision: Continue his career in New England — where he had started 283 regular season games and 41 playoff contests in two decades — or move elsewhere as a free agent? He went the latter route, signing a two-year deal with the Buccaneers.
Brady described his decision as the opportunity best working for him and his family, but also pointed out that the experience so far has had its downs as well due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
“At the end of the day, I had an opportunity to become a free agent, and I evaluated different opportunities, and just tried to make the best possible decision for myself and my family. Chose Tampa, and it’s just been an amazing experience,” the 43-year-old said. “The only thing that’s been difficult: I just haven’t been able to meet... there’s a lot of people here that I just haven never really had a chance to get to know.
“Certain players on defense that I just don’t know very well. We’re not able to be together in certain rooms. We’re not able to eat together. We’re not able to travel well. We don’t get the normal camaraderie that you have on a normal team. So, under the circumstances, we’re all doing the best we can do. It’s been a tricky year in that sense. I’m just going to try to do my best, like I always do, to try to finish the job this coming week.”
Finishing the job was a Brady speciality while with the Patriots. Through his years with the team, he established himself as the epitome of the clutch quarterback and thus became the central on-field figure for the most successful dynasty the sport has ever seen.
But while his accomplishments through the years are well-documented, his start in New England was somewhat rocky as Brady acknowledged on Thursday.
“I didn’t even know where New England was when I got picked up by New England,” he said. “That was always a funny story, they called me and said, ‘You’ve been picked by New England.’ I was like, ‘That’s amazing. Where’s New England?’ I landed in Providence, which really screwed me up, because it’s not even in Massachusetts... You know, it was a great 20 years.”