From when Tom Brady arrived at age 22 to when he departed at age 42, Ivan Fears was on the sideline for the New England Patriots.
The former wide receivers coach and longtime running backs coach still will be when the quarterback returns to Gillette Stadium with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at age 44.
“Too bad I can’t be out there,” Fears joked during his video conference with reporters on Tuesday.
The 1991 and 1992 seasons marked Fears’ first stint in Foxborough. His second stint began a season before the Michigan product landed at No. 199 overall.
It continues six Super Bowl rings later while Brady has added a seventh.
“I love Tom Brady. I always have,” Fears said. “I spent 20 years with the young guy. I am very honored to have played or been a part of the team with him. I still think he’s the greatest, but right now that SOB is the enemy. So, however you put it, he’s coming in as the enemy.”
Fears, who turns 67 in November, can compartmentalize the situation.
“I still love him. I think he’s a great person. But I’m not going to be sharing any love when it comes to game time and we’ll share that love afterwards when it’s all said and done,” added Fears. “I think he’s a hell of a player. He’s a great person, hell of a player, hell of a leader. God, he’s got all that stuff going. You know, we miss him — or I should say I miss him as a person. I think that’s the way, the right way — I miss him as a person. Right now, I’m happy for him for the success he’s had and I’m looking forward to trying to beat his butt. And that’s what counts. That’s all that matters right now. We’re going after each other.”
Kickoff is set for 8:20 p.m. ET Sunday.