As for what will follow, a retired receiver familiar with the situation described it well.
“It’s definitely going to be weird,” Julian Edelman told reporters during his video conference last week. “It’s like going to a family barbecue or like a basketball event and you’re the step kid, or you’re like the kid who has divorced parents and your mom and dad are there and you don’t know how to react. Are they going to fight? Are they not going to fight? It’s going to be interesting. But I am excited. Who is not excited for it? It’s going to be an exciting game.”
Here are the roster connections between the Patriots and Buccaneers heading into the 8:20 p.m. ET kickoff.
Tom Brady, quarterback — The 44-year-old under center for Tampa Bay completed 7,402 passes for 85,959 yards and 614 touchdowns from his regular seasons to his postseasons with head coach Bill Belichick in New England. Brady has since thrown 60 touchdowns through 23 starts for head coach Bruce Arians’ Buccaneers after signing a two-year contract worth $50 million in March 2020. Pick No. 199 overall in the 2000 NFL draft, now seven Super Bowl rings in, has completed 68.7 percent of his attempts this fall for 1,086 yards with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions. After a Week 3 loss, Brady stands 68 yards away from breaking Drew Brees’ NFL passing record.
Antonio Brown, wide receiver — The NFL All-Decade wideout’s stop with the Patriots in September 2019 spanned four catches for 56 yards and a touchdown from his current quarterback. It ended with his release 11 days later. Since Brown’s reinstatement from an eight-game suspension for violations of the league’s personal-conduct policy in 2020, he has played 13 games for the Buccaneers, including playoffs. And this season, the 33-year-old has caught six passes for 138 yards with one touchdown. Brown missed Tampa Bay’s matchup with the Los Angeles Rams while on the Covid-19 reserve list.
Rob Gronkowski, tight end — Drafted in April 2010, retired in March 2019 and traded in April 2020, the Patriots received a fourth-round pick in exchange for a seventh-rounder and Gronkowski. The 32-year-old tight end from the University of Arizona has since caught a combined 69 passes for 917 yards and 13 touchdowns while starting every game for the Buccaneers. A four-time Super Bowl champion, four-time All-Pro, five-time Pro Bowler and member of the NFL’s 100th anniversary team, Gronkowski stands with four spikes in the end zone this fall through 16 receptions from Brady.
Nick Folk, kicker — The Patriots signed Folk to the 53-man roster after the veteran kicker served as a standard elevation for the initial two games of the season. Entering the league in the sixth round of the 2007 draft with the Dallas Cowboys, with whom he became a rookie Pro Bowler, Folk spent seven years with the New York Jets. A stint with Tampa followed. It saw Folk convert a career-low 54.5 percent of his field goals and 77.8 percent of his extra points over four games in the 2017 season before being let go that February. He’d become an Arizona Hotshot from there. But the 36-year-old has since become a franchise record-setter with New England, making 35 field goals in a row. A pair traveled through the uprights in last Sunday’s loss to the New Orleans Saints.