Tom Brady wasn’t surprised the Patriots drafted a quarterback in this month’s NFL Draft, but he doesn’t intend to surrender his job anytime soon.
Brady told Sports Illustrated he “had a pretty good idea” that the Patriots would draft a quarterback, which they did in adding Jimmy Garoppolo with the 62nd pick.
And Brady, 36, knows that Garoppolo’s arrival is a reminder that he needs to maintain his high level in order to keep hold of a job he does not want to give up.
“Coach [Bill] Belichick doesn’t care who the quarterback is here. He’s always going to play the guy who he thinks gives him the best chance to win,” Brady told SI. “It’s not my role to choose players here, thankfully. And this is not the first time they’ve taken another quarterback either. There’s no entitlement in the NFL. I don’t expect to be given anything. I just hope I’m the one most entitled to play that position for a long time here.”
Garoppolo is the seventh quarterback drafted by the Patriots since Brady became the starter in 2001 (and the third chosen in the third round or higher since Brady turned 30). Of those seven, only Matt Cassel has ever started a game for the Patriots – when he stepped in after Brady’s season-ending knee injury in 2008. Brady hopes he can teach Garoppolo a lesson that Ryan Mallett and others have learned – that his backups are here to learn and only play in case of injury.
But Brady knows how fickle the hold on the starting quarterback job can be under Belichick. In 2001, he stepped into the starting role for an ailing Drew Bledsoe in September. But Brady never relinquished the job, with Belichick retaining him as starter even after Bledsoe (who had signed a $100 million contract extension just eight months earlier) was healthy.
So Brady (who said he feels “better today than when I was 25”) is pushing ahead on his offseason routines, including participating in the Patriots’ workout program, throwing to his receivers, and studying with mechanics guru Tom House.
“I work all offseason to prepare my body to not get hurt,” he told SI. “I can’t help the team if I’m on the sidelines. I’ve got to be durable.”
Brady has bookended two impressive consecutive starts streaks around his 2008 campaign that was limited to one quarter because of his knee injury. He had started 111 straight games when he was hurt (fourth-longest streak in NFL history for quarterbacks at the time) and has started 80 straight games since he returned in 2009.
History shows that quarterbacks’ performances tend to decline as they hit their late 30s. Brady, who will be 37 when the season begins, has said multiple times he wants to play and thrive into his 40s. He has four years remaining on his contract, which may be opened for restructuring after the 2014 season. And Brady is motivated to keep his body in shape to make sure he’s in position to work in the job he likes best
“There’s nothing that can wake me up at 5 o’clock in the morning on a Thursday in May like getting ready for a day of football,” he told SI. “I want to play a long time. There’s nothing I like doing that’s close to football.”