Following Tom Brady from afar this offseason, it seems as if he has had a singular approach over the last five months:
Football. All football, all the time.
When the city of Tampa shut down its parks this spring, Brady, who turned 43 this week, was still out there working, getting kicked out by a park employee. When Brady moved to Tampa in April, he showed up right away at Byron Leftwich’s house with a bag of footballs, ready to get right to work with his new offensive coordinator.
And Brady found a tony private school field in Tampa (Berkeley Prep), where he and his new Buccaneers teammates have been regularly gathering for throwing sessions and informal practices. Reporters have been “tipped off” about the workouts, ensuring that writers and TV stations all had footage of Brady and his teammates putting in hard work.
“What he did over at Berkeley, that was strictly on him; nobody edged him on to do that,” Bucs coach Bruce Arians said. “He was like, ‘Hey, let’s get going. Right now.’ ”
Oh, how Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft, and Jonathan Kraft must chuckle every time they see Brady sweating it out under the Florida sun.
“Oh really, Tom? Now you’re all in on offseason practices again?”
Brady’s attitude this spring and summer is markedly different from what it was in 2018 and 2019, his final two years with the Patriots. Both springs, he was the only quarterback in the NFL to skip his team’s voluntary offseason workouts.
In 2018, he hopped around the world from Monaco to Qatar to Los Angeles with his family and business interests. In 2019, he mostly stayed home, choosing to work out in Brookline instead of with his teammates in Foxborough.
“My family supports me a lot, and my kids aren’t getting any younger,” Brady said last June. “So just trying to spend the time with them when I can and still get the other things done that I need to get done and be ready to go when it’s time to go.”
The Patriots won a Super Bowl in 2018, so all’s well that ends well (even though they mostly won with their defense and run game). But the 2019 season was a mess, with Brady at one point describing himself as “miserable” over the state of the offense.
It certainly was his right to not attend those practices. But it was glaring that Brady, who for most of his career epitomized “first in the building, last to leave,” chose to stay away.
Now, more clearly than ever, we see that it was about his discontent with the Patriots’ leaders — Belichick, Kraft, and Kraft. Brady felt they didn’t give him the respect he wanted with his contract and his standing on the team. When Brady skipped workouts last offseason, coming off another Super Bowl win, it should have been a major red flag that 2019 would be his last season in Foxborough.
Now the divorce is official, and Brady is a Buc. But it doesn’t seem like he has totally moved on from the Patriots, either. Every day he works with his new teammates feels like a message being sent back to Belichick and the Krafts.
“I’m ready to work and I’m not going anywhere.”
Brady is practicing like the old Brady again, eager as a pup to get on the field with his new teammates.
“He’s tired of walk-throughs already,” Arians said. “He’s like, ‘We’ve got to practice.’
“We’ve got to wait about five more days, but yeah, I love that about him.”
Brady certainly has plenty of non-revenge reasons to be working hard right now in Tampa. He couldn’t have picked a worse time to switch teams for the first time in 21 years, with the pandemic canceling offseason workouts and eliminating preseason games. He is just starting to get to know his Bucs teammates and coaches, and has to spend hours studying his playbook.
“I really haven’t had to do that in 19 years,” Brady said Thursday via Zoom. “You forget, ‘Man, that’s really tough.’ You’re trying to not only learn an offense, but learn your way to work, learn guys’ names.
“I didn’t even know where the quarterback room was or the full team meeting room was. So you get in here and your brain’s trying to figure out a lot of different things.”
He’s trying to learn a whole new room of receivers, too. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are among the league’s best, but Brady often struggled to incorporate new receivers with the Patriots. Now he has an entire room of new faces, other than Rob Gronkowski.
“Gronk’s the only guy I’ve really played with, so I know what he can do,” Brady said. “It’s going to be up to all of us to come together and see how we can make it all work.”
Brady badly wants to make his Tampa experiment work. Doing it during the pandemic won’t be easy.
“The only thing you can do is adjust to the situation, adapt the best way you can, put as much time and energy now as we can into it,” Brady said. “And I think the reality is the clock’s ticking on everybody. We’re going to have to work as hard as we can and not waste any minutes of any day.”
Brady seems to have found his sense of urgency again. And he sure seems to want Belichick, Kraft, and Kraft to know it.