With the NFL playoffs starting this weekend, it’s a different team but the same excitement for Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady.
“Any time you make the playoffs, it’s a good feeling,” Brady said Wednesday. “It’s a great opportunity to be playing this weekend, a privilege for all of us. I think we want to go make the most of it. Playoff football is pretty special to be a part of.”
Earning one of three wild-card spots in the NFC, the Buccaneers will travel to face the Washington Football Team Saturday night. The playoff game will be the 42nd of Brady’s career and his first with a team other than the Patriots. But it sounds as if it’s business as usual for the six-time Super Bowl champion, even in a different uniform.
“Really, it’s the same as any other week, to be honest with you,” said Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich. “It shouldn’t take the playoffs to get extra energy, to get anything extra. I think we did a good job all year of doing that week in and week out.”
Added Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski, who played in 16 playoff games with Brady with the Patriots: “Tom’s head is always on top of his shoulders. He’s always Tom. He’s always ready to go, and he’s always ready for any situation, if it’s Week 1 or if it’s the beginning of the playoffs. It’s nothing different.”
At 43, Brady had one of the best statistical seasons of his career, throwing for 4,633 yards and 40 touchdowns. He said he felt more at home as the season went on, and with that came improved communication among players as well as a better understanding of one another.
Brady closed the season with a particularly impressive four-game stretch, posting a passer rating of 126.9 during that span. He acknowledged, however, that those numbers don’t matter moving forward.
“Regular season is what it is,” he said. “You put it in the books. We’re here to win playoff games.”
The Buccaneers hadn’t advanced to the postseason since 2007, when they lost a wild-card game to the Giants, so Brady and Gronkowski have been resources for their teammates, many of whom are entering unfamiliar territory.
“They’re just trying to show guys or explain to guys that there’s just a ramped-up energy on game day that we may not be used to,” said offensive lineman Ali Marpet, who will be making his playoff debut. “I think there’s just a little bit more energy than there would be in the normal regular-season game.”
On Wednesday, Brady clearly gave off the impression of someone who has been there before. He didn’t bite when asked about Washington rookie defensive end Chase Young shouting, “Tom Brady, I’m coming!” while walking off the field after his team clinched a playoff berth Sunday night. Nor did Brady offer thoughts beyond Saturday’s matchup.
Other than the Buccaneers hat atop his head, not much seems to have changed about the hard-working, dialed-in Brady ahead of the postseason.
The same goes for the gregarious Gronkowski, who entertained reporters Wednesday by retelling a story about Brady taking a shot of alcohol at the Kentucky Derby one year.
“Just seeing his face after in disgust, like, ‘I’m putting this alcohol in my body,’ ” said Gronkowski, as he crinkled his nose to mimic Brady’s face.
There is at least one thing that is different.
“Today, it was 60-plus degrees at practice for a playoff game,” Brady said with a smile. “I haven’t had too many of those — even in 20 years.”
While there may be warmth in Tampa in January, Brady made it clear he’s all about putting in the work — and winning — as he always has been.
“There’s what, six games this weekend?” he said. “There are six teams that won’t be practicing on Monday and there’s six that will be. You want to be one of those teams from this week that continues to play on, but you have to play well. If you don’t play well, chances are you’ll be watching next weekend.”