What’s Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady thinking about ahead of his 14th conference championship game, his first away from the Patriots?
Brady didn’t speak to the media for very long Wednesday, ahead of Sunday’s NFC Championship game against the Packers in Green Bay. He took questions for just five minutes before the team concluded his news conference. All he had to share was that he’s proud of the team’s efforts thus far and he’s excited about what’s to come.
“The team’s worked really hard to put ourselves in this position,” Brady said. “Our coaches have done a great job preparing us for this moment. We’ve really come on strong here, the last six weeks. We played our best football of the year when we needed it the most.”
Brady acknowledged the challenge the Packers pose, saying that he and the Buccaneers are going to take “every minute up to kickoff” to prepare.
“The Packers were in the NFC Championship game last year,” Brady said. “I know the kind of team they are and what they’re capable of. They’ve got a great offense, one of the best in the league, plus a really talented defense, and they’re really well-coached.
“It’s how it should be, you know, the two best teams in the conference should be getting together and seeing how it all goes down. I’m excited for it.”
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who spoke to the media for just under 20 minutes, sounded pretty excited, too.
“Tommy’s had an amazing career,” he said. “His legacy is one of so many wins and so many accomplishments. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time and enjoyed the few times we’ve gotten to play.
“I remember when I heard the news about him coming to the NFC, I thought this was a real possibility, and I’m excited about the opportunity to play against him one more time.”
For his part, Rodgers doesn’t seem fazed by the hype surrounding the matchup.
“I put pressure on myself to perform every single week,” he said. “I think there’s a lot to be said for being able to harness that pressure and the fear of failure, and focus it to a real positive. That’s something you learn over the years, but I don’t feel any extra pressure going into this week.”
If the Bucs do advance, they have a chance to make history as the first team to play in the Super Bowl in its home stadium. They also would be just the 11th wild-card team to advance to the Super Bowl since the playoff format was implemented in 1970 — and the fifth to do so while winning all three playoff games on the road.
But Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians has a message for his players: Don’t start thinking about Super Bowl LV just yet.
“We don’t play that game this week,” Arians said. “We play the Packers in the NFC Championship game. If you start thinking about the Super Bowl, you’ll get your ass beat and be packing your bags on Monday.”
As much as Arians would prefer his team stay locked in on Sunday’s matchup in Green Bay, it’s not that easy when driving through Tampa. The host city has already started posting signage promoting Super Bowl LV.
Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans said he’s by no means avoiding the billboards and displays, noting that they can serve as “extra motivation.”
“It’s what we wanted,” Evans said. “It’s why we worked so hard. We’re in position now. We just got to beat a really, really good team at home in a cold climate. We just got to do whatever we can, scratch and claw to get this win to reach our goal.”
Evans, amid his first career playoff run in seven seasons, also did not understate the significance of playing in a conference championship and having the opportunity to reach the Super Bowl.
“It means a lot,” he said. “That’s what we play for. I know we’re professionals and we get paid, but the money can only go so far. You can make so much money, but winning . . . it means the world.”
And, if you ask Evans who has the edge between Brady and Rodgers? He’ll obviously lean toward Brady.
“He’s the greatest player to ever play the game,” Evans said. “You add him on any roster, and I’m sure the outcome would be somewhat like this. He’ll always get his teams to the playoffs.
“He’s a winner. He’s a natural-born winner, leader, all that. At this point in his career, he’s just playing chess. We’re definitely very happy that he’s on our side.”
Nicole Yang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.