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The buildup to Tom Brady’s return to Gillette Stadium for the Week 4 Buccaneers-Patriots matchup has already begun, with a primary focus centering on the veteran quarterback’s decision to leave New England as a free agent in 2020.

During his weekly call on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show” on Monday morning, the subject of Brady was brought up multiple times.

In one exchange, Belichick was reminded of how many times he said over the years that there was no other quarterback he’d rather have than Brady.

So, Belichick was asked, when did that change?

“It never changed,” Belichick replied.

In a follow-up question, the Patriots’ coach was asked if he had still wanted Brady to re-sign after the 2019 season (Brady’s last in New England).

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“Yeah, well I think we’ve been through all the dynamics of that,” said Belichick. “There were a lot of things there that, you know, he looked at his options and made a decision.

“We weren’t as good an option as Tampa,” added Belichick, “so I mean you’d have to ask him about all of that, but it wasn’t a question of not wanting him. That’s for sure.”

Brady eventually signed with the Buccaneers on a two-year contract.

On the prospect of facing his longtime quarterback, Belichick paid tribute to the 44-year-old.

“Tom and I had I feel like a good relationship and a lot of production obviously while we were together,” said Belichick. “I enjoyed coaching Tom. He was a great player for us.”

Still, Belichick maintained focus on the Patriots vs. Buccaneers matchup overall, as opposed to the Brady-specific aspects of it.

“Sunday night, we line across from Tampa, and you know not just [Brady], but the entire team,” Belichick explained. “They’re obviously a very good team, so that’s all about our team competing against Tampa’s team. That’s like it is every week. But there are guys on New Orleans — Chris Hogan — there are guys every week that have been on our team or guys that have been on our team that are on their team.

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“Certainly Tom’s a special player,” noted Belichick. “I’m not trying to put him in the same category as a guy who was here for a year or something like that, but at the same time, you compete against the team that you’re playing against and that’s what you do.”