FOXBOROUGH — For the first time in his NFL career, quarterback Tom Brady ran onto the field at Gillette Stadium from the visiting team’s tunnel. But the change in entrance Sunday night didn’t stop the 44-year-old former Patriot from doing what he’s done countless times before: run the length of the field, pump his fist, and shout, “Let’s go!”
Brady — now donning the pewter, white, and red of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — finished his route at the end zone closest to Gillette’s lighthouse, where the crowd in the lower bowl greeted him with cheers, as if he had never left. Moments later, fans started a brief “Brady! Brady! Brady!” chant.
If there were any questions about how Brady would be received in his return to Foxborough, the audible cheers and numerous No. 12 jerseys Sunday indicated the six-time Super Bowl champion is still welcomed by many.
On his way to midfield, Brady stopped to warmly hug Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, his quarterbacks coach for 13 seasons in New England.
The friendliness continued while Brady warmed up with backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert close to midfield. He stopped to say hello to Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona, who was nearby getting reps in with punter Jake Bailey.
Brady’s new team, however, didn’t garner the same reception. When the rest of the Buccaneers took the field, some boos rained down. They only got louder when the majority of the Bucs took a moment — after Brady had left the field — to gather at the Patriots’ logo before heading back to the locker room.
With both teams off the field, the Patriots showed a one-minute tribute video for Brady, capturing several highlights from his 20-year tenure in New England.
Among the moments shown were a touchdown catch by tight end Rob Gronkowski as well as embraces with both owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick. The cheers certainly spiked when the video flashed the 28-3 scoreboard from Super Bowl LI – a reference to the deficit the Patriots faced before rallying to defeat the Atlanta Falcons.
Brady didn’t get a chance to watch the clip, though, because the Bucs were still in the locker room. When they emerged, led by Brady, the cheers once again out-shined the boos, as an even louder “Brady! Brady! Brady!” chant broke out.
Once the game started, the crowd wasn’t shy in booing the rest of the Buccaneers. But Brady? He still seems beloved by most.
Nicole Yang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.