Tom Brady will return to Gillette Stadium under very different circumstances Sept. 10.
Although the legendary quarterback called Foxborough home for 20 years, the Patriots’ season opener against the Eagles will mark the first time Brady will arrive at his old stomping grounds as a retired player.
Brady, who announced his second — and apparently final — retirement back in February, discussed his plans to return in September to be honored by the Patriots during a video interview with ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap Thursday.
“It was such a kind gesture by [Robert Kraft], who I’ve been in touch with since the season ended,” Brady said. “We’ve always had a great relationship. From the moment that I stepped foot in Foxborough, I’ve cherished that opportunity, and I’ve always felt like I’ve been a member of that organization.
“I know my football journey took me to Tampa for three years, which I absolutely loved, and when that ended, I had the opportunity to really reconnect with [Kraft] on a personal level, and he thought this was something that the fans would really enjoy.”
Of course, this will not be the first time that Brady has made a trek to Gillette Stadium after leaving New England in free agency in March 2020. He and the Buccaneers beat the Patriots, 19-17, on Oct. 3, 2021.
“Obviously, I want to go back there and see the fans,” Brady said. “I want to see my teammates. I went back there one time; it was in an opposing uniform, which was a different type of welcoming, although people were very polite, and I had a great experience.
“But I’ll be able to go back there in a different frame of mind and a less competitive frame of mind. And I’m always pulling for the Patriots. It’s been a great organization. I’ve got so many friends there still. My kids were born in Boston. I have so many incredible memories of my time there, and it’s a great gesture by the organization.”
Beyond the expected ovation, Sept. 10 also will represent a reunion between the signal caller and his coach of two decades, Bill Belichick.
Despite Brady’s exit three years ago, he reiterated Thursday that he maintains a very positive relationship with Belichick, noting that Belichick was one of the first to text him after he won his seventh Super Bowl in 2020 with Tampa Bay.
Brady expects that relationship to grow as he starts to navigate new ventures in his post-playing career, be it his Fox broadcasting gig or his reported status as a minority shareholder of the Las Vegas Raiders.
“I was very fortunate to play with him and be a member of those teams,” Brady said. “With him and his leadership and his ability to coach and put our team in a great position to succeed, I think we had a great relationship.
“He very much trusted what I was doing out there on the field and obviously it went both ways. … I think we always had a great amount of respect for each other, and I think as time goes by we’ll have more respect for one another because there will be more perspective on those things.
“I learned so much from him. I’m taking a lot of things that he taught me in terms of his leadership into the different opportunities that I have in front of me.”
As for the lingering rumors that Brady might return to the gridiron with the Raiders in 2023, he again shut down that talk during an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Robin Lundberg Thursday.
Brady doubled down on the sentiment with Schaap, adding that he’s ready to close that chapter of his life after 23 seasons in the NFL.
“Relieved,” Brady said when asked how he feels about retiring. “I won’t have Aaron Donald trying to chase me down and knock me out. I won’t have these guys that would have gotten paid a lot of money to hit me and knock me on the ground.
“I do have a record for being sacked more than any other quarterback in NFL history, which maybe somebody will break that record someday. But I got a lot of bumps and bruises to show for 23 great seasons.”
Conor Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.