LANDOVER, Md. — It was a homecoming with a happy ending.
With several former University of Michigan teammates and coaches at the Pontiac Silverdome Aug. 4, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady found wide receiver Sean Morey across the middle for 47 yards with less than one minute remaining in the game.
Adam Vinatieri trotted on to the field, kicked a 28-yard field goal, and it was over — New England 13, Detroit 10.
Then the celebration began.
Players patted Brady on the back and helmet and told him he did a good job, most importantly because he got them out of playing overtime in the hot, humid, and air-conditioning-less stadium.
But the true reward came when the Patriots returned to Bryant College in Smithfield, R.I., to begin the last week of training camp.
Compliments and handshakes are nice, but how can they compete with sharp-screen images and realistic surround-sound?
“Those guys did not want to keep playing,” Brady said with a laugh. “One of the guys let me use his DVD player because he said, ‘At least you didn’t keep me around for another half-hour.’ So that was nice.”
“To go ahead and end it right there was good for him,” said fullback Chris Floyd, who played with Brady for three years at Michigan.
“A lot of guys appreciate him for getting it over with. No veteran player wants to play overtime in the preseason, so when he hit that pass it was a big relief.”
However, Friday night, Brady was nowhere to be found on the stat sheet following New England’s 30-20 loss to the Washington Redskins in Landover. He watched as Drew Bledsoe and John Friesz tried to do what he had done — pull out an exhibition win.
The 6-foot-4-inch, 210-pound Brady was on the bench, a place that will be his home for the 2000 season.
At least, he hopes so. Because no matter how many yards he compiles, no matter how impressive he looks, and no matter how many times players allow him to borrow high-tech electronic equipment, Brady still is the fourth quarterback in New England.
Bledsoe is No. 1. The No. 2 man will be either the flashy Michael Bishop or the established veteran Friesz.
Could a spot on the practice squad loom for Brady?
“I am going out there every day, trying to get better and see how good I can possibly be because there are a lot of great quarterbacks here,” Brady said. “It is so competitive that you just have to go out and worry about yourself, worry about completing balls when you are in, and hopefully get better each day.
“Then, hopefully, the coach sees something he can work with and then you are able to get your shot.”
Until that time comes, Brady has no choice but to wait — a theme throughout his career.
He didn’t play much his first two years at Michigan, learning behind Brian Griese and Scott Dreisbach. The Wolverines won the national title in 1997. In 1998 and ’99 (20 TDs), he was the starter, but he often shared time at the position with Drew Henson.
Still, he acted professionally, earning the respect of teammates.
“Any time you go to any program and you are put in a situation where you are a backup behind a lot of guys and you are able to stick through that, well, that says a lot about your toughness,” Floyd said.
“I knew he would be a good quarterback if he stuck around the program.
“Now he is in another situation like that. He is going to learn, and that will carry over in his career.”
A career Brady hopes is filled with moments similar to those in the Detroit game.
A career that gives him the same feeling of accomplishment he had while enjoying a DVD-quality movie on someone else’s dime the next day.
“Any time you mature, those tough situations make you tougher,” Brady said.
“You learn from them and you gain experience. And when they reoccur, you draw back from those past experiences and show what you have learned from them.”