ATLANTA — Tom Brady will turn 42 years old at the start of next football season, and his contract expires at the end of it.
But Patriots owner Robert Kraft doesn’t have any qualms about extending Brady’s contract and keeping him in a Patriots uniform beyond 2019.
“I would be quite surprised if he didn’t continue for quite a while as our quarterback,” Kraft said Wednesday at the Super Bowl.
Brady has never gone into the final season of his contract without an extension. He is set to make a $15 million salary next season with a $27 million salary cap hit. Brady has long maintained that he wants to play until he’s 45, and said last week there is “zero” chance he will retire after this Super Bowl.
“Having two outstanding people like Bill Belichick and Tom Brady for almost two decades, pretty proud of that,” Kraft said. “I think we’re very lucky.”
Kraft also said he doesn’t mind the fact that the Patriots have become a villain for millions of football fans across the country.
“For us to get to the point in less than two decades where people are rooting against us because we’ve won, that’s a high-class problem and I hope we keep it going for quite a while,” Kraft said. “I’m actually honored by it.”
It’s rough out there
Rob Gronkowski said as he has in the past that he’ll take time to think about his future this offseason, and avoided answering whether he’ll retire after the Super Bowl.
“Yes, no, maybe so,” he said.
Gronkowski did give a candid acknowledgment of the physical difficulties of life in the NFL. He’s 29 and has taken countless hits, and his comments certainly made it seem like it wouldn’t be shocking if this season is his last.
“The season’s a grind. It’s up and down. I’m not going to lie and sit here and say every week is the best,” Gronkowski said. “Not at all. You go up, you go down. You can take some serious hits. To tell you the truth, just try and imagine getting hit all the time and trying to be where you want to be every day in life. It’s tough, it’s difficult. To take hits to the thigh, take hits to your head. Abusing your body isn’t what your brain wants. When your body is abused, it can bring down your mood. You’ve got to be able to deal with that, too, throughout the season. You’ve got to be able to deal with that in the games.
“And no one realizes that, and everyone expects us players to be wide awake every single day, and it’s like, ‘Yo, I just took 50 hits to my head,’ or not to my head, but I’m saying I just took 50 collisions, and then like the next day everyone wants you to be up. They want practice full speed, next week they want the game to be full speed, but they don’t understand sometimes what players are going through with their bodies, with their minds. That’s why I’ve been saying you see a shift in players in games where people are down the whole game, and then you see, all of a sudden, the next week it’s like, ‘How did this team just go from one switch to the other?’ ”
On paper, you’d much rather have the Rams’ receivers in the Super Bowl than the Patriots’.
Los Angeles had two 1,200-yard receivers this season, while the Patriots don’t have a wideout who got more than 850. And yet . . .
There’s been buzz that Julian Edelman is making a Hall of Fame case for himself with his postseason performances. They’ve been incredible, this year and in the past. Edelman enters the Super Bowl after a seven-catch, 96-yard performance in Kansas City, and he is No. 2 on the all-time list of playoff catches with 105. Jerry Rice leads with 151.
Edelman’s case for a gold jacket is shaky at best. If you wanted to make a case that the Patriots aren’t giving up the edge at the receiver position in the Super Bowl, though, you’d have to start with the Brady-Edelman connection.
“We have a great relationship, Jules and I, and I trust him so much,” Brady said last week. “We’ve put in so many hours together in the meeting room, in the film room. I think he and I obviously go back a long way.”
“He’s a great friend,” Edelman said. “I think that’s helped our relationship on the field just because there’s a friendship there. There’s a caring for one another.”
Was that connection present in the two critical third-down conversions where Brady targeted Edelman in overtime against the Chiefs? Hard to say. Was it there when the Patriots beat the Falcons in the Super Bowl two years ago, in no small part thanks to a miracle catch by Edelman? Sure feels like it sometimes.
“He’s always been kind of like my little brother, in a good way,” Brady said. “I don’t have a little brother but he’s kind of like a little brother, and he knows how much I love him.”
On a per-game basis, Edelman had one of his best regular seasons — a “career year,” Brady called it Wednesday — but his numbers took a hit because of his four-game suspension to start the season.
Edelman has 1,271 postseason receiving yards entering the Super Bowl, averaging 12.1 yards per reception on 105 of 163 targets with five touchdowns in 17 games. By comparison, Rice had 151 receptions on 169 targets in 29 postseason games for 2,245 yards and 22 touchdowns, averaging 14.9 yards per reception.
That doesn’t happen in Edelman’s case without a particularly close relationship with the quarterback. Jason McCourty, accustomed to going against Brady and Edelman in practice, said it’s apparent even when the two are going against their own defense, not in an actual game.
“You see two guys that are the ultimate competitor,” McCourty said. “How hard they both compete in practice, you see the bromance at times, you see the fiery looks they give each other sometimes if someone messes up. Just that look of not disappointment, of just like, ‘Get it together.’ I think it’s almost like brothers. They’ve probably played together for so long, but as a defender it’s so fun to go against in practice because you’re not getting a better look than that.”
Brown (calf) limited
The Patriots’ injury report is no longer a clean sheet, not since defensive tackle Malcom Brown popped up with a calf injury Wednesday. Brown was limited in practice and is the sole New England player on the report.
The Patriots practiced in helmets and shells, per a pool report, at Georgia Tech’s indoor facility a little more than a mile from the team’s downtown hotel.
“We are way ahead of where we normally are on Wednesday, but we are trying to keep it as a Wednesday-Thursday-Friday and get into our normal routine, which has worked pretty well for us this year,” Belichick said.
Brady also noted Wednesday that, while typically there would still be roughly 60 percent of a game plan left to install at this point in the week, the Patriots are far beyond that point given an extra week to prepare.
For the Rams, safety Blake Countess (foot) did not practice and kicker Greg Zuerlein (left foot) was limited.