FOXBOROUGH — It’s been 1,341 days since Tom Brady final donned a Patriots jersey at Gillette Stadium.
Two months after New England’s exit within the Wild-Card spherical in opposition to the Titans on Jan. 4, 2020, Brady was gone — ending his profession with three seasons in Tampa.
The Patriots have labored within the unenviable process of forging a brand new chapter with out Brady below heart, going 25-25 with Cam Newton and Mac Jones on the helm of their offense.
Regardless of logging 20 seasons as a franchise fixture in Foxborough, Brady’s connection to the present Patriots roster turns into extra untethered with every passing yr.
There are solely seven gamers on the Patriots’ 2023 lively roster who’ve shared a locker room with Brady: Matthew Slater, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Jonathan Jones, Joe Cardona, David Andrews, Deatrich Smart, and Lawrence Man.
For a lot of the 2023 Patriots, Brady serves virtually as a fable — a legendary determine whose accolades are simple to glean, however his affect is felt properly past what’s etched within the file books.
And take a look at as they may to chart a brand new path ahead, it’s evident that Brady’s presence nonetheless looms over this Patriots group — and can for the foreseeable future.
“Each single day,” Patriots working again Rhamondre Stevenson mentioned of how usually he walks by an image of Brady within the hallways of the crew facility. “Simply strolling down right here, I most likely walked previous him 5 instances.”
Given the resume Brady compiled in New England, it ought to come as no shock that the long run Corridor of Famer is recurrently talked about by coaches as a template to observe for different gamers.
In fact, it’s one factor to harp on Brady’s poise within the pocket and his trademark consistency together with his off-field routine — and one other to execute the identical recreation plan and attain the identical lofty outcomes.
However past his expertise out on the sphere, these quite a few photographs throughout Gillette of Brady lifting the Lombardi Trophy function a continuing reminder to veterans and newcomers alike of the glory that this franchise as soon as reached — and what it’s attempting to construct towards as soon as once more.
“Simply the best way he was a pacesetter, the best way he was exemplifying the Patriot Method,” Josh Uche mentioned of Brady’s affect. “His execution, his calmness below stress. Undoubtedly referring to Tom so much in sure conditions. He’s positively a pillar to what we’ve received occurring right here, so after all we see lots of references to him.”
“It began with him, his management, his mentality, the best way he pushed individuals. It was contagious,” David Andrews added throughout Wednesday’s interview on 98.5 The Sports activities Hub’s “Zolak & Bertrand“. “It was particular. … He clearly set the usual proper. And nobody did it higher than that. However you noticed that customary trickled down to each single participant. And I feel that’s an enormous factor. So, you understand what it seems to be like. You recognize what that customary must be. And that’s what you try for day by day.”
Regardless that Uche by no means performed alongside a fellow Michigan product in Brady, the Patriots go rusher did get the chance to listen to Brady deal with the Wolverines throughout his freshman season at Ann Arbor in 2016.
“Him being in the identical seats I used to be in as a freshman, and him being one of many best gamers to play this recreation, it was simply an honor to return and hearken to him,” Uche, donning a Michigan hat throughout his presser on Wednesday, mentioned of Brady’s deal with. “And to be in the identical atmosphere that he got here via, it confirmed me that something was doable, particularly being at Michigan. It was among the best speeches I ever heard.”
Brady’s main message to Uche as a freshman revolved round “enduring” and never being deterred from his path to the NFL.
Now coming into his fourth yr with the Patriots, Uche follows one more mantra that Brady carried out in New England: “Do Your Job.”
“On the finish of the day, it comes all the way down to execution and simply being calm below stress and simply doing all your job on the finish of the day,” Uche mentioned. “Irrespective of the state of affairs, simply leaning again in your fundamentals and doing all your job.”
Brady’s longest-tenured teammate nonetheless in Foxborough is Slater, who has anchored New England’s special-teams unit since first touchdown with the crew again in 2008.
For Slater, one in all Brady’s most impactful qualities had little to do together with his success on the sphere, however somewhat his management and emphasis on communication inside the locker room.
“I’ll always remember my first day in right here,” Slater recalled. “[Brady] got here up and launched himself to me. He knew a bit of bit about my school profession. There wasn’t a lot to know. However simply the kindness that he confirmed me that he didn’t must, that caught with me ever since then. I bear in mind calling my dad and mom and being like, ‘Hey, Tom Brady is aware of my title. He launched himself.’ And he was like that with everybody, that wasn’t simply me.
“He did that — undrafted guys, guys that we simply signed to the observe squad. He was only a real, humble human being, [and] continues to be that. And I feel that’s form of what will get missed and missed. You recognize, we don’t actually have a good time character. We have a good time manufacturing on the sphere, huge contracts and accolades. [When] all that fades away, who we’re as individuals will final our lifetimes. That’s what I recognize most about Tom.”
Brady’s return on Sunday will symbolize a journey that’s lastly come full circle for each participant and crew. It ought to supply some much-needed closure for each events, particularly after Brady’s messy departure three years in the past.
However for the entire pomp involving Brady’s return, Andrews and the remainder of the 2023 Patriots are attempting to focus extra on the duty at hand — toppling the reigning NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles.
Seems like a becoming option to honor somebody like Brady.
“It’ll be superior,” Andrews mentioned of Brady’s halftime ceremony. “The largest factor we’ve received to do is go on the market and put our compete on. That’s what our focus is on.”
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