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Tom Brady could’ve bolted for Chargers, but he’s happy with Bucs

The quarterback narrowed his choices in the final hours of free agency to Tampa Bay and Los Angeles, which now has a rookie under center.
Bucs quarterback Tom Brady looks to throw against the Broncos during their game Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Denver.
Bucs quarterback Tom Brady looks to throw against the Broncos during their game Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Denver. [ JACK DEMPSEY | AP ]
Published Oct. 1, 2020
Updated Oct. 1, 2020

TAMPA ― Los Angeles is a city used to celebrities and Tom Brady could’ve sought a Hollywood ending to his career with the Chargers.

As the final days counted down to the start of free agency in March, and prospective teams trying to lure the Patriots quarterback fell by the wayside, it became a two-team race: LA and Tampa Bay.

Brady was raised in San Mateo, Calif., and he and his wife, Gisele Bundchen, used to own a 14,000 square foot home they built in Brentwood with five bedrooms, nine bathrooms and seven fireplaces that they sold three years ago for $40 million to rap mogul and businessman Dr. Dre.

In a parallel universe, the 43-year-old Brady would have a Lightning bolt on his helmet Sunday when he walks into Raymond James Stadium.

Instead, Brady is happy playing for the Bucs, and the Chargers have an electrifying quarterback in Oregon rookie Justin Herbert.

"No, I love the fact where I chose to play, and I love playing with our coaches, playing with the players we have on this team, so I made a great decision, and I love what we have going on here,'' Brady said Thursday. "We’ve got a lot of work we’re putting into it. We didn’t have the benefit of the offseason program or training camp.

"We’re going to continue to be kind of a work in progress and try to get better every week, every day, every meeting, every walk-through, every time we can talk about football and figure out how to put all the pieces together. We’re working on it on a daily basis. It’s a great organization. I’ve loved every minute that I’ve been here. Other than losing a game against the Saints, you know, we’ve had a lot of great games.''

Herbert, the sixth overall pick, has produced back-to-back 300-yard passing games. The 22-year-old was pressed into action after starter Tyrod Taylor suffered a punctured lung following a pain-killing injection just before the Week 2 game against the Chiefs.

"He has two games under his belt, and I think he has a lot of poise in the pocket,'' Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said of Herbert. “He can make some great throws, he definitely doesn’t feel pressure around him, he keeps his head down the field, he can run with the football (and) he makes great reads. I think he’s off to a great start.”

Brady didn’t start as a rookie but took over early in his second season after veteran quarterback Drew Bledsoe was injured.

It might have been a tougher transition for Brady than it has been this season for Herbert, who played in a spread offense at Oregon similar to the one the Chargers run under coach Anthony Lynn.

"It feels like a continuation of college for a lot of the younger players because they’re getting into the league and the game probably has morphed into what the college game kind of has been,'' Brady said. "So some younger quarterbacks can play and do what they did in college, which makes the transition a little bit easier. It’s a little different than when I started. Although the school I played at (Michigan) was a little more of a pro-style team, so it was a little easier for me than it was for some others.

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"It was a long time ago when I was in that situation. But it didn’t feel too big for me. I played at a school where there was a lot of expectation. We played in front of 100,000 people every week. It was a big-time college program, and I think Justin played at a big-time college program, too. He had a big following. Now you come in, he probably doesn’t feel … there’s not a lot of media attention. You don’t see him on a daily basis. There’s not a lot of training camp, there’s no one at the games, so it kind of feels a little different. Unique situation for all of us, certainly for him playing this year, but he’s done a great job in the time that he’s been there, and we’re going to have to play good to beat this team.''

It won’t be easy. The Bucs are 2-1 with wins in consecutive weeks over the Panthers at home and the Broncos on the road. But Brady is likely to be without three of his biggest weapons: receivers Chris Godwin (hamstring), Scotty Miller (hip/groin) and running back Leonard Fournette (ankle) are expected to miss the game. In fact, because the Bucs play Thursday at Chicago, all three players could miss that game as well.

That has meant more reps in practice with receivers such as Justin Watson and rookie Tyler Johnson, who was unable to practice during most of training camp with a hamstring injury.

Brady, who was drafted No. 199 overall by the Patriots in 2000, reminds teammates how he got his start in the NFL. The same way Herbert got his in Los Angeles: an injury.

"You got to take advantage of that situation,'' Brady said. "I think, ideally, you’d like to have everyone out there practicing. The only way to get better is to practice together. You can’t walk through and talk through everything and not practice. There’s a lot of things that happen out there that happen in the moment. You’ve got to make really critical decisions. Everyone has got to be on the same page. The more you practice together, the more those things are going to come up. I always think it’s a benefit to practice and practice well.

"When certain guys can’t, and this is a contact sport, things happen. It is good for the other guys to get reps and for them to get in there and prove to everybody if they did get the chance. ... They got to take advantage of it and do a great job. That’s how a lot of guys get their positions. Guys get injured and guys never get their jobs back. That’s just the way football is.''

And it’s interesting how things have worked out. Brady is in Tampa. Taylor got hurt. Herbert is the quarterback for the Chargers.