Among the prevalent questions surrounding Tom Brady’s signing with the Bucs in March was how a franchise switch at the twilight of his career would affect his legacy.
Now, he’s being asked how it might affect his reputation.
Such was the question posed Monday night by Westwood One radio host Jim Gray to Brady, believed to be instrumental in the Bucs bringing aboard controversial Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown.
Speaking on his regular Monday Night Football pregame segment on Westwood One radio, Brady indicated he doesn’t feel he has put his reputation on the line for Brown, or that the 32-year-old veteran will try to fit in better based on how much Brady has gone to bat for him.
“No, he’s his own individual,” Brady said.
“Everybody has the opportunity in life, and again, I’m just happy that he’s got another opportunity to play in the NFL. ... I love playing football, I know he does too. He’s joining a group of (receivers) who are extremely hard-working, extremely selfless.”
Though Bucs coach Bruce Arians has insisted Brady had nothing to do with the acquisition of Brown, it’s widely believed Brady has been trying to coax the Bucs into signing him for months. The two played one game together in New England (hooking up four times for 56 yards and a touchdown) last September before Brown was released following sexual-assault allegations.
When asked how much influence he has with the Bucs staff and front office, Brady was mildly evasive.
“I’m the quarterback of the team, and that’s my role and responsibility,” he told Gray.
“I’m trying to do that the best way I possibly can. I do appreciate the relationship I have with BA (Arians) and (general manager) Jason Licht. I think they know me, they know what my style is. I have a tremendous amount of trust in them, and they’re putting the team first.”
Once his eight-game suspension ends next week, Brown joins arguably the deepest receiver room in the NFL. While none of Brady’s targets has even 30 receptions, four — Mike Evans, Scotty Miller, Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski — have at least 20. Additionally, Brady’s 18 touchdown passes rank second in the league.
“Certainly I’m happy for Antonio to get an opportunity to resume his career,” Brady said. "He’s put a lot of time and energy into working on a lot of things in his life, and I know he’s excited to play football. Everyone’s going to earn a role on our team, and I know that’s his mindset, too.
“I think the receiver position is really a position of strength on our offense, and how Antonio fits into that is going to be up to him and the role that he can create for himself.”
Speaking later to Gray during halftime, Brady touched on a couple of other subjects, including his old team, and his staggering longevity.
On his assessment of the current Patriots (now 2-4 after Sunday’s 33-6 loss to the 49ers):
“I haven’t been able to study what they’re doing and so forth. ... I know the quality of person they have in that locker room. They’ve got a lot of great coaches. Cam Newton’s a hell of a player; he had an MVP season, and sometimes you just have games that don’t go great. When you have mental toughness like I know Cam does, he’s going to be back at it. I know the team believes in him. If any team can get it right, it’s the New England Patriots.”
On whether he still roots for the Patriots:
"I obviously want all my friends to do well. I think my time in football has been blessed with some great memories and a lot of important relationships in my life. And those relationships don’t end just because I’m not playing on the same team.
In some ways, will he be a Patriot for life?
“I feel like I’m very much the same kid I grew up as. Honestly I had a tremendous two decades at one place. Sometimes your football journey extends to other places, and I’m really enjoying my time now in Tampa and trying to take on a totally different challenge and opportunity.”
On his longevity:
“I’m 43 years old; this is unheard of. People never thought I would have this opportunity. And for me, every day is a blessing to get up and go to my job and do something like play quarterback. I’ve been doing it for the last 30 years of my life, and I’m going to keep doing it until I suck. And when I suck I’m going to retire.”
On his future:
“I told this to my wife last year — every year I’m going to just evaluate and see where I’m at. I have a two-year contract, we’ll just continue to wait and see, and I’ll see how I feel physically, mentally and emotionally. This has been a great opportunity with the Bucs. They’ve embraced me...and it’s really been an enjoyable experience for me to come down here and do something I love to do.”