TAMPA — Tom Brady has won more games and thrown more touchdown passes than any player in NFL history.
But those records don’t mean as much to him as personal relationships, he said Thursday, which may explain why he has talked two teams into signing troubled receiver Antonio Brown.
Brady had admired the seven-time Pro Bowl receiver whenever the Patriots played the Steelers, Brown’s team from 2010-18.
He got to know Brown as an AFC Pro Bowl teammate. A year ago, the Patriots signed Brown in a troubled offseason for the receiver in which he was traded by the Steelers to the Raiders and then released by the Raiders after six bizarre, chaotic months, before he had played a regular-season game with them.
Brown played one game for Patriots, catching four passes for 56 yards and a touchdown in a win over Miami, then was released after the team learned the NFL was investigating him for multiple accusations of sexual assault. Brown has denied the allegations.
Brown hadn’t been affiliated with a team since, until the Bucs signed him last month.
Since March, Brady had lobbied the Bucs to sign Brown, who Tuesday completed an eight-game NFL suspension stemming from his arrest in January, when he was accused of attacking the driver of a moving van at his Hollywood, Fla., home. He pleaded no contest in June to a felony burglary with battery charge and two lesser misdemeanor charges.
Brown could face further punishment from the league as it continues to look into the sexual-assault allegations, including those made by a former trainer, who has filed a lawsuit against him.
Both Brady and Brown are overachieving, late-round draft picks. Brady went No. 199 in the 2000 draft out of Michigan. Brown went No. 195 to the Steelers in 2010 out of Central Michigan. Brady took a liking to Brown in the short time they had been together.
“I’ve just watched him for a long time. I’ve seen him as a player and then gotten to know him as a person,” Brady said Thursday. “And again, I really enjoy the sport. I enjoy playing football, obviously, but relationships are very important to me.”
More than throwing touchdown passes and winning games, Brady said, the relationships he has built with his teammates are what are most meaningful to him.
“All the guys I’ve played with over the years, you just have a strong connection with and you just want to see everyone achieve their best,” he said. "When you see people achieve things and they put their effort into certain things and it pays off and it’s really rewarded, I think that’s what life is about.
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“And I’ve had a lot of people help me over the years. I’ve had a lot of people inspire me to do better, to want to work harder, who have helped put me in the right position to be successful.”
The arrival of Brown couldn’t come at a better time for the Bucs. Receiver Chris Godwin broke his left index finger in a win at Las Vegas on Oct. 25 and did not play in Monday’s night’s win against the Giants.
He has been wearing a splint on his left hand and was expected to try to catch passes today for the first time since the injury to determine whether he can play Sunday night against the Saints.
Brown, 32, gives the Bucs another dynamic player capable of playing all three receiver positions. Coach Bruce Arians said they will have a specific role in the game plan for Brown, who could play from 10 to 35 snaps.
“I think I’ve got a good idea of what he’d be able to do Sunday night,” said offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, who was a Steelers teammate of Brown’s. "He’s always in the best shape, so you’re never really worried about that. Obviously, he has to do some things to get in football shape — ball-security-type things — those are the type of things you’re always worried about.
“But he’s in shape, (and) he’s conditioned. I can talk to him in a way to get him to understand, to make sure that he’s ready to roll and to understand what he needs to do so he can play fast. I feel good about where he’s at. I don’t really know how much he’ll play.”
Brady, unhappy with his lack of weapons with the Patriots, was instrumental in getting Brown after the receiver had been released by the Raiders. After Brown was released by the Patriots, Brady remained in contact with him. Eventually, he hooked up Brown with life coach Tony Robbins.
When he arrived in Tampa Bay last week, Brown was invited to stay at Brady’s house, and the two rode to work together.
“That’s all I try to be to my teammates,” Brady said. "I try to do my best every day to make myself available to them however I can help them mentally, however I can help them emotionally. I just want to see people enjoy doing what they’re doing. Enjoy their job, do a great job, show up, and ultimately our goal for all of us is to win football games.
“It started (with the Bucs) working with Chris Godwin and Scotty (Miller), Cam Brate when I first got here (in the spring),” Brady said. "Then Mike (Evans) showed up, then (Ronald Jones) showed up. We had a lot of guys. It’s fun being around guys and helping them, obviously, on my experience and my knowledge and trying to give them some information that can help them in their career.
“Because they embraced it, it inspires me to work harder for them. Seeing them achieve and be successful is a great feeling for me.”