Having reportedly purchased a custom-built boat the length of some strip malls, Tom Brady now indicates he’s ready to drop a figurative anchor in the state.
“You won’t catch me dead living in the Northeast anymore,” Brady said Thursday as temperatures outside the Bucs’ AdventHealth Training Center snuck into the 70s. “I’m loving the warm weather. It’s been a great feeling.”
It’s not a sound bite, it’s a sentiment. And evidently, a bona fide one.
On the same day temperatures in Foxborough, Mass., were not expected to nudge above the mid-40s, Brady’s new peers in Tampa said the quarterback has made no secret of his zeal to be playing in a December climate that doesn’t call for clothing in layers.
“I’ve been loving the weather,” receiver Mike Evans said, “and Tom’s been loving it, too.”
“It’s something that Tom talks about all the time,” offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich added. “Every day, he can’t believe that it’s like this down here, especially coming from up north.”
Observe, if you will, the transformation of a New England sports icon into Florida man — even if the acclimation has featured some stern undertow every now and again.
The tropical storm-force winds of Eta last month dislodged part of the dock behind the Davis Islands waterfront mansion Brady’s renting from Derek Jeter, sending his two jet skis adrift in the bay. There also was that embarrassing episode in the spring when he entered the wrong house in South Tampa after mistaking it for Leftwich’s residence.
And to be sure, the offense he’s operating has had its choppy moments of late.
But as a Bucs fan, ask yourself: Entering one of their most significant Decembers in recent memory, can you think of another northern transplant you’d rather have at the helm this winter?
“You always get everybody’s best in December,” Leftwich said.
“When December comes, it’s locked in, focused, us doing what we need to do to win football games, us doing what we need to do to execute, play in and play out, and … he’s been the best at it. So that helps. That helps, especially with so many guys not having the opportunity to play in the playoffs yet.”
Brady enters Tampa Bay’s final stretch with a 68-19 regular-season record as a starter in December and January. That .782 winning percentage is even more astounding when pondering how many of those games were staged on numbing New England afternoons or evenings during his 20 seasons with the Patriots.
By contrast, temperatures for Sunday’s 1 p.m. home game against the Vikings are forecast to hit the high 70s.
“And let me tell you this: Today was only like 50 (degrees), and it’s weird because it’s chilly to me now,” said tight end Rob Gronkowski, another prominent migrator from New England. “My blood has thinned out, I think.”
“So that’s how I feel about it now. It gets chilly in the 50s, but it feels good. You can’t beat this weather. You can’t beat football weather down here right now.”
Yet while the climate presumably has given Brady’s 43-year-old bones and bloodstream a new lease on life, will Leftwich and coach Bruce Arians do the same?
During the Bucs’ recent 1-3 funk, Arians and Leftwich were universally maligned for failing to employ more presnap motion or play-action into the offense, subjecting Brady to frequent hits with a “no risk it, no biscuit” vertical-passing approach. But coming off a bye offered a full week of self-scouting, introspection, and the chance to make a tweak or two.
Will that result in Brady returning to his element?
Or will the newest Florida man find himself in an unseasonable cold snap?
“It always starts with the running game, and the receivers have been together now, and Tom is, I think, very, very comfortable this week,” Arians said. “The identity again is being able to do a lot of different things with a lot of different people.”