WASHINGTON, D.C. — Bucs quarterback Tom Brady turned to President Joe Biden Tuesday outside the White House and poked fun at himself about being the NFL’s elder statesman.
“Personally for me, it’s nice to be back here,” the 43-year-old Brady said. “We had a game in Chicago where I forgot what down it was. I lost track of one down in 21 years of playing, and they started calling me ‘Sleepy Tom.’ Why would they do that to me?”
Despite winning six Lombardi Trophies with the Patriots, Brady hadn’t been back to the White House since 2005 until he joined his Bucs teammates on the South Lawn Tuesday, where they were honored by Biden for winning Super Bowl 55.
Biden praised the Bucs for sticking together during a difficult 7-5 start and coming together to win eight games in a row, becoming the first team to win a Super Bowl in its home stadium.
But the event featured quite an exchange between Biden, at 78 the oldest president to hold office, and Brady, the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl.
“It didn’t look good at one point,’' Brady said. “We were 7-5 and struggling a little bit as the president alluded to. But we found our rhythm. We got on a roll. A lot of people didn’t think we could’ve won. In fact, I think about 40 percent of the people still don’t think we won.”
“I understand that,” Biden replied.
Biden spoke about his own football career at Delaware and called up receiver Chris Godwin, who hails from his home state of Pennsylvania.
Godwin said during earlier conversations he had an instant connection with Biden. Godwin said Biden called him to wish him luck before Super Bowl 55.
“It’s was awesome,” Godwin said. “It was an honor for me to have that Delaware connection.”
Biden also acknowledged the Lightning, who have won the past two Stanley Cup championships, if not by name, certainly by deed.
“We have to say that the fans down there in Western Florida are having a pretty good year this year, I tell you,” Biden said. “You know, the Stanley Cup, and in addition to the Super Bowl. But, you know, we’re making a pretty strong case to start calling Tampa the ‘City of Champions.’”
Although the visit was mostly ceremonial and celebratory in nature, politics are around every corner of the White House.
Biden lauded the Bucs for donating nearly 200,000 meals during the pandemic, leading a drive for voter registration and utilizing Raymond James Stadium as a center for COVID-19 vaccinations.
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As their Bucs teammates toured the State Dining Floor, tackle Donovan Smith and punter Bradley Pinion, who are members of the team’s Social Justice Committee, met with Vice President Kamala Harris about voting rights.
“It’s great, I think it feels like it gives us some validity or weight of some of the stuff we were doing around Tampa, especially voting and getting people to vote,” guard Ali Marpet said. “That’s what coach Arians is all about, right? That’s what as an organization we really tried to be leaders in. So that was a big point of emphasis for her, and it was great to have that theme be united.”
Arians got emotional when he spoke at the event, even though he had been to the White House before as an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He encouraged the U.S. Congress to come together the way the Bucs did last season.
“We live by three words,” Arians said. “Trust, loyalty and respect. We don’t have any rules. You have those, you’ll have accountability and you’ll be able to do anything you want. One team, one cause.”
Then he turned to Biden. “I hope the Senate and the House start helping you,” Arians said.
Later, Arians reiterated his remarks. “Come together and get something done,” he said. “Quit fighting. It’s not two countries, it’s one country.”
The Glazer family, including Bryan, Joel, Avram, Ed and Darcie Glazer Kassewitz, presented Biden, the 46th President of the United States, with a No. 46 jersey.
Brady nodded to tight end Cameron Brate, to whom he threw the Lombardi Trophy across the Hillsborough River during the Bucs’ celebratory boat parade.
“We’re not going to throw the trophy today, right Cam?” Brady said.
Biden turned to the assembled Bucs players behind him and told them to get vaccinated.
“Amen,” Arians said.
Earlier, Smith posted a video of a conversation he had with Brady while walking outside the White House on Instagram.
“You got residency here?” Smith asked the seven-time Super Bowl champion.
“It’s been a long time for me,” Brady said.
The Bucs had 41 players attend the event. Notably absent were some key stars such as wide receiver Mike Evans, tight end Rob Gronkowski and linebacker Lavonte David.
It was the first visit by a Super Bowl champion to the White House in four years. The last team to accept an invitation was the Patriots in 2017. Brady did not make that trip.
It also marked the first time a team from Tampa Bay has celebrated a championship with such an invitation.
After the Bucs won Super Bowl 37, the war in Iraq prevented a visit to the White House. When the Lightning won its first Stanley Cup in 2003-04, there was a lockout of NHL players. Last summer, the Lightning were denied again due to COVID-19.
The White House visit kicked off a week of reflection for the Super Bowl champions. On Thursday, the team will receive its championship rings during a private ceremony in Tampa.
Quarterbacks have orientation on Friday, and the full squad reports Saturday.
“I can’t wait for Thursday night to be over and get our rings and get onto next year,” Arians said. “We show up to camp Saturday, and it’s a whole new team. This team is put to bed and a new one gets to wake up and start working.”
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