TAMPA ― Tom Brady has finally lost it. He’s playing without something that’s been part of his game the past 14 years. Fortunately, it’s not the zip on his passes, but the sleeve on his left knee.
It had been as much a part of his uniform as shoulder pads since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in the first game of the 2008 season.
Brady needed it more than ever last year while playing with a torn medial collateral ligament. He said he spent a lot of time with personal trainer Alex Guerrero stabilizing the injury in 2020 so he could play each week.
The revelation of the knee injury earlier this month only added to Brady’s legend after he passed for 4,633 yards with 40 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while leading the Bucs to a victory in Super Bowl 55 in Tampa.
But following surgery in February and a long rehabilitation, Brady has shed the sleeve, saying he no longer needs it.
“It’s exciting for me,” Brady said Friday. It was just a lot of maintenance last year. Alex and I would spend time day after day after day, just, hey, let’s tape it. Take the tape off. Pregame. Pre-practice. Taping at 7 a.m. Leaving the tape on at night. Just trying to stabilize it the best that I could.
“It feels good now. It was not my favorite offseason of all time. I hadn’t had surgery in a long time, so you kind of forget the rehab process and so forth. It’s kind of a long, arduous offseason when you go through rehab like that. I got a lot of time with my family and stuff, so that was really enjoyable. But I’m happy to be back to work.”
“You guys are catching me on a really bad day,” Brady said. “... I’m not feeling good about what we did (Friday). It is what it is.”
After winning his seventh Super Bowl ring, a lot is different for Brady entering the 2021 season. He doesn’t have to learn a new offense, although he still wears a wristband with the plays as a reminder.
He is familiar with all of his offensive weapons, such as Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Scotty Miller. Only this year, he will have Antonio Brown for 17 games instead of half a season.
“I think he is getting better, which is crazy to see how far along he is in his career,” Miller said. “But I think he’s had a great camp so far, he really understands the offense. He’s just very confident back there. I think he’s going to have a huge year, and we’re excited to play with him again and the sky is the limit for him.”
Brady said he is enjoying playing in Tampa Bay and finding his voice on many social platforms. Last week, he cracked jokes with President Joe Biden at the White House and gave a riveting speech during the team’s Super Bowl ring ceremony.
Is he having more fun and willing to reveal more of himself in Tampa Bay than he was in New England?
“I think all of the above,” Brady said. “It’s nice I’ve found my voice more. I really enjoy being around my teammates, my coaches. It’s been a different environment. I’m just really enjoying the experience of playing football, playing with this group of guys.”
But Brady knows the Bucs have to forget about winning Super Bowl 55 if they want to repeat as champions, something he did with the Patriots in 2003-04.
Even though Brady looked sharp during a red zone drill in firing TD passes to Mike Evans and Brown, who finger-rolled the football over the goal post, it wasn’t good enough. Arians pointed to some dropped passes and poor execution following a day off for the team.
“You know, communication. Execution. Missing throws,” Brady said. “Missing reads. Just overall just a poor day.
The Bucs will be in pads for the first time Saturday, which is likely why Arians was setting a sour tone.
“Coach said a good thing today,” Brady said. “He said, ‘Soccer practice is over after today.’ We really haven’t played any football. There’s no pads. No tackling. No run force. No run fits. No breaking tackles. No play-action response, so things will change quite a bit (Saturday).
“It wasn’t our best day. We’ve got to watch film and correct it. We realize we’re starting at the bottom with everybody else, and we’ve got to climb our way out of it. Our challenges are going to be totally different challenges than last year, and we’ve got to put the work in. It’s training camp. It’s a grind. We’ve got to grind through it.”