TAMPA, Fla. — Tom Brady still remembers the day his idol Joe Montana last donned a San Francisco 49ers jersey in 1992. He was there in the stands at Candlestick Park watching Montana’s farewell after 14 seasons, before the quarterback moved on to the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I’ll never forget that,” Brady said of Montana’s final game, during a news conference Tuesday that was conducted over the phone due to the coronavirus pandemic. “I just think life continues to change for all of us. Having the opportunity for me to continue to play football and lead a team is something that I love doing. I’ve loved playing the sport since I was a kid, since I was throwing footballs in the parking lot at Candlestick. And I still love doing that today.”
That love has taken him over 1,100 miles away from a championship mecca he started in Foxborough, Massachusetts, to Tampa Bay, an organization that hasn’t reached the postseason since 2007 and hasn’t won a playoff game since the Super Bowl in 2002. And it will mean completely starting over — from finding a new place to live and taking a new route to work each day to getting to know teammates 20 years younger who had his poster plastered on their bedroom walls growing up.
“It’s not like I’m 25, where I just basically pack a suitcase and go,” Brady said. “I have three kids, and it’s just changing a little bit of our life — but that’s life, and that’s what people do. That’s what you do when you have opportunities at other jobs and other places. There’s a lot of coaches that deal with that; there’s a lot of players that have dealt with that. They deal with it every year. … In that sense, I’m no different than what so many other people are going through. And you do the best you can do, and you make the transition as smooth as possible.”
Brady isn’t asking for any special treatment, although hardly anyone at the Bucs’ Advent Health Training Center would bat an eye at fulfilling his requests. He has six Super Bowl rings, and few players in the Bucs’ locker room have ever even played in the postseason, so certainly the team could alter a lot of things for him. But Brady’s focus is trying to get up to speed on what the Bucs are doing and immerse himself in their culture — from learning coach Bruce Arians’ playbook to knowing the preferences of wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
“I said the other day, no one cares what you’ve done in the past; they don’t care what you did last year, five years ago or 10 years ago. And I think, hopefully, the knowledge I’ve had with my experience playing quarterback will allow me to transition quickly,” Brady said. “There’s a lot of things I’ve gotta get up to speed on. Obviously learning different terminology, that’s a unique challenge that I haven’t faced, but it’s one that I’m looking forward to also.
“[It’s] gonna be a busy offseason for me, learning a lot of new things, which is a great challenge and a great opportunity for me. And I’m gonna just do it the only way I know how to do it, which is to fully engulf myself in what’s done here. It’s a new program that I’m a part of, and they have their way of doing things, and they’re committed to winning. And I gotta come in and do my part, and that’s why I’m here.”
How quickly Brady will get up to speed will be the real challenge. NFL rules have shut down team facilities for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 virus that has forced non-essential businesses to close and relegated a majority of Americans to work from home. For now, most of the Bucs’ correspondence will be technological. The pandemic also likely will delay the start of the offseason program, which was set to begin in April.
Even with the uncertainty, Brady said he is excited about the new challenge that awaits.
“I know for a lot of us, things in life can change and you’ve gotta be able to adapt and evolve. With each of those changes comes different opportunities to learn and grow. That’s where I’m at,” Brady said.
“I’m not gonna make predictions about how the next few months are gonna go, and I don’t really know what’s gonna happen and what’s predicted with our access to the team facilities and so forth. So I’m gonna do the best I can to be in conversation with guys, and try to get together and find ways to meet up in different places, and get to work in that sense.
“Technology is an amazing thing, and we’re gonna use the technology as best we can to try to get to know each other. And for me, they’re ahead of me on what they need to know in terms of the offense, so I really gotta get up to speed with the things that they already know and their terminology. It’s just a lot of time and energy, but that’s what I love to do, so the only way to start is it to start doing it. That’s what I gotta do.”