Nice interview with our man Tom
- No basking for Brady, the epicenter for fans' expectations
BY TOM E. CURRAN
Journal Sports Writer
There are times when Tom Brady still has trouble comprehending it.
Like Friday, for example. Asked if he realizes that he's one of only
23 men who know what it feels like to quarterback a team to a Super
Bowl win, Brady went briefly quiet.
"Is that what it is?" he asked.
Yup. Terry Bradshaw had four and Roger Staubach had two and Joe
Montana had four and Bob Griese . . .
"And [John] Elway had two," Brady interrupted.
Another pause. Then, with a smile, Brady pleaded, "Don't tell me that
Since Feb. 4, Brady has tried for the most part to keep the hype at
arm's length. He's judged beauty pageants, donned a bandana for
breast cancer awareness, done a short bit for the Academy Awards,
been on the cover of Sports Illustrated, was featured in People
magazine and been linked to assorted divas. ("Total bull," he said of
But while some win a Super Bowl and write a book (see: Billick,
Brian), Brady has given the adulation a Heisman Trophy pose. He
politely rebuffed a request from his hometown of San Mateo, Calif.,
to hold a parade in his honor and he hasn't done endorsements or been
a fixture on late-night talk shows.
But the last four months have been the easy part. This week, the
Patriots hold their first official gathering as defending Super Bowl
champions. Mini-camp. The interest will start to rumble. Then it will
build through training camp and reach a crescendo with the start of
the season and the opening of CMGi Field.
Brady will be the epicenter. He is the quarterback of the defending
Super Bowl champions. He has supplanted a franchise quarterback. And,
maybe most importantly, he is entering a critical period
At the end of the 2002 season, Brady, 24, will be a restricted free
agent, which means any other team can make him an offer and the
Patriots would have to match it to retain him. You may remember that
in a similar situation in 1997, the Pats lollygagged their way into
losing Curtis Martin by not offering him a reasonable deal before he
became a restricted free agent. They then had to stand, hands
financially tied, when the Jets made Martin an offer the Pats could
By dealing Drew Bledsoe, the Patriots threw their football support
behind Brady. Now the onus is on them to fairly compensate a Super
Bowl MVP who has so far made less than 1 percent of the money Bledsoe
made in New England. Brady admitted to spending some time thinking
about it. His conclusion?
"Whatever happens with (his contract) will happen," Brady
reasoned. "I don't like to get involved. It's distracting. That's why
you have people do it for you. (Worrying about contracts) takes a
toll on you and takes your focus. If I try to be a good negotiator, I
can't be as good a football player. It's very easy to lose
perspective when you win the Super Bowl and have been successful
early, but the big picture is that I have a lot to improve on and a
lot of things I want to accomplish."
And worrying about the six-year, $36-million deal San Francisco gave
Jeff Garcia last July or the seven-year, $46.5-million Kurt Warner
got from the Rams in July 2000 is only an impediment to those things
Brady has on his self-help list.
"We went into last season thinking we had a pretty good team and over
the course of the year we all kind of found our own role and found
ways to be successful as a team," Brady said. "We jelled. And I don't
see any reason why that can't continue or we can't improve. I think
we have a better team this year than last year. A lot of guys we
added immediately make us better."
Like in the receiving corps?
"Exactly. Troy (Brown) has different skills and David (Patten) has
different skills. Now we add Donald (Hayes, a 6-foot-4 wideout) and
(rookie first-round tight end) Daniel Graham and (free agent tight
end) Christian Fauria with his competitive nature and poise, and
(free agent tight end) Cam Cleeland with his presence, size and speed.
"Last year we had no margin for error on any play," Brady
continued. "We needed our best routes from both guys on every play.
Now we have new skill sets and because of that we are more multi-
dimensional on offense."
Knowing that any lapse could mean the difference between winning and
losing steeled the Patriots, said Brady.
"Look at how close the games were last year -- the Rams, Oakland,
Pittsburgh, the Buffalo games, the Jets game -- we had no room for
mistakes. It's hard to overcome mistakes anyway, but when you know
you can't afford them you play with that much more focus. We grew
from that, and it built our character."
The Patriots are fond of saying they like to recruit players for whom
football is important. Nobody on the team seems to put the game on
more of a pedestal than their quarterback. "Hardest working guy on
the team," head coach Bill Belichick told CNN-SI.com recently.
Asked the genesis of his commitment to the game and competition,
Brady said, "I've been like this since I was about 7 years old. I
remember playing video games and wanting to win so badly. Any time I
got in a competitive situation, I felt that way, and I always feel
like I could come out on top. It's not a fear of failure, it's joy of
success. When you know what it's like to win, you don't want anything
else. When I played baseball (Brady was drafted by the Montreal Expos
coming out of high school), I wanted to go 4-for-4. If I went 3-for-
4, I wasn't happy about that one time.
"Competition is about not being complacent and self-satisfied," he
continued. "You learn to compete against yourself. Say you go to the
gym and say you're going to run for half-hour on the treadmill. Some
people get tired after 20 minutes and leave. If I get tired by 20, I
try to run for 40."
That mindset makes it all the more difficult for Brady to comprehend
random mutterings that he's enjoying the spotlight too much.
"That's a hard part for me," he admitted. "(The scrutiny) can drive a
lot of people crazy, but it's coming from people who don't know who I
am or what I'm about. I can't tell you how many Red Sox games I went
to last year, sitting with my buddies down the third-base line. Or
going to Celtics games or out to dinner. But these things I used to
do for fun. (Because of the attention) at this point it's more work.
So I find other things to do. Go play pool, play golf. I like to be
out and I like to talk with people -- I'm a social person, but at the
same time, that doesn't mean you go out and go crazy every night
until 3 a.m."
This region has a reputation for eating its own. Whether it's Carl
Yastrzemski, Roger Clemens or Bledsoe, missteps or lagging production
are not compassionately accepted.
"You realize the expectations are high, but they're not just high
from the fans but from the coaches and me," Brady asserted. "If
people expect us to go out and throw for 400 yards, rush for 200 and
not give up a point, they're going to be disappointed. But
(expectations) are really a part of the territory. It's great when
you win here -- look at our parade, with almost 1.5 million people
there. And when you lose, they invest in letting you know that you
stink. People expect better."
And nobody harbors higher goals than Brady.
"I'm bigger now," he said. "I'm moving better, my arm is stronger.
When you watch 17 games of yourself, you find things to improve."
Already, it seems as if Brady has buried 2001.
"Last season was great, but what can I do better?" he asked
rhetorically. "I want to be remembered as a great player and a great
leader. I want it so that when people think of me as a player,
they'll think, 'He laid it all on the line.' One year is not enough.
People want to know what we can do for an encore. We can be a better
team. And we will be a better team."