After 20 years, nine Super Bowl appearances, and six championship rings with the New England Patriots, Tom Brady is ready for his next challenge.
It will undoubtedly be jarring to see the GOAT hit the football field donning a No. 12 jersey of a team not named the Patriots next season. The new Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback (will it ever feel normal to type that?) acknowledged that in a piece written for The Players’ Tribune on Monday.
“Life is always changing, and in whatever decision you make, or direction you choose, there’s an opportunity,” he writes. “Choosing to leave New England, and the only team I’ve known for 20 years, to join a new football team is a great opportunity, a great change and a great challenge.”
While he doesn’t explicitly go into why he ultimately parted ways with the Patriots this spring — if you’re looking for a tell-all about his time in New England, this isn’t it — he does write extensively about the importance of chance throughout his career and now.
“Changes and challenges are part of life. They’re part of athletes’ lives. They’re supposed to happen. They need to happen sometimes,” he writes. “Whether it’s a month ago, last year, five years or 10 years ago, the fact is every person — and every athlete — faces changes. Everyone comes up against challenges. Whether they’re physical, mental or emotional, they’re part of everyone’s lives. I’m no exception.”
In the piece, Brady pays tribute to passionate Patriots fans and how special it was to play before sold-out crowds throughout the entirety of his career. He thanks Robert Kraft and “teammates and coaches, past and present,” but does not single out head coach Bill Belichick in the piece or share any anecdotes of what it was like working and winning with him over the course of the Patriots’ dynasty.
“More than any one physical place, it’s the relationships I made in New England that I’ll miss the most,” he writes. “Of course, it starts with the entire New England Patriots organization, and Robert Kraft and the entire Kraft family. It extends to countless other individuals who played such a valuable role in my 20 years as a Patriot. Teammates and coaches, past and present. Old friends, new friends, the neighbors we went trick-or-treating with every year. But mostly, I’ll miss the fans.”
Here are some excerpts from the piece:
On Patriots fans:
“If there’s one thing anyone can say for sure, it’s that New Englanders understand what fandom is all about. New Englanders just really, really love their sports. That’s maybe because compared to New York, or Chicago, or Los Angeles, Boston feels less like a big city than it does a large small town. Even if you don’t know everybody in Boston, you feel like you know everybody. The fans feel like they’re part of our team, and my teammates and I felt the same way about them.
“…Gillette Stadium holds around 70,000 people, and I’ve never not played in a sold-out stadium during my career as a Patriot. How fortunate am I?”
On what he’s facing now:
“The changes and challenges I’m facing now are physical, mental and emotional — and the only way is through. I’m taking all the things I’ve learned so far as an athlete into this new chapter, while continuing my journey as a husband and father with my family. The most important thing? Enjoying every moment. Because it goes by so fast.”
On the road ahead:
“For me, playing football isn’t going to last another 10 years. In the time left, the question is, How can I keep maximizing what I do, put everything I can into it, make it the best I possibly can? At this point in my career, the only person I have to prove anything to is myself. Physically, I’m as capable of doing my job as I’ve ever been. Now I want to see what more I can do. I want to see how great I can be. I want to hear other people say, “Go, man. Now that’s what we’ve been missing. That’s what we need! That’s what we’ve been looking for!” Deep down I know what I can do. I know what I can bring. Now I want to see it in action.”
On Tampa Bay:
“Playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is a change, a challenge, an opportunity to lead and collaborate, and also to be seen and heard. And I know my time there will be as amazing in its own way as what came before.
“…The welcome and warmth I’ve gotten from the players and coaches in Tampa Bay has been so gratifying. For my part, I’ve loved getting to know a new group of young players.
“…They’ve welcomed me as one of their own. They want to listen to what I have to say. I’m excited to be embraced fully for what I can bring to the Bucs. In turn I’m ready to embrace fully a team that is confident in what I do — and what I bring — and is willing to go on this ride with me.”