New England Patriots

New England Patriots

New England Patriots

Jun 10, 2021; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (50) talks to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels during OTAs at the New England Patriots practice complex. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

In case you’ve been living in a mineshaft the past year and a half, this Sunday Tom Brady makes his return to Gillette Stadium for the first time as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And the Patriots have their own takes on the matter.

To kick off Brady Week™, some of the team’s most experienced figures and most vibrant personalities shared their thoughts on Brady coming to town with the defending Super Bowl champion Bucs, who present arguably the biggest on-field challenge they will face all season. Expectedly, the players and coaches have largely expressed their admiration and respect for the seven-time Super Bowl winner, who got some of six rings in New England with these guys as his teammates or coaches.

Running backs coach Ivan Fears, however, was refreshingly frank: we’re not exactly rolling the red carpet out, here. Give Brady his hero’s welcome before the game, but once the ball is kicked off, it’s time to try to beat him.

“I love Tom Brady. I always have,” Fears said Tuesday. “I spent 20 years with the young guy. I’m very honored to have been a part of the team with him. I still think he’s the greatest. But right now, that SOB is the enemy.

“Right now I’m happy for him, for the success he’s had. And I’m looking forward to trying to beat his butt. That’s what counts. That’s all that matters right now. We’re going after each other. Too bad I can’t be out there (laughs).”

Brady himself, speaking to Jim Gray on the “Let’s Go!” podcast, said what you might expect: though it may be hard to ignore the emotions and memories that crop up once he sets foot in Gillette Stadium again, he’s there to try to win a football game, and the history and the past with the Patriots can come to the forefront of his mind some time later.

TAMPA, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 19: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks to make a pass play against the Atlanta Falcons in the second quarter of the game at Raymond James Stadium on September 19, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

TAMPA, FLORIDA – SEPTEMBER 19: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks to make a pass play against the Atlanta Falcons in the second quarter of the game at Raymond James Stadium on September 19, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

“I’m not going to necessarily reminisce,” Brady said. “I don’t think this is the moment for that. I’ll have plenty of opportunities to reminisce about my football career, none of it, none of which I really care to do right now, because I’m so much in the moment. I’m not going to be thinking about 20 years of history. I’m going to be thinking about one night of football, a Sunday night game coming off a really tough loss.”

Easier said than done for Brady, who also expects the Patriots faithful to root for the guys in nautical blue to knock him on his ass, after rooting against the pass-rush for so many years.

“I mean, I think they’re there to root for their team, and their team is the Patriots,” Brady said. “I think they’re gonna cheer for their team as I would expect them to, and I think if they know anything about me, they’re gonna know that I’m going out there to try to win the football game, so I think they’ll respect that about me.”

Here are some of the other comments made by Patriots players and coaches so far this week, in the lead-up to the most anticipated game in Patriots history.

  • Matthew Slater

    Tom Brady and Matthew Slater take the field before practice at Patriots mandatory minicamp on June 5, 2019. (Matt Dolloff/WBZ-FM)

    Tom Brady and Matthew Slater take the field before practice at Patriots mandatory minicamp on June 5, 2019. (Matt Dolloff/WBZ-FM)

    On his relationship with Brady:

    “Yeah, I’ll say this to start: I have a tremendous amount of respect for Thomas. Obviously having played with him for 12 years, I couldn’t think any higher of a player than I think of Tom Brady. I couldn’t think more highly of anyone that’s ever played the game than what I think of Tom as a player. As a friend, he’s been nothing but kind to me, my family, so I’m very appreciative of that relationship. But I think this week, the New England Patriots need to focus on the New England Patriots, and the things that we need to do to start playing better football, consistent football, competitive football.”

  • Jerod Mayo

    TAMPA, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 19: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signals to his receivers prior to the snap in the second quarter of the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Raymond James Stadium on September 19, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)

    TAMPA, FLORIDA – SEPTEMBER 19: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signals to his receivers prior to the snap in the second quarter of the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Raymond James Stadium on September 19, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)

    On Brady continuing to play well at age 44:

    “It’s truly amazing. He’s been playing at a high level for a long time. When we got the depth charts and it said how many years he was playing, I was like, his career alone is old enough to drink. It’s crazy.”

  • Steve Belichick

    INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 26: Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the sideline during the first quarter in the game against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on September 26, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

    INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 26: Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the sideline during the first quarter in the game against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on September 26, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

    On whether he rooted for Brady in the Super Bowl last year:

    “I am always pulling for Tom. I’ve got a lot of history with him. I am a fan of a game too and in addition to being a fan I like rooting for relationships and people I know and Tom is as high on that list as anybody. I was very happy for him. It was well-deserved. I’ll never root against Tom.”

  • Chase Winovich

    INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 26: Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during pregame warm-ups before the game against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on September 26, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

    INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 26: Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during pregame warm-ups before the game against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on September 26, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

    On playing against Brady after having him as a teammate:

    “Yeah, it’s definitely super cool to have the opportunity to plan against Tom Brady. I’ve thought about it — or I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it. That’s a pretty backwards way of saying it, I guess. But I’m just super thankful for the opportunity to have the chance to play against somebody like Tom. To do it in this setting is truly a blessing. So it’s definitely something I’m not taking for granted. Zeus is away. So I’ve been relieved of my dog sitting duties. We’re even extra dialed in, ready to roll.” I hear you get the kids in daycare this week. I’m really as well you get it right?”

    Some more items of note on Tuesday…

  • A breakdown here and there?

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 26: Quarterback Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots passes the ball against the New Orleans Saints in the first quarter of the game at Gillette Stadium on September 26, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 26: Quarterback Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots passes the ball against the New Orleans Saints in the first quarter of the game at Gillette Stadium on September 26, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    Bill Belichick, and now offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo, have both used Mac Jones’ 50-plus dropbacks to exculpate the Patriots’ struggling offensive line.

    “I think Coach [Belichick] kind of alluded to that, probably, in the thing where you drop back and you throw 55 times,” Bricillo said, when asked what the Saints did to give them trouble protecting up front. “I know we need to do better. We take that challenge on ourselves. There was a breakdown here or there, that we as a unit talk about and address, give them that look and move on. I don’t think there was any one thing that necessarily, schematically, was the issue. You know, the kid gets hit once, that’s once too many for our taste, and we’ve just got to do our job better. Starts with me, by all means. And, we’ll just keep working it and come out every day ready to improve.”

    Certainly, no one has ever played a totally perfect football game, and when you make 51 pass attempts, you’re unlikely to do it untouched. But this unit is not playing to the best of its ability, and this level of absolution is curious. For reference, Jones was hit 11 times against New Orleans, and has been hit 29 times in three games, eighth-most in the NFL.

  • James White replacements

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 26: James White #28 of the New England Patriots is carted off the field in the second quarter of the game against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium on September 26, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 26: James White #28 of the New England Patriots is carted off the field in the second quarter of the game against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium on September 26, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    The Patriots turned to Brandon Bolden (33 snaps against New Orleans) in an emergency situation last Sunday. With a week to prepare without James White against the Bucs, and beyond, do they take a different approach?

    Most likely outcome: we’ll finally get to see J.J. Taylor with an increased workload, particularly running routes in the passing game. Bolden has a good chance to continue to see work as a pass protector, but the Patriots need someone to make plays right now. Taylor may have the explosiveness to give the group a spark and provide Jones with a safety valve out of the backfield.

    If the Patriots want to look elsewhere? According to Adam Schefter, the Colts and Marlon Mack have agreed to seek a trade, so there’s at least one option publicly available. There are also free agent backs that the Patriots could bring in to at least alleviate the loss of White’s veteran presence. Here’s a list of eight backs the Patriots might be willing to target as a White replacement.

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