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New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady attends joint practice with the Detroit Lions, at the Lions' headquarters and practice fields in Allen Park, Mich., August 5, 2019. (John Kryk/Postmedia Network)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady attends joint practice with the Detroit Lions, at the Lions’ headquarters and practice fields in Allen Park, Mich., August 5, 2019. (John Kryk/Postmedia Network)
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick attends joint practice with the Detroit Lions, at the Lions' headquarters and practice fields in Allen Park, Mich., August 5, 2019. (John Kryk/Postmedia Network)
ALLEN PARK, Mich. — In case you had any doubts, Tom Brady hasn’t lost a drop of his love for football.
He just turned 42 on Saturday, is fresh off signing a reported $70-million, two-year contract extension on the weekend, and is now in his 20 th season in the NFL — 19th as starting quarterback of the New England Patriots.
After the first of three joint practices this week with the Detroit Lions at the latter’s headquarters, Brady on Monday talked a bit about his personal contract situation. And we’ll get to that in a moment.
But what stood out most in Brady’s post-practice presser was the enthusiasm you could see in his face, and hear in his words, when he talked about his affinity for this particular sport involving the agitation of an inflated prolate spheroid, as haughty 19 th century academics used to derisively describe football.
“I love playing football, so I don’t care who I’m out here with,” Brady said. “ I just love playing … (against) another team, our team, my kids, my sisters. I don’t care.”
Seeing as he’s still about as effective a quarterback as any who has ever suited up — fergoshsake, he has taken the Patriots to the Super Bowl in each of the past three seasons, winning two, to raise his career championship tally to six — it might be some time yet before Brady is relegated to playing only against kids and sisters.
In full 11-vs.-11 scrimmages on Monday against the Lions defence — all players were in full pads, but with no tackling to the ground, and no hitting quarterbacks — Brady looked pretty darn sharp. Especially for a guy who voluntarily sat out all non-mandatory April-to-June practices, who is less than two weeks into summer training camp, and who is 42 friggin’ years old.
For instance, Brady at one point lofted a perfect deep pass down the right side and into the out-stretched arms of big-bodied rookie wide receiver N’Keal Harry, who hauled it in.
Later, near the end of the two-hours-plus practice session, Brady began a two-minute drill by ripping three passes into receivers hands, to just like that set up the Pats in the red zone. One more completion brought the ball down to the Detroit seven-yard line.
So what if the drive fizzled there? Those four completions were vintage, crunch-time Brady. He’s still got it.
Asked afterward how it feels to be back in the fold with a new contract, and with extended job security on the Patriots (bumping his career earnings well past $200 million), Brady thanked the club, owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick, plus “all of the coaches, all of the players.”
As you’d expect him to do. He also said the following, as you’d expect: “The focus is on this year, and what we’ve got to do,” he said, trying to change the subject. “That’s where I’m focused. That’s all that really matters in the end. That’s what this team expects of me, to put everything into it, like I always have. And I’m really excited for the year. This was good competition today.
“We needed it, to see where we’re at. We’ll try to make quite a few corrections and go out there tomorrow and see if we can do better.”
Brady has said for a couple of years now that he wants to play in the NFL until he’s 45, which would mean for three more seasons past this one. According to NFL.com, his new contract bumps his 2019 pay from $15 million to $23 million, followed by annual salaries of $30 million in 2020, and $32 million in 2021. He’ll turn 45 in August 2022.
Brady said the reality for most NFL players is contract uncertainty beyond the current season, or two seasons at most.
“I don’t want to think I’m any different than anyone else. Football is a tough business. It’s a production business,” he said. “I’m ready to go this year, and that’s really what matters. That’s where my focus is.
“It’s a unique situation I’m in. I’m in my 20 th year with the same team. I’m 42 years old, so pretty much uncharted territory, I think, for everybody. I’m going to go out there and do the best I can this year and see what happens.”
Would he prefer to have more contract certainty, beyond 2021?
“I’m really not worried about it. I’m secure for this year, I think. At least I get a few first team reps out there. I just go out there and try to do the best I can.”
So far in 2019, Brady’s best appears pretty darn good still.
If he winds up starting all 16 regular-season games this fall, he’d reportedly become the first NFL player at any skill position ever to do so at age 42. Only seven non-kick-team specialists have ever started a single game at age 42 in NFL history, including just three QBs: Warren Moon, Doug Flutie and Vinny Testaverde.
So uncharted territory, indeed. Just what we’ve come to expect from Tom Brady.
Belichick likes ‘quality reps’ in joint practices
ALLEN PARK, Mich. — The New England Patriots play the Detroit Lions on Thursday at Ford Field, in the first preseason game for each club this month.
Because NFL teams barely play their starters — if at all — in the first preseason game, quarterback Tom Brady and the rest of the New England Patriots’ top players will see far more meaningful, action in three joint practices with the Lions here this week.
“They’re great,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said of the joint practices. “One of the great values is the number of quality reps that everybody can get.
“We’ll have a look at everybody against quality competition… in a controlled setting, where we can get third down, red(-zone) area, two-minute and so forth. We’ve done it against ourselves, but now we’re seeing it against other players (and) a different scheme. And it’s a little more competition situation.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019