FOXBORO — Tom Brady’s the most successful quarterback in NFL history. He’s played for 18 years, won five Super Bowls, and has nothing left to prove.
However, after hearing him speak Thursday, one wouldn’t be able to discern any of that.
The 40-year-old MVP candidate met with the media at Gillette Stadium for the first time since ESPN reported that there's friction between himself, coach Bill Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft. By the time Brady stepped to the podium, he had already talked about the story (denying most of it) on two separate radio appearances.
For a man who has had more playoff success than arguably anyone has in NFL history, Brady certainly doesn’t take weeks like this for granted.
When he talks, he sounds like a man who’s had little success and just happy to be in the playoffs. It’s that laser focus on a week like this that allows Brady and his teammates to stray the right course heading into Saturday’s divisional playoff with the Tennessee Titans.
“Not to us players,” Brady said when asked if the ESPN story served as a distraction. “We do what we always do. We show up to work and try to do the best we can do. There’s a lot at stake and I think everyone’s put a lot into it. It doesn’t really matter what happened outside this facility and what we’re trying to accomplish.
“It’s a big task to go out and win a playoff game, play against a good team, divisional round. I’m glad we earned a chance to be here to do it. Just got to go out and take care of business.”
Among the story lines this week, is that the age gap (16 years) between Brady and 24-year-old Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is the largest among starting quarterbacks in NFL history. Typically, the older you are doesn’t correlate to success in sports like football. In this case, numbers are deceiving.
Heading into this playoff run, Brady owns many NFL playoffs records. He’s the all-team postseason leader in Super Bowl victories, touchdown passes, passing yards, completions, Super Bowl MVPs and playoff wins by a starting quarterback.
When asked if experience trumps youth, Brady gave a veteran answer.
“I think it just comes down to how well you play,” Brady said. “At the end of the day, it’s not like the old guys are going to win [or] the young guys are going to win or the home team or road team. It’s really going to come down to execution. No one’s going to be able to do it for you. You’re out there, you’re in the position to succeed – your coaches have put a lot on you. The team’s really relying on you.
“You’ve got to make the plays. You’ve got to make the tackles. You’ve got to make the throws, the catches, the blocks, the runs, whatever it takes. Whoever does that better is going to win the game over the course of 60 minutes. Again, all these plays matter. Got to go out there and got to make sure everyone of them count.”
Multiple times on Thursday, Brady talked about how grateful he was just to be in the playoffs. He said he doesn’t games like this for granted. For a quarterback has only missed the playoffs once (in 2002, and 2008 doesn't count because he was injured), that was noteworthy.
Of course, with the experience comes the knowledge that small distractions can cost your team their season. That’s been a rarity in Foxboro. Outside distractions often occur around here, but it never seems to bother the team or their quarterback.
“Well, I think we have a job to do and we know what our job is,” Brady said. “That’s go out and play football at a high level. Play well and nothing should really get in the way of that. That’s what we’re getting paid for so to be a professional is to put everything aside and then go out there and do the best you can for the team. Try to help us win.”
Brady was so focused on Thursday that he also refused to talk about his upcoming Facebook documentary series, "Tom vs. Time."
“(Today) is about Tennessee,” Brady said. “We’re two days from the biggest game of the year.”