A few days after losing Super Bowl LII, Tom Brady sat on his couch for the interview that became the gripping final scene of Tom vs. Time. On a cold February day in his Brookline mansion, the quarterback with the most Super Bowl rings in the history of the game openly pondered having the conviction necessary to continue his football career. Then, he gave a little shrug.
It didn’t just make for a compelling conclusion to the sixth and final episode of the Facebook docuseries—those in the room when it was filmed were also taken aback.
“The sound guy, me, the [director of photography]—everyone was like, Oh, wow, that’s pretty dramatic,” says Gotham Chopra, creator and director of Tom vs. Time. “And then, like a month later, he’s having a good time; he’s happy, and he’s excited. I think he had done some postseason meetings with his coaches and the owner, and he was starting to get pumped for the new season.”
There was a real-life epilogue to that final scene, so this summer Chopra decided to make a cinematic one. The Tom vs. Time epilogue, about five minutes in length, will air at noon E.T. Wednesday on Facebook Watch, four days before Brady begins his 19th NFL season. “When I look at probably the last six months, it’s been the first time where I’ve taken a little break,” Brady says in the 30-second trailer. “If I’m going to do something at this point, it’s going to be because I enjoy it. It’s [bleeping] going to be hard to do. I think it’s going to be very hard to do.”
Chopra says no serious thought was given to making a second season of Tom vs. Time, which chronicled a year of Brady’s life as he tried to win another Super Bowl at age 40. But after the final episode aired in March, Brady invited Chopra to bring his camera and informally chronicle his trip to Doha, Qatar, where Brady and his family traveled for his role as a global ambassador for the Best Buddies charity. Chopra later filmed at UCLA, where Brady continued his regular work with throwing coach Tom House. In late July they reconvened at Brady’s home in Massachusetts for another couch confessional nearly six months after the previous one. On the eve of his 19th training camp, Brady puts a timeline on how much longer he wants to keep playing.
“I don’t want to give it away, but I can at least sort of remove the suspense,” Chopra says. “It’s not like he ever says this is his last season, or anything like that.”
Brady has multiple times expressed a desire to play until he’s 45, and Chopra says the number Brady gives in the epilogue is consistent with what we’ve heard from him before. But he’ll let Brady speak for himself, one more peek into the quarterback’s psyche for millions of viewers. (In advance of the epilogue’s release, Brady and Chopra will interact with fans through an online watch party of the series’ second episode, Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET, in Facebook’s Official Tom Brady Fan Group).
Chopra admits he caught a bit of grief from Brady when he made his own extrapolations about the QB’s future earlier this year. In an interview on former MMQB editor-in-chief Peter King’s podcast in March, Chopra said he had a hard time envisioning Brady playing four or five more seasons.
“I got myself into trouble because, look, I’m a fan and sometimes I just sort of theorize. And Tom is like, ‘Really? Why did you say that, G?’ ” Chopra says now. “One thing I will say is, he admits that it’s not easy and he does feel his age. But, it’s partly what drives him, is the challenge of it, just how unprecedented it is, not just to play, but to play at a certain level and be part of a team that has this sort of continued success.”
Chopra had a rare vantage point not only for one of the most intriguing seasons of Brady’s NFL career, but also for an offseason that Brady himself says was different from any other. With Brady’s own words raising questions about his future in Foxborough and his relationship with head coach Bill Belichick, the QB was in Doha when the Patriots began their voluntary offseason workouts and for the first time skipped organized team activities. He attended only what was mandatory, the Patriots’ three-day June minicamp.
Brady has explained that he committed this offseason to his family, spending time with his wife, Gisele Bundchen, and his three growing children. Chopra also cites a “cumulative effect” of Brady’s 18 NFL seasons, most of which have included an extra month of postseason play, as a reason why Brady needed to take a break. The search for his now-fabled “conviction” unfurled through trips to Doha, Monte Carlo and Costa Rica—spending time with his family, Chopra says, renewed Brady’s energy.
“It’s a completely different attitude coming into this season. Not even attitude, but energy. He’s pumped,” Chopra says. “There’s a defiance almost, and I think this is something that’s fairly typical of Tom, at least as long as I have known him, and also just athletes in general, which is, he’s kind of found an edge. And that edge is, coming off of last season, maybe it’s the loss, maybe it’s the age, maybe it’s just all the drama and stuff like that. He's like, Oh, people don’t think I can do this now? Watch me. ”
Brady has always had an edge, stemming from being drafted in the sixth round, but the reasons are different this year. The edge is showing up in different ways, too—like Brady’s cutting short his regular WEEI radio spot after being asked about his personal body coach and friend, Alex Guerrero. The exchange came on the heels of reports that Guerrero was on the Patriots’ team plane for a preseason road game, notable because Guerrero had stopped traveling on the charter last season, which stoked speculation about discord between Brady and Belichick. Brady said he didn’t want to get into it, and after co-host Kirk Minihane asked a fourth question about Guerrero, Brady said, “Have a great day. I’ll talk to you later.”
“I think it’s Tom wanting to move forward and not move backward,” Chopra says. “These are his words more than mine, but Tom talks a lot about energy and focus and believes that where you put your attention is where the energy grows. And so he doesn’t want to talk about last season; he doesn’t want to talk about the Super Bowl. He doesn’t even want to talk about the successes of last season.”
Chopra has not filmed with Brady during training camp, so he doesn’t know the specifics of Guerrero’s access to the team. During last season, he filmed exclusively on Brady’s own time: at home, during rides to and from the stadium, and treatment sessions with Guerrero in Brady’s personal suite at Gillette Stadium. “I just know whatever it requires, Tom will find a way to work with Alex,” he says, “because it is such an important part of his routine.”
And as for Brady's relationship with Belichick, the coach with whom he’s shared 18 seasons, five Super Bowl victories and the disappointment last February?
“Look, I will say, I have asked him quite bluntly about that relationship and he said there is no coach, there is no owner, there is no team that I would ever rather have played for my entire career,” Chopra says. “No [other] fan base. So, as far as I know, he’s a Patriot for life, and he is definitely, at this moment, very happy to be here.”
There are no current plans to film as the 2018 season begins. The epilogue, Chopra says, is an answer to the questions about whether there would be a second season to the series (the answer, at least at this time, is no). It’s also a response to Brady’s open-ended reflections that hung in the air in that final scene of the sixth episode of Tom vs. Time. What are we doing this for? Who are we doing this for? Why are we doing this? When Chopra joined Brady and his family in Doha weeks after that interview, the quarterback’s words seemed to him less dramatic than they had back on Brady's couch.
“I don’t think he ever questioned coming back, playing,” Chopra says.
As Chopra’s camera rolled, Brady was on another continent, watching his kids ride camels, taking a boat out on the Persian Gulf—finding his conviction. And in a few days, he'll be on the field, at age 41, beginning his 19th NFL season.
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