On Tuesday, we weren’t able to piece together Tom Brady’s exit from New England into the tidy melodrama we’d envisioned. The quarterback, who spent the better part of two seasons laying the tracks of his exit through planned passive-aggressive commentary or not-so-secret real estate dealings, opted to take the high road in his first public comments since leaving the Patriots (if you could call it that; perhaps he’s just saving the juicy stuff for the next Tom vs. Time documentary project).
In a conference call with reporters introducing him as the next quarterback of the Buccaneers, Brady talked about the uncertainty of an offseason that may get swallowed up by the COVID-19 pandemic. He talked about the weight of the moment and how it felt to see boyhood idol Joe Montana changing teams. He talked about his eagerness to learn a new system and get on the same page with teammates.
He did not discuss the end in New England in a way that ventured outside of a prefabricated response.
“I’m not responsible for how other people will say certain things,” Brady said when asked about Patriots owner Robert Kraft saying that it was Brady’s decision to go and not the team’s. “I think Mr. Kraft has been a great influence in my life and I’m so grateful for two decades. I referenced that the other day. It’s been an amazing thing for my family. I’m sure when I’m done playing, I’ll look back and have a chance to reevaluate my entire career. At the same time I’m excited for the opportunity I have, and I can only speak to how I feel and I wrote about that on my social media the other day.”
Maybe it wasn’t the time or the place. Anyone would have a hard time baring their soul on a conference call full of strangers. This was about the first phase of a new era; the underpinning of a marketing blitz the likes of which we have not seen in the NFL for a long time. Just wait until the skies clear around these parts; people will be tripping over themselves to erect the T(ampa)B(ay)12 pop-up store. For the first time in Brady’s football life, he was coveted on a national stage and fawned over. He deserved to enjoy it.
Maybe it hasn’t been on his mind. Brady mentioned that he is not 25 and single. He has a new job in a new city with new bosses and co-workers and the entire country has frozen in place during an unprecedented situation. Moments like these can redirect our attention when relatives, loved ones and children are involved.
Or maybe it’s because Brady’s departure, like any divorce or chasm between long-time friends, was more complicated than we realize. Not in a dramatic sense, but an emotional one. For years, we have compared the union of Brady, Bill Belichick and Kraft to a marriage; the strength and success of which the NFL has never seen before. And when marriages end, things are difficult to sort out. There is happiness and sadness. There were good times and bad times. There were moments to pick out and hold up, wondering whether a sentence here or there would have changed things.
It’s fair to assume that’s where a lot of people involved are now. It may take the life of Brady’s two-year deal for both he and the Patriots to decide if they made the right choice or not.
Until then, it’s probably just easier to talk about the good things even if you’re never really moving on.
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