Tom Brady, preparing to start his record-stretching ninth Super Bowl on Sunday, knows positive signs when they appear.
And after two sleeps at the J.W. Marriott in Atlanta, the 41-year-old quarterback loves what he sees from the New England Patriots.
It started Monday night, when tight end Rob Gronkowski broke into spontaneous dance moves during Opening Night introductions at State Farm Arena.
Brady said Gronkowski’s gyrations should give everyone associated with the Patriots “a good feeling.”
“I was standing right next to him and he was having a good time, which tells me a lot of good things,” Brady said of Gronkowski, who was not available to media Tuesday afternoon. “It means he’s feeling good, and he’s excited. I think we should all be happy about that.”
The next sign Brady needs to see: execution at practice. The Patriots will be on the field Wednesday at Georgia Tech University.
“Having a good practice gives you confidence — all of those things are going come up on Sunday,” he said.
Brady is well-practiced when it comes to the Super Bowl. While the Patriots are playing for a Lombardi Trophy for the third consecutive season, the experience is still novel for a handful of players on the roster. Brady is sharing his advice in-house.
“It’s a long game, a lot of timeouts, a lot of breaks,” Brady said, adding he will encourage players to spend Saturday searching out rest and reminding families on hand the one remaining day of the season is by far the most critical.
For Brady, weekend distractions are not an issue.
His family will arrive Thursday, when the Patriots host a family meal and help players set priorities for the two remaining days of preparation: a Friday practice and Saturday walkthrough.
“I know what I need to prioritize,” Brady said. “Nothing really gets in the way of that. I’m not really going out at night.”
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said the reason Brady is still playing at a high level is no one expects more from Brady than Brady himself. Practice and game day are not dramatically different in terms of Brady’s level of intensity.
When asked to identify the best things about the season the Patriots will close the book on this week, Brady didn’t discuss the dramatic overtime win at Kansas City or any other victory.
“It was nice this season with no injuries to be a full-go at practice,” he said.
McDaniels was willing to point out Brady is one of the best “in the history of the game” at getting rid of the ball quickly. Brady said he will be mindful of getting the ball out of his hand Sunday against likely NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and his sidekick at defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh.
“This is a really unique defense,” Brady said, with a wry grin. “It’s going to take our best game.”
Patriots fans are beyond looking for positive signs in Brady. His 5-3 record in the Super Bowl includes wins in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2015 and 2017. The losses, to the New York Giants (twice) and last year against the Philadelphia Eagles, provide “mental scar tissue,” the type of endemic Brady uses as fuel.
But if New England fans needed a morsel of optimism on Tuesday, it could be found in a wide-open and relaxed Brady sharing stories about snapping a golf club, punching a hole in the wall and smashing a video game controller in what turned into a spontaneous Ask Me Anything style session with a couple hundred members of the media and cameramen.
“Must be a big game,” he said to start the festivities.
However, Brady, trained under tight-lipped head coach Bill Belichick, wanted no part of the “GOAT” questions again Tuesday.
“Football is a team sport,” he said.
Even so, a win over the Rams would put New England, Brady and Belichick on a plane all their own, peerless and unparalleled by the most legendary winners in the sport.
“He’s a great quarterback,” Belichick said of Brady. “I’d certainly put him up there against anybody. I don’t think it’s my job to rate anyone. His record is unmatched and I’m glad that he’s my quarterback.”
—By Jeff Reynolds, Field Level Media