Tom Brady’s time with the Tampa Bay Bucs was a lot of fun while it lasted

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TAMPA, Fla. – A misty rain began to cover the pitch at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, on a Sunday night in October. A chill sets in – a reminder that like the fall months in New England, the seasons of life are fleeting and time stops for no one.

There were signs everywhere.

  • “Welcome to Goat’s Borough”

  • “Thomas Edward Patrick Brady: The Ultimate Patriot”

  • “God, family, Brady”

  • “We will always love you, Tom and Gronk”

A sign had even put Brady’s face on top of Jesus’ Sacred Heart.

But figuratively speaking, the one everyone seemed to miss, or simply did not want to believe, was this: When Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady ran out of the visiting tunnel for the first and only time at the place he called home 20 years ago , it was the beginning of the end.

We just did not know it at the time, and he might not have either, but this was the start of Brady’s farewell – the one he said he would not spend a whole year on after being knocked out of the division round in the playoffs. of the Los Angeles Rams last weekend.

The attraction of fatherhood and the fulfillment of his duties as a loving husband became too much and offset the lure of a game that once defined him and made him one of the greatest American Cinderella stories we will ever know.

Brady calls it a career at age 44, after 22 seasons, sources told ESPN. He’s retiring from the NFL.

Brady leaves as the NFL’s most winning quarterback of all time with seven Super Bowl rings – the most won by a single player in NFL history – along with all-time touchdown passes (624) and passing yards (84,250) that he earned in his week 4 return to the New England Patriots.

A return to the Super Bowl was not in the cards for the Buccaneers in his final season as they were decimated by injuries at the receiving end and struggled to find answers defensively against the Rams. But Brady still managed to put together one of the most masterful seasons of his career, leading the NFL in passing yards, attempts, finishes and touchdowns.

In Tampa, he helped revise the culture of a team that still could not get out of its own way, which somehow always found ways to lose games, despite having a list full of talents of Pro Bowl caliber. I have turned them all into believers and winners.

When the Bucs were down 24-7 in the third quarter against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 15 last year, Brady led five straight scoring drives, including a 46-yard touchdown throw to wide receiver Antonio Brown in the fourth quarter to win 31-27.

“We never think we’re out of it,” tight-end Cameron Brate said of playing with Brady. “The belief that he inspires us all – he’s done it on the biggest stage. We’ve seen him do it. We have a lot of confidence in him and he has that confidence in us.”

When the Bucs drew 20 with the New Orleans Saints in the division playoffs last season, there was no panic on the sidelines despite losing to the Saints twice in the regular season. They turned three of the four Saints’ turnovers into touchdowns, with Brady crossing the finish line with four to five left in regulation.

Then there was the buzzer-beating deep raise for receiver Scotty Miller just before the break of the NFC Championship Game at the Green Bay Packers – the difference creator who eventually drove the Bucs to their second Super Bowl – where they defeated defending champion Kansas City Chiefs 31-9.

Brady had another throw like that – a 33-yard touchdown pass to Miller with 30 seconds left in the middle of Week 7 last year against the Las Vegas Raiders, who could have been Brady’s best as Buccaneer.

Then there was the 33-yard game-winner who was thrown to Cyril Grayson with 21 seconds left to beat the New York Jets in Week 17 of this season – a game that the Bucs had not led at any time.

“I’m super grateful he came to Tampa Bay,” said Bucs receiver Mike Evans. “I mean, no one had any idea he was going to leave New England at all … Very privileged to play with him.

“The best player ever. One of the best teammates and one of the best leaders I’ve ever seen.”

Brady’s retirement leaves the Bucs with many questions and a salary cap of close to $ 20.3 million. Who will replace him? How many players will default? Does this mean the end for future Hall of Fame tight-end Rob Gronkowski? How about driving back Leonard Fournette? And how will they succeed in re-signing 23 free agents – including a quarterback – with a $ 13 million salary cap? Can the Bucs retain the same culture they were working towards without him?

Those questions will not be answered from one day to the next, but one could imagine that the feeling in Bucs’ organization is that it would rather know it now and have as much time as possible to rework its list.

But in the big picture, Brady showed what was possible at the age of 40.

Who could forget the infamous fourth defeat of the Chicago Bears last season? Brady lived to see another game and managed to joke about it – all the way to the White House lawn that stood next to President Joe Biden. And in the process, I galvanized a city and a team that was just an afterthought prior to his arrival.

It was in this second act that we got to know Brady so much more than the fiery competitor with ice water in the veins, who always seemed to come up with an absurd coupling game in the most desperate moments. We got to know him for this voice he seemed to find in his last chapter, which was filled with far-fetched jokes and tales of runaway jet skiing and (gasp) even fun with election conspiracy theories.

While there may not be more boat-to-boat Lombardi trophy throws or “just little avoCado tequila” moments, it was definitely fun as long as it lasted.

.



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