By Carmen Vitali
FOX Sports NFC North Writer
Even at 45 years old, quarterback Tom Brady is still experiencing firsts.
He retired and then unretired 40 days later this offseason. He took a still-mysterious 11-day absence from the team in training camp, which he’d never done before. He’s scheduled to take weekly veteran rest days on Wednesdays this year for the first time (though he didn’t even take advantage of the plan this week, saying he felt good enough to practice).
Outside of football, he launched a new swim collection for his clothing company, Brady Brand. He signed countless new star athletes to his autograph.io NFT company. He’s producing and starring in his first movie. On and on and on.
Like Brady said before the season even began…
But there’s another first the seven-time Super Bowl Champion is likely not as thrilled with as a result. For the first time in his 23-year career, Brady’s commitment to football is being questioned.
Is that warranted?
While the Buccaneers’ defense has been absolutely suffocating its opponents, giving up only 13 points through the first two weeks of the season, the offense hasn’t been quite as impressive. They’ve scored just 39 total points in two games, for an average of 1.5. That’s a far cry from the 30.1 average in 2021 that was second to only the Dallas Cowboys.
(Wednesday) rest assured. That isn’t sitting well with Brady, who certainly still cares, as evidenced by yet another emotional outburst in that Week 2 win over New Orleans. Brady was seen on the sideline once again throwing a tablet, thanks to the offense remaining largely stagnant through the first half, scoring just three points against their bitter rivals.
“I can always do better and obviously do better as a quarterback and, yeah, not let my emotions get the best of me,” Brady said on Thursday. “Sometimes they do. It’s an emotional sport. It’s an emotional game. And we’re all out there trying to do the best we can do.”
What’s the saying? If you’re angry, it means you care?
“I think there’s a frustrating part for all of us when you get a little older and you expect it a certain way and it doesn’t go exactly the way you want,” Brady said. “But that’s it. That’s the way it is. And you know, I have to do a good job as a leader to be at my best regardless of how I feel about a certain situation.”
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Brady has been even more expressive in practice and around the building, sources tell FOX Sports. He’s always made the most of every minute and held his teammates accountable, but he’s yelling a bit more this time around. Maybe he’s picking up the slack now that Bruce Arians, famous for his fiery demeanor, is no longer the head coach and the more even-keeled Todd Bowles is at the helm. Or maybe Brady is projecting his own hopes and desires on the team, for the benefit of the team.
“You want it to be the best [it can] be really not just for yourself, but for everyone around you. For the whole team,” Brady said. “Everyone’s counting on you to be a great player. And we’ve got to reach a higher level on offense. That’s part of what our responsibility is.”
That fierce competitor in him hasn’t changed. It likely can’t, given how much of his life he’s devoted to being one. He’s listed among the greats across all major sports with seven Super Bowls and five Super Bowl MVPs to his name. You don’t just turn that kind of fire off.
With that success, and given the position he plays, come certain expectations. As Brady’s sense of urgency increases with his age, his role and responsibilities have certainly changed. His goal, however, has not.
“I’m sure it’s different for all quarterbacks, what their responsibilities are,” Brady said. “I think as an older player, it really comes down and speaks to ultimately what the goal is: to win the game.
“We’re all challenged,” he continued. “I think that’s just the reality of playing sports and being in football. Every team is challenged with different things … If you’re the quarterback, try to figure out how to win the game because that’s why we’re all here.”
That’s why Brady is here. That’s why he came out of his short-lived retirement. That’s why he’s in Tampa, with a still-stacked roster and a head coach who has everything to prove in his second time calling the shots, and in what could be his quarterback’s last dance.
So yeah, there’s a lot of s–t going on. But Brady might be more committed than ever.
Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, which added the title of Super Bowl Champion (and boat-parade participant) to her résumé. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.
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