By Michael Stets
ALLEN PARK – Tom Brady, the six-time Super Bowl winner, just turned 42 on August 3, which is truly remarkable considering the fact that when it comes to life as an NFL quarterback, the game is supposed to pass you by long before you reach the age of 40.
In Brady’s case, though, the ageless wonder stands alone as the NFL’s persistent defier of Father Time, entering his 20th NFL season with the New England Patriots.
He’s getting a bump in pay this year, too, thanks to a new two-year contract extension that is potentially worth up to $70 million.
However, there’s a catch. According to NFL Network, the new deal, which gives Brady a raise of $8 million in 2019 (he was previously set to make $15 million) will void at season’s end. Also, provisions are in place so that Brady cannot be hit with a franchise tag. So he will essentially become a free agent with a uncertain future.
“I mean, it’s really the reality for most guys in the NFL,” said Brady, after the first of three joint practices with the Lions scheduled for this week, leading into Thursday’s preseason opener at Ford Field. “I don’t want to think I’m any different than anyone else. Football is a business. It’s a production business. I’m ready to go this year and that’s really what matters. And that’s where my focus is. It’s a unique situation I’m in. 20th year with the same team and I’ll be 42 years old. Pretty much uncharted territory, I think for everybody. I”m going to go out and do the best I can this year and see what happens.”
The four-time Super Bowl MVP and three-time league MVP, who has often been referred to as “Tom Cool” for his ability to perform under pressure, said he’s really just been focusing on the upcoming season.
“I’m really not worried about it,” said Brady on what may happen after the 2019 season. “I’m secure for this year, I think. At least I get some … a few first-team reps out there (smiling). So I’ll just try to go out there and do the best I can.”
Prior to the start of practice, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick briefly addressed Brady’s new deal, saying: “It’s always good to come to an agreement with a player, any player, so that’s a good thing. I’m not going to talk about the contract. So we’ll move on from that and focus on what we’re here for, which is a great opportunity to work against the Lions.”
Brady looked sharp over the course of the 2.5 hour joint practice, particularly in the two-minute drill, while moving the Patriots into scoring position. And during the course of practice, he connected on several nice throws for completions to rookies N’Keal Harry and Jacob Meyers.
After a sprint session with his fellow teammates on the newly installed conditioning hill to close out practice, Brady had a brief conversation with Lions owner Martha Ford before heading over to the swarm of media that was patiently waiting on him. There was definitely a buzz in the air on Monday with Brady and Belichick in town. It was palpable. Normally, you won’t see a media scrum the size of the one surrounding (mobbing would be a more appropriate description) Brady in Allen Park. But when one of the biggest superstars in NFL history is in town, he’s going to draw a sizable crowd.
He’s coming off a solid 2018 season that saw him throw for 4,355 passing yards, 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. And, of course, defeat the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl 53 to earn his sixth title. Belichick, his head coach throughout his entire 20-year career in New England, was asked if he is surprised at how Brady continues to play at a high level despite being in his early 40’s.
“Tom has been very consistent throughout the course of his career,” said Belichick, before going into a typical (and a very predictable) Belichickian response. “I feel like we are off to a good start in training camp. We all have a long way to go. Tom’s worked hard. He’s put in a lot of time and a lot of work, as he always does. He’s very well prepared. We are looking forward to building through the season and getting better on a daily basis.”
How about Brady? What is the secret to his unprecedented longevity? The key, he said, is placing a high emphasis on taking care of his body.
“I wrote a book on it, literally,” said Brady, referring to his New York Times bestseller, The TB 12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Peak Performance. “I live by it and I think it’s given me pretty good results. So, I try to pass it on to the next generation so they don’t have to go on through the same mistakes that I did. But everyone learns different ways. Hopefully I can be an inspiration. It’s really what … I got a great opportunity to prove to a lot of people that didn’t think I can do it. And hopefully I can. Well done is better than well said.”