Sports

Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Tom Brady meets privately with Patriots coach Bill Belichick, capping emotional New England homecoming


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Capping off what Tom Brady described as a “very emotional week,” the Buccaneers quarterback received a visit in the locker room from New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick after Tampa Bay’s 19-17 win at Gillette Stadium on Sunday night.

Belichick was seen walking into the visitors locker room, and it wasn’t until about 20 minutes later that he exited, soon followed by Brady. A source said Belichick had reached out to arrange the meeting with Brady leading into the game.

“We’ve had a personal relationship for 20-plus years. He drafted me here. We had a lot of personal conversations that should remain that way. They’re very private,” Brady said.

“I would say, so much is made of our relationship. … Nothing is really accurate that I ever see. It definitely doesn’t come from my personal feelings or beliefs.”

The private meeting with Belichick — which came after they shared an embrace on the field — was one of the final parts of Brady’s highly anticipated homecoming on a rainy night in front of a raucous crowd. Patriots kicker Nick Folk‘s 56-yard field goal attempt that would have given the Patriots the lead with 59 seconds remaining hit the left upright.

“I feel good that we won,” Brady said. “It was just some emotional moments thinking about coming up here and playing. I know why it’s tough to come in here and win a game all these years. This team does a great job. They make you earn it. It’s a tough football environment. The crowd is into it. I’m just really happy we got a win.”

Following his team’s victory, Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians said he was “very frustrated” that “everybody wanted to make [Buccaneers-Patriots] about Brady and Belichick.”

“This is a team sport. … I don’t think Bill played a snap,” Arians said. “He had 22 guys out there playing their ass off, and I knew they would. And we had 22 guys out there playing their asses off. One of ’em just happened to be named Brady.”

Before he led the Buccaneers onto the field, the Patriots honored Brady with a one-minute video of his top highlights, which sparked the drenched crowd to chant his name in appreciation, with cheers of “Brady! Brady! Brady!” filling the stadium.

Brady first arrived on the field for warm-ups shortly before 7:30 p.m., and the fans who got to their seats early — many in Brady jerseys — erupted in what seemed like a Super Bowl-type atmosphere. Brady jogged the full length of the field, skipped and pumped his right fist as he made it to the opposite end.

“It was awesome,” Brady said. “I tried not to predict what was going to happen and how I would feel. Had a few emotional moments this week just thinking about the people that have really meant so much to me in my life and that are a part of this community. Just very grateful for an amazing time here. Like I said, my football journey took me somewhere else, but I’m really enjoying that, and great to get a win.”

That was something Brady did often over his tenure with the Patriots. But this time, his jog was in the opposite direction, starting at the visitors tunnel.

“I couldn’t run through the normal tunnel, so, yeah, just happened to be the opposite way. Just a lot of emotions,” Brady said. “These guys are like my brothers. There are two groups of people: all my Bucs teammates that I love and I’m going to battle with every week; and then there is another group of guys that I see, and those are my friends that I been with for a long time … these are the people that I’ve shared my life with. Very grateful for everything they’ve kind of contributed to my life. Very blessed.”

Brady then gave Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels an embrace as he jogged to the Buccaneers’ side of the field, the crowd chanting “Brady! Brady!” as he began to warm up.

Soon after, rookie Patriots quarterback Mac Jones took the field to a thunderous ovation — a most unusual scene in which the signal-callers for both teams were cheered.

Brady was impressed with Jones, the first-round pick from Alabama whom he met briefly on the field after the game. In one stretch, Jones completed 19 straight passes, the longest streak by a rookie over the past 40 seasons, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.

“He did a great job. I think that offense does a great job. Josh really dialed up some good plays too. They kind of hit everything,” Brady said. “But in the end, it always comes down to a couple plays. Happy we made them.”

When Brady played for the Patriots, he would often visit the field for road games shortly after arriving on the team bus. But Brady didn’t do that Sunday after arriving around 5 p.m., instead going straight to the visitors locker room and staying there until warm-ups.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft met with Brady about three hours before kickoff in the tunnel outside the Buccaneers locker room. The two shared an embrace and spoke for a couple of minutes.

The split allegiances for some were reflected by Tim O’Toole of Kennebunk, Maine, who wore a half-Patriots, half-Buccaneers Brady jersey.

But once the game started, most of the fans in the stadium made it clear that Brady was a member of the opposition, and boos could be heard.

Others brought signs of support specifically for Brady, and at one point, a Buccaneers flag hung in the end zone.

Meanwhile, the night had a heavy family feel to it for Brady. His wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, was in attendance, along with their children. Brady’s parents also traveled to Foxborough for the game.

Brady finished 22-of-43 with 269 passing yards in the win. Once the contest ended, Brady was met at midfield by many of his former Patriots teammates, as well as Belichick and McDaniels, who embraced him for a potentially final time at Gillette Stadium.

“It’s been a great stadium for me for a long time. I don’t know what the future holds. Obviously, could be an opportunity to come back here [and play another game]. We’ll see,” Brady said.

“I feel like I’ll always be a part of this community. I’ll be up here quite a bit when it’s all said and done. When I retire, I’m sure there will be a lot of time; I have a lot of friends up here, and it’s a great place. My kids were born on Beacon Street in the city. It’s been an amazing place for me; it still is.”

ESPN’s Jenna Laine contributed to this report.





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