This week on Sportuality, we interview five-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady about his return to training camp. Has his approach changed heading into season number 19? What was behind his decision to arrive early?
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The NFL is a money-making machine. We attend the games. We buy the jerseys. We watch, listen to, and read the news. Heck, tens of millions of us work unpaid side jobs as fantasy football owners.
None of that happens without the players. None. They are the engine that makes this whole thing go.
As training camp begins, let’s not forget that. Let’s not get so caught up in the rumors and the hot takes that we miss the fact that football is everything to these guys; that this sport is what gives their lives purpose.
To learn more about how our gridiron heroes feel heading into camp, and what they do to prepare for the grueling weeks ahead, we decided to interview one. He’s pretty good.
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ROS: You turn 41 this week. This is your 19th training camp. Naturally, one would expect your approach to be different at this stage in your career. Maybe you try to enjoy the process a little bit more, savor the small moments. Does any of that ring true?
Tom Brady: Over the last few seasons I’ve become a lot more aware of time, in general. It’s not just training camp or football — it’s everything. There’s a lot of sacrifice that goes into this not just from me, but from my family, too. My wife, my kids — I’m not as available during the football season.
For that reason alone, I’m conscious of a certain mental transition that begins to occur as camp gets started; an awareness of what it’s going to take for our team to succeed at the highest level. With that being said, I’m as excited as ever to try to achieve our team goals!
What was behind your decision to report to camp early?
This offseason was very fulfilling for me. Traveling to new countries, spending time with my kids and extended family, reconnecting with friends — it helped me recharge and get emotionally and mentally ready for another football season. I am ready to go. Excited for the new challenge.
I also have a process to prepare myself for football. And, while I try to stick to that no matter where I am in the world, there’s no question that being at home, in the facility, at my TB12 sports therapy center, surrounded by the right people, puts me in the best position to succeed. It’s a great tradition for Patriot QBs to be early.
What are some of your training camp must-haves? (Food, gadgets, etc)
I am a creature of habit. I like my routines. So I’d say those are the must haves: I need good sleep. I need good nutrition. I need time to reconnect with my coaches and teammates, get my timing right on the field, and review tape. I need time to work with Alex. And I need minimal distractions, so that I can accomplish all of those things.
There are no shortcuts to training camp. Consistency, focus, determination, and discipline on a daily basis are what being a professional is all about — not any lucky charms or gadgets!
Man, that was a long time ago!
Drew Bledsoe was obviously a great leader for this team and mentor to me when I came into the league. Willie McGinest, Ty Law, Tedy Bruschi, Ted Johnson — those were guys I watched and learned from in terms of how they prepared and carried themselves. Bruce Armstrong was on that team, and he’s probably one of the all-time greats. I obviously built a rapport with Troy Brown.
And Bill — I mean, I’ve been lucky enough to play for the best coach in the history of the game. Obviously, our relationship has changed over the years, but even back then he was demanding and precise and expected a lot from all of his players. That was clear from the very start.
Since then, I’ve just been hardwiring started for me. Now when I get back to camp and get back into my routines, it just gets activated and I’m ready to go!
Your teammate, Matthew Slater, recently compared the opening of camp to the first day of school. Do you agree with that analogy? Care to elaborate?
Haha — I think that’s a great analogy. There’s definitely a sense of excitement and nervousness and anticipation that comes with camp.
Guys like Matt and I have done this so many times that we know what to expect, but that doesn’t necessarily mean any of those feelings ever go away. If anything, it makes you more appreciative of the whole thing. You know what it takes, and for that reason, you’re that much more attune to the process.
How will you be entertaining yourself at training camp this year? Do you have a favorite TV show right now that you’ll be watching?
Football is my entertainment. There’s nothing I love more, which is why I’m still playing. Knowing that my coaches, teammates, and I are aligned on our goals — which is to get better every day and go deep into the season again — is what excites me the most.
Getting out on the practice field with them and getting our timing right, tinkering with new ideas and plays, figuring out the chemistry with the new guys, going at it with the defense — all of it — is what drives me. I mean, I love it. I guess that you could say I found my conviction 😉. It’s football season — LET’S GO!!!!
How has fatherhood changed you as a football player?
I’m more focused than I ever have been.
My kids are getting older, and have more activities and busier lives, which makes the time we have together all the more precious. It also means that the time I’m away from them — at practice, on the road, studying film, etc -— has to be hyper-focused and efficient.
Life doesn’t get put on hold during the football season, but it does change. I just have to be a lot more conscious of how I spend my time. And I think that sort of awareness has allowed me to appreciate and be grateful for the blessings in my life.