Sports

The Tom Brady story everyone’s missing

By Martin Rogers
FOX Sports Columnist

The early part of Tom Brady’s offseason consisted of retirement and unretirement. Right now? With just over three weeks left until Week 1, it’s all about a non-story – and what should be a real story. 

Brady, back for season three in Tampa Bay and No. 23 overall, is currently continuing his break from camp, in what Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles revealed was a pre-planned window that was agreed upon long ago. 

The quarterback will return to work at some point following Saturday’s preseason clash against the Tennessee Titans. Yet that hasn’t stopped a whirlwind of online speculation — some of it rather crass and unfounded guesswork about the health of his parents or other personal matters.

Such mutterings come with the territory of being an athlete of such status, but the careless whispers also conveniently ignore the fact that Brady has spoken frequently, and with feeling, about how important prioritizing extra family time is to him. What would be an unconventional move for, say, Trevor Lawrence in his second year, isn’t necessarily so for a guy who has been doing it this long.

“This is something we talked about before training camp started,” Bowles told reporters. “We allotted this time because he wanted to get in and get chemistry with the guys and go through two weeks of training camp.”

Understandably, when a seven-time Super Bowl champion misses sessions with his team ahead of a new season, it is going to generate interest. But at 45, and with all that time in the saddle behind him, it might be worth giving Brady the benefit of the doubt on this one.

“Most of the offense is installed in the first few weeks of camp and the rapport is built with new players such as Julio Jones, Russell Gage and Kyle Rudolph,” wrote Rick Stroud in the Tampa Bay Times. “Since Brady wasn’t going to play in preseason games against the Dolphins and Titans, he decided to carve out some time for his personal life.”

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However, what could, and perhaps should have been discussed more regarding Tampa Bay up to this point isn’t to be found on the gossip sites or the August attendance rolls. Truthfully, it’s a little more mundane than the kind of stuff that ends up in celebrity gossip columns, but it has the potential to have a far greater effect on the season.

The pressing issue for Brady and the Bucs is that they begin their campaign with an initial schedule of maximum difficulty, a slate that will certainly determine what level of momentum they take into the midpoint of the season. 

As schedules go, it’s no joke. Tampa Bay gets things going by heading to AT&T Stadium to take on the Dallas Cowboys. Following that is a road meeting with divisional rival the New Orleans Saints – possessors of a 4-0 regular-season record against the Bucs since Brady’s arrival. 

Weeks 3 and 4 bring a pair of absolute blockbusters that will be among the most anticipated games of the regular season. Tampa Bay first hosts the Green Bay Packers in a clash of unmatched star power between two elite Super Bowl contenders. And then? Oh, just a home tilt against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs

Phew. 

It doesn’t end there, either. The Bucs will actually face all four of the most recent NFC and AFC Championship Game participants across the season, with the Los Angeles Rams, Cincinnati Bengals and the San Francisco 49ers joining the Chiefs on the docket. Add the Baltimore Ravens and the Arizona Cardinals to the mix, and the primary objective leaves little room for comfortable pause and reflection.

“We’re challenged right out of the box,” Brady told reporters in June. “We’ve got really good [opponents]. 

“I think this should be, in my opinion, our best opportunity to play our best football because we’ve been together the longest. Why shouldn’t it be? We know each other, we know the scheme, we’ve been through a lot of challenging circumstances in games and now we’ve got to go out there and execute it as well as we possibly can.”

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Brady and his colleagues are well aware that teams that start poorly have a tough time recovering effectively and will be determined to make a swift statement. The team is priced at +750 by FOX Bet to win the Super Bowl, a second-favorite behind only the Buffalo Bills.

Significantly, Brady is now with a roster that he had an influential hand in building. During the recruitment process for Jones, Gage and Rudolph, he telephoned each of them and encouraged them to join. The result? A Bucs roster that looks as stable as any.

The lazy talk about Brady’s period of absence will calm down before long. The schedule, though? That’s the spicy storyline that’s yet to hit everyone’s radar. It will soon enough.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. You can subscribe to the daily newsletter here.


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