FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Tom Brady might be considered the best quarterback in NFL history, but to his New England Patriots teammates, he is simply one of the guys.
His teammates understand that he has won five Super Bowls, and the Pats will play in a seventh straight AFC championship game when they host the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. But to those around him, he doesn’t put himself above anybody else.
“He is a great teammate, a great leader, a great guy,” said running back Dion Lewis, who began his career with the Eagles. “You see him, he says hi to everybody, treats everybody the same with respect, and is always the same person.”
On Friday Brady was a little grumpy because it was the first time he met with the media after suffering a right hand injury in practice Wednesday.
He didn’t participate in practice Thursday, and was a limited participant Friday. He is listed as questionable for Sunday (although it would be a major shock if he didn’t play).
Brady, who has not missed a game because of injury since 2008, refused to discuss his injury or how it occurred, even though the word is it happened on a handoff.
For Brady, a dogged competitor, why give the opponents any information when you can keep them guessing?
So while Brady was standoffish with the media, he’s a different person to his teammates.
Tom Brady was listed as a limited participant at practice with his right hand injury. He is listed as questionable for Sunday. Brady didn’t want to talk of the injury
— Marc Narducci (@sjnard) January 19, 2018
“I think one thing that impresses me is being a great teammate,” offensive tackle Nate Solder said. “I don’t know if you expect that, but he cares about the guys in this locker room, he knows everybody here, cares about everybody here, and we all very much respect each other and it is a special thing.”
Of course, there is another side of Brady: the competitive one.
“He talks smack with our defensive coordinator [Matt Patricia],” said Patriots defensive back Eric Rowe, who was traded to the Patriots from the Eagles in 2016. “When we have competitive periods in practice, we want to beat him so badly and he feels the same way.”
When asked about his exchanges with Patricia, who is expected to be named the Detroit Lions’ head coach, Brady pleaded guilty.
“There is a lot of that,” Brady said during his news conference Friday. “He is the defensive coordinator and I try to keep things lively in practice, a little friendly competition and try to get everybody juiced up a little.”
Unlike talking about his injury, Brady smiled when discussing his go-arounds with Patricia. Despite Brady’s superstar status, teammates such as cornerback Malcolm Butler have no reservations about giving the quarterback some business when they make a good play against him.
“As an example, Chris Hogan could be running a comeback route and Tom might have thought I grabbed him [on an incompletion] or he threw a bad ball and I would celebrate,” Butler said. “He’s coming at me, telling me I am holding and I’m telling him that I just beat him.”
That is the side of Brady that Butler sees every day in practice.
“He loves to compete and win and that is what defines him,” Butler said.
The 40-year-old Brady has appeared in an NFL-record 35 postseason games, more than two seasons’ worth of games. His five Super Bowl wins and seven AFC championships are the most by any quarterback.
The other quality that has endeared Brady to his teammates is his toughness.
“[Brady is] the toughest,” receiver Danny Amendola said. “He’s a warrior, a competitor, and there is really only one reason why he’s here, and that is to play football.”
Brady will do anything to create a winning atmosphere, which means keeping himself at the level of his teammates.
“He is always the same person, he is not a big person, he is who he is,” Lewis said. ”He is, a kind person who generally cares about his teammates, asking about guys’ families, things like that, and you really respect a guy like that.”