Training camp and the preseason are a time for unreasonable expectations. Players routinely announce that they’re in the best shape of their lives. Teams routinely believe the sky’s the limit.
Then comes September, when some teams begin to achieve those objectives at the direct expense of those who don’t.
Tom Brady, as he starts his 22nd season, has a high bar for himself. But it’s the same bar he applies as he enters every campaign — he wants it to be his best one yet.
“I love playing football,” Brady recently told Peter King for his new Football Morning in America column. [Offensive coordinator] Byron Leftwich said something really good the other day: It’s a very simple game that’s so hard to execute. It’s a totally imperfect game that you’re trying to do as perfectly as possible. Every day I come out trying to do it. I’m hoping this is my best year.”
It’s not as crazy as it sounds, last year was one of his best years, and he played all of it with new coaches, teammates, playbook, living arrangements, everything. Along with a torn MCL in his left knee. And it culminated in a Super Bowl win.
He’s healthier this year. He knows everything better. As Bucs coach Bruce Arians told King regarding Brady’s command of the offense, “When he calls a play this year, he knows the picture in his brain. Last year, it was just words.”
Other words continue to be relevant to Brady, when it comes to the intended duration of his career. He said during the offseason that he plans to finish the two remaining years of his contract with the Buccaneers before deciding whether to continue playing. So when will he decide to stop?
“I’ll know when the time’s right,” Brady told King regarding Brady’s inevitable (we think) retirement. “If I can’t . . . if I’m not a championship-level quarterback, then I’m not gonna play. If I’m a liability to the team, I mean, no way. But if I think I can win a championship, then I’ll play.”
Thus, every year Brady continues, he believes that he can lead his team to a Super Bowl win, or he wouldn’t be there.
Does he think 2021 will be his best year?
“That’s a prediction and I’m not for that,” Brady said. “I’m into doing the work. Is the process gonna be right? I’m gonna work my ass off to get it right.”
There’s no denying that Brady will do whatever he has to do to perfect his craft, and to inspire his teammates to do the same. That’s one of the biggest reasons why the Buccaneers should be regarded as a serious threat to become the first team to win consecutive titles since Brady’s Patriots pulled it off in 2003 and 2004.