MUNICH — Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles surveyed the jampacked room of reporters at the team’s first German news conference Friday and said with a wry smile, “They didn’t come to see me.”
No, coach, they didn’t. The media, mostly international, came to see the most famous American football player, and one of the very few — maybe the only one — who is known to the non-cognoscenti of the sport in Europe: Tom Brady, who is called The GOAT so often it might as well be part of his name.
The conference, which drew about four times as many media as the one held by the Seahawks a day earlier, was just two questions in when a man in the front row stood up, walked to the podium and presented Brady with custom-made Lederhosen. Those are leather shorts, of sorts, that are traditional garments in German-speaking countries; but these were no doubt the first Lederhosen in history decked out with a “TB12” logo.
Brady looked a little confused but accepted them graciously.
“How would it look going out for a game in that?” he asked with a grin.
Brady has gone out — wearing standard football gear — for 327 regular-season games, seventh-most in NFL history and the most by anyone who’s not a kicker or punter (George Blanda, who’s No. 5 on the list, was a QB as well as a kicker).
It’s Brady’s play in postseason games that has been the separator in his career, though — 10 Super Bowl appearances and seven titles, the last one coming in his initial season with Tampa Bay in 2020. After last season, Brady retired in February, but it didn’t take. After a mere 40 days of life after football, Brady changed his mind and returned to the Bucs, at age 45, for his 23rd NFL season.
It hasn’t gone well. The Seahawks are playing Brady on Sunday at perhaps the only juncture in his brilliant career in which he has looked vulnerable — though ominously for Seattle, Brady is coming off a vintage moment last week that stemmed his first three-game losing streak in 20 years. Trailing 13-9 to the Rams, Brady led the Bucs on a 60-yard scoring drive with no timeouts in 35 seconds, capped by a 1-yard TD pass to former Tumwater High School and University of Washington star tight end Cade Otton.
That victory raised Tampa Bay’s record to 4-5, but that’s still good enough for sole possession of first place in the NFC South. And it’s more than enough to remind Seahawks coach Pete Carroll of a truism he and the Seahawks learned in the hardest way possible after the 2014 season.
“This game ain’t over till it’s over, until the final gun,” Carroll said Thursday. “We know Tom’s out there, just like he did last week. Fortunately, we’ve played him before and had our chances to see him and work against him.”
Carroll is 2-0 against Brady in the regular season with Seattle, both the wins coming when the QB was with New England. One of those was the famous “You mad, Bro?” game in 2012 when Richard Sherman sought out Brady to utter (and then later tweeted) those words after a 24-23 upset win by the Seahawks.
But it is the Super Bowl loss to the Patriots on the fateful Russell Wilson interception at the 1-yard-line that still haunts, and will forever. Brady may well have been alluding to that play Friday, along with the Sherman episode, when he said, after heaping praise on this year’s version of the Seahawks, “I have a lot of history with Seattle, too.”
“History” and “Brady” have become synonymous. His career could have been history, too, but he said Friday he has no regrets about coming back despite characterizing this Bucs season as not up to standards “on an effort standpoint, execution standpoint, emotional standpoint. And we’ve got to figure it out.”
As for his unretirement, Brady said, “I think I returned because I felt like I wanted to compete. I spoke to the team about it, and they were excited to have me back, and I don’t really regret those types of things. So I think when I commit to it, I mean it. And I do my best and try to give everything I can to this particular opportunity.”
Brady was also asked about how he copes with emotional developments in his personal life, a likely tactful reference to the recent revelation that he and his wife, Giselle Bundchen, had finalized their divorce after 13 years of marriage.
“You just do the best you can do,” he said. “You do the best you can do every day. And so that’s what I’ve been trying to do, be the best I could be for my family, my teammates. And yeah, we all have our challenges. Life is challenging for everybody. Just do your best.”
Brady added, “It’s hard for me to believe I’m still playing at this age, but I enjoy it. And I love competing, and certainly games like last week are reasons why we do it. Because there’s a thrill of victory that’s hard to replicate at home on your Xbox or something like that.”
The Seahawks, who experienced the ultimate agony of defeat at the hands of Brady and the Patriots, hope they can keep the GOAT in check on Sunday in Germany. Until the final gun this time.