Tom Brady, who has family roots in County Cork in Ireland, will be 37 when the shiny new NFL season kicks off in just a couple of months. Brady will be the second oldest starting quarterback in the NFL in 2014. Only Peyton Manning, who turned 38 on March 24, will be older. The only other quarterbacks who will be 35 or older when the 2014 season kicks off are Drew Brees (35) and potential Tampa Buccaneers starter Josh McCown, who turns 35 on July 4.
That’s a short list, and it’s short for a reason. The NFL is a phenomenally demanding place, and a tough place to exist for ‘older’ players. In short, it’s a young man’s game. Despite this fact, Brady has been telling the media this week that he wants to be the Patriots Quarterback ‘for a long time.’
Brady has never been knocked off his game by internal competition, and this is still the case despite New England drafting a young QB relatively high in the NFL draft. The Patriots used a second-round pick on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. None of this surprises Brady though, who has seen plenty of young QBs line up behind him in the past, and plenty of same stand on the side-lines with a clipboard as Brady leads the show.
Indeed, Brady seems to be insinuating that he feels better than ever.
"There's nothing that can wake me up at 5 o'clock in the morning on a Thursday in May like getting ready for a day of football. I want to play a long time. There's nothing I like doing that's close to football. What'll I do when I’m done playing? I don't know, but I know it won't be nearly as fun. I can tell you neither me nor Peyton [Manning] will probably be very far from the game of football when we're done."
Brady continued by saying, "You know, you don’t have to suck when you get older. It's hard to explain this to people, but the commitment I make, in terms of keeping my body in shape and my nutrition right, should make me healthy. I feel better today than when I was 25, and I know that's hard for people to believe, but I do. I work at it. Basically, I work all off-season to prepare my body to not get hurt. I can't help the team if I'm on the sidelines. I've got to be durable."
Despite this enthusiastic commitment and, obviously, very positive outlook, Brady is also pragmatic about the season ahead, and indeed his future career.
"Coach Belichick doesn't care who the quarterback is here. He's always going to play the guy who he thinks gives him the best chance to win. It's not my role to choose players here, thankfully. And this is not the first time they've taken another quarterback either. There's no entitlement in the NFL. I don't expect to be given anything. I just hope I'm the one most entitled to play that position for a long time here."
Brady needs only to think back to how his own career began for a timely reminder about the relative transience of NFL careers. In 2001, he stepped into the starting role for an injured Drew Bledsoe in September. But Brady never gave up the job, with coach Belichick retaining him as starter even after Bledsoe (who was already a legend in New England and had signed a $100 million contract extension just eight months earlier) was healthy.
Brady does have one major wildcard that will play a huge factor in this coming season, assuming he can stay healthy.
Rob Gronkowski’s return from injury is akin to a major trade for the Patriots, and will give Brady one of the top receiving Tight Ends in the game. Having ‘Gronk’ to throw to would extend any Quarterback’s career, and Brady will no doubt benefit hugely from this, just as Gronk and the rest of the team will benefit from Brady’s infectious positivity.