BOSTON (CBS) — Tom Brady admits there was some rust as he took the field for the first time on Sunday following his four-game DeflateGate suspension.
But that’s just the talk of the ultimate perfectionist, because he’s pretty much the only one to notice any rust. Brady came out fired up and firing in his return, throwing for 406 yards and three touchdowns as he led New England to a 33-13 win over the Browns in Cleveland.
“The team played really well and it was fun to be a part of it. It was a fun week to get ready to play and get back to doing what I love to do. I’m proud of the way our guys played. The line played great and we hit some plays down the field,” Brady told reporters after the game. “There was plenty of rust out there; I could do better in a lot of areas. It was a good win today but it was one game. 4-1 is a good place to be but we have a long road ahead. We have to keep building.”
That Tom Brady, always keeping things in perspective. If he felt any rust, he didn’t show it. Brady began his 2016 season by leading the Patriots on three straight touchdown drives to start Sunday’s win, and by halftime he already had 271 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Patriots jumped out to a 23-7 lead. He added another score in the third quarter and finished the day by logging his eighth career 400+ yard day.
He didn’t want to discuss the DeflateGate saga that cost him the first quarter of his 17th NFL season, instead focusing on the long road ahead.
“I was just trying to focus on what my job is and what I had to do. It felt like a normal week for me when I got into it. It was fun to get out and play and fun to win. That’s the most important thing,” he said. “This isn’t a time for me to reflect. I’m happy we won today; I’m happy we win every time. There is no point looking back at anything.”
When asked what he missed most during his four weeks away from the Patriots, Brady replied, “Everything,” but emphasized being away from his teammates.
The guys who catch the passes from No. 12 felt the same way.
“It’s super great [to have him back],” said tight end Rob Gronkowski, who finished with 109 yards on five receptions. “He’s our leader. He’s our guy. We did what we had to do all week as an offense as a whole. We came out and executed as an offense and got a team win.”
Asked whether he saw any rust in Brady’s game, Gronk quickly turned the question on the reporter.
“Did you?” he asked, which was quickly answered with a “no” from the reporter. “Me neither.”
When asked about Brady coming out on fire to start the game, receiver Julian Edelman put it best: “It’s Tom Brady. We don’t expect anything less.”
In addition to his aerial assault on the Browns, Brady also showed that he can still get it done with his legs — though it’s probably much easier to do so after having those four weeks away from the pounding that comes with being an NFL quarterback. In the third quarter, Brady took off for the first down marker on a third-and-4 play, and ever-so-awkwardly lunged for the line as he approached the Browns sideline. He picked up the four yards, popping up and striking a pose while signalling the first down.
“I don’t run much,” he admitted after the game. “So when I do, I think I get a little excited”
That ignited the crowd, which had plenty of New England fans in attendance. On numerous occasions, “Brady! Brady!” chants broke out; from the time he first took the field to when he left for the final time in the fourth quarter.
“It was pretty awesome,” he said of the fan support. “I have amazing fans and there is so much support. We’ve been at rallies where there’s millions of fans, at training camp where there’s 27,000 at practice. I think we have the best fans in the world and they showed up today; it was great to see them.”
Just as it was great to see Tom Brady back on the field, back to doing what he does best.