By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Tom Brady did his best bob and weave at the podium on Wednesday morning to avoid a question he didn’t want to answer.
No, not that one.
While his friendly farewell to the assembled media generated the most attention and headlines, there was one other instance of Brady doing all he could to say anything except what he actually believes and feels.
The question came from CSNNE’s Tom E. Curran, and it was fairly straightforward: “The Sunday night game in 2014 that you had here was one of your more emotional and important games, I think. What do you recall from that night against the Bengals?”
You have to remember what the atmosphere around Brady and the whole Patriots team was at that point in 2014. They were 2-2, having just gotten embarrassed by the Chiefs on Monday Night Football. All offseason was spent discussing Brady’s “window closing,” and with that came the idea that the Patriots were falling out of their spot as a perennial Super Bowl contender. That was also the “Brady is not a top five quarterback” offseason, one that included the drafting of Jimmy Garoppolo and the “Tom’s age and contract situation” comment from Bill Belichick. ESPN reported that the team was looking to go with Garoppolo “sooner than later.” Brady to that point of the year had completed just 59.1 percent of his passes for four touchdowns, two interceptions and an average of 198 yards per game. It was an ugly four-game stretch that was capped off with a benching at the end of the Kansas City game. (Garoppolo went in and led the Patriots on a touchdown drive, as the cherry on top.)
But just six days later, Brady came out and whooped the Bengals silly. It was a bloodbath. He was fired up. He connected on a 20-yard pass on the first play of the game and a 30-yard pass three plays later. Then he ran for six yards. Later on the drive, he called on his own number for QB sneaks on back-to-back plays, popping up and jawing with Bengals defenders after getting tackled. Fans were chanting Brady’s name. He unleashed a massive spike on the sideline.
Afterwards, Rob Gronkowski nearly started crying when talking about how much it meant to him to play for Brady.
It was technically just a Week 5 game. But it was much bigger than that. They went on to win the Super Bowl — with Brady earning MVP honors for the third time in his career — and that Sunday evening at Gillette Stadium was seen as the turning point of the season.
Despite that history being well known, Brady ducked and dodged like he so often does when asked what he remembers about his feelings that night in 2014.
“Against the Bengals? So, that was a long time ago, so … umm,” Brady filibustered. “You know, at the end of the day we played good, so that’s what matters most is our ability to focus on that particular team, and game and opponent. And that’s what we did a great job of that week, and that’s what we’re going to have to do this week, too. So … ”
Curran, likely expecting a Bradytypical answer, pressed for more: “You were a dangerous team that week because of what happened the week before,” he began, before asking if such a mentality might be similar in the Bengals locker room this week following a disappointing road effort of their own last week. Perhaps Brady might let slip a hint of emotional recall from that night in 2014 when thinking of the Bengals’ current situation.
Nope — Robo-Brady went right to work, saying the Bengals are very talented, they have a good scheme, they’ve won their division, they’re tough, they have great continuity, they’re disciplined and they’re going to give the Patriots a whale of a game this coming Sunday.
It wasn’t the only question Brady faced on the topic. He was asked about his excitement level for his first home game of the year. And he was asked about his emotions specifically in playing in front of the home fans after serving the four-game suspension. Both times, he answered in generalities, saying that he’s always excited to play and that the crowd should be supportive and that the Bengals are a good football team.
While Brady said nothing at all with his answers — a skill he’s really honed since getting in hot water for making the innocuous suggestion that Patriots fans should drink prior to going to the home opener in 2011 — it was nevertheless revealing.
Brady just doesn’t typically speak to his emotions at all, and that’s a behavior that’s been amplified throughout the process of DeflateGate. Whether he’s speaking at a press conference or talking to Jim Gray or doing one of his fancy magazine interviews, he’s never once shown his hand regarding his true feelings toward Roger Goodell, the NFL, Ted Wells or any of the numerous people who seemed intent on catching him red-handed no matter what the cost may be. These were people who set out to sully Brady’s name — all over air pressure in a football — and would not stop until they had won. Even Brady — with all of his fame, his millions, the backing of a union, the highest-priced lawyers in all the land — could not win that battle. As a result, he was forced to miss four games at age 39 — games that must have been excruciating for a competitor as fierce as Brady to miss, especially at this late stage of his career.
Yet, as far as Brady showed on Wednesday, it was just another day. In following his head coach’s treatment of the situation last week, this coming Sunday will be just another game in Foxboro — Brady’s 113th regular-season start at home, to be exact.
Obviously, that’s not the case, and it will show when Brady takes the field for warmups — Jay-Z’s “Public Service Announcement” blaring over the stadium speakers — and runs to the corner of the end zone and lets out a primal roar upon seeing the home fans. And it’s fair to believe that home crowd might see a similarly charged-up start to the game from Brady as the show he put on for them two years ago.
Like most everything, Brady makes most of his statements during three-hour periods on Sunday afternoons. He might not have said anything on Wednesday, but by 1 p.m. on Sunday, you’ll know exactly how Brady feels about his first home game following the most unnecessary suspension in the history of professional sports.