By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
FOXBORO (CBS) — Tom Brady stepped to the podium late Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium, and instead of a quarterback who had just performed remarkably in an emotionally charged return to his home field, the 39-year-old seemed more like someone who had been interrupted while writing a self help book about how to keep one’s innermost feelings from spilling out.
For Brady, returning to Foxboro after a long month away from the game he loves was obviously quite meaningful. But he never really let it show. His pregame routine was notably muted compared to Sundays of yore, when he’s many times demonstrably hooted and hollered and fist-pumped at the fans who entered the stadium early. And during the game, even his celebratory headbutts weren’t delivered at their usual 100 mph speed.
His performance — 29-for-35 for 376 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions — certainly was inspired, but the normally fiery Brady appeared to be keeping as level a head as possible throughout the entire affair.
The steady demeanor transferred over to the postgame press conference, where Brady showed just how much he works to be in tune with seemingly every emotion in his body.
“I think I know how to get to that place where I need to be,” he said, incidentally authoring what could be the opening line of that spiritual book he may one day write. “You only have so much energy, and at some point you’ve got to cut it loose when the moment is right. It’s certainly an emotional environment for football. There were a lot of people there when we ran out and they were there all game, so it was great. And it was great to win. That’s what we want to do. Our job is to come out here and to be focused on what we need to do and then make a bunch of good plays and then try to beat the opponent, and we figured out a way to do that.”
It was more of the same from Brady, who earlier this week deflected when asked about his anticipated excitement level for playing at home again. But he did offer a word or two of thanks to the fans, so many of whom have defended him feverishly from the DeflateGate accusations over the past 21 months.
“Yeah, it has certainly – I’ve felt it. They’ve had the back of our team for just the same amount of time,” Brady said, noting the support is equal across the board for the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins. “We feel it every time we take the field. This is my home now. This is where my family lives. It’s a great place. I love being here and I love being quarterback of this team. Hopefully I can do it for a long time.”
Brady has reasons, certainly, for remaining unreserved in detailing his feelings. Perhaps above all, admitting how much it hurt to be suspended by the NFL for reasons he doesn’t believe to be fair would be to show weakness to Roger Goodell and the league office that fought so hard to take him down. Ignoring the impact of that situation does indeed go a long way to downplay the significance of the whole matter.
Still, on a day when Brady had to wave his arms to quiet the 68,000 fans chanting his name multiple times, there was no way to escape the question on Sunday. And even though he didn’t wear those emotions on his sleeve the same way he did against the same Bengals back in 2014, he did explain his own personal game plan for recognizing his emotions and then channeling them to do the right thing at the right time.
“I’ve been in some big games over the years, you get to the Super Bowl, things like that. Today it was, once I got out there running around, it felt like football,” Brady said. “Again, you’ve just got to lock in and figure out what your job is, try to figure out what you’re going to do versus the different looks, and that’s what it becomes. You’re not going to win because you’re emotional, but I think having your attitude right mentally and physically right, ready to play, that allows you to be at your best for your teammates. It’s a process to get to that point, and we were definitely there today.”
Keep an eye out for Emotions Don’t Win Football Games: Knowing How To Get To The Place You Need To Be in bookstores near you sometime around 2020.