By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Realistically, Tom Brady probably should be finishing his NFL career with the Patriots. Alas, the Patriots did not appear to be overly eager to ensure that end to the career of the greatest player in franchise history and, arguably, NFL history.
Despite that rough ending in New England, Brady showed no signs of bitterness or hurt feelings when he spoke to the media on his introductory conference call with the Buccaneers on Tuesday.
“No I have a great deal of respect for, you know, there’s nobody who’s been a bigger fan of the Patriots than me,” Brady said when asked directly if he was disappointed that the Patriots didn’t try harder to keep him. “I have nothing but total respect and love. I’m so grateful to Mr. Kraft, and the organization, and Coach Belichick and all the coaches and obviously all of my teammates.”
Brady was also asked about Robert Kraft’s comments, which indicated that leaving the Patriots was Brady’s desire.
“I’m not responsible for how other people say certain things,” Brady answered. “I think Mr. Kraft has been a great influence on my life, and I’m so grateful for two decades. I referenced that the other day. It’s been an amazing thing for my family, and I’m sure when I’m done playing I’ll have a chance to look back and really reevaluate my entire career.
“At the same time, I’m excited for this opportunity that I have,” Brady added. “I can only speak to how I feel. I wrote about that in my social media the other day. This was, getting to be a free agent and having the opportunity to join the Bucs, was something that I was really excited about. And that’s why we’re at where we’re at.”
Later in the call, Brady was asked directly what it would have taken from the Patriots’ side in order for the quarterback to stay with the team. Brady more or less pleaded the fifth.
“You know, again, I don’t want to talk about the past, because that’s not relevant to what’s important in my future and what’s going on this offseason for me. And like I said, I had nothing but two decades of an incredible experience, learning from some of the best players and the best coaches and the ownership of the team. I think all of us, things in life can change, and you gotta be able to adapt and evolve. With each of those changes come different opportunities to learn and go, and that’s where I’m at,” Brady replied. “Any time you leave somewhere, it’s very emotional. The transition is very emotional, with a lot of guys that I’ve shared the field with. The relationships are what matters most to me. I’m going to be friends with my teammates, my former teammates and coaches, for the rest of my life. That’s not going to change just because I’m wearing a different jersey.”
Brady was also asked when in his mind he officially “cut the cord” with the Patriots. Brady used it as an opportunity to gush about his days in New England, with both Robert and Jonathan Kraft, as well as with Bill Belichick.
“It was really, you know, the night that I stopped by and spoke with Mr. Kraft and asked if I could come over and see him,” Brady said. “And we spoke and we had a great conversation. And I just wanted to express what he’s meant to me in my life, and we spoke with Coach Belichick at the same time. We were at different locations and we talked to him. It was a great conversation. Got a chance to talk to Jonathan Kraft as well. All three of those guys have been involved in so many important decisions in my life, career-related, personal-related.
“I leave there with just such great admiration for the people and organization. It’s a world-class, first-class organization in every way. And I wanted to leave it in that way, too.”