BOSTON (CBS) — After a fairly trying 2019 season that ended with a disappointing early exit from the playoffs, it wasn’t too big of a surprise that Tom Brady left New England via free agency this offseason. It’s where Brady ended up that has his former teammates a little shocked.
Brady signed a two-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, leaving one of the winningest franchises in NFL history to join one of the more laughable ones. But leaving the Patriots offers the 42-year-old a fresh start at the end of his career. It was an opportunity that Brady couldn’t pass up after spending years in Bill Belichick’s system, according to the QB’s former left tackle, Matt Light.READ MORE: Police Searching Woods In Abington For Missing 5-Year-Old Elijah Lewis
“I think we were all a little shocked that Tampa was the landing place,” Light told WBZ-TV’s Steve Burton. “For those of us that have been around the system and around Tommy, and understand all the things that went into him making the decision, it wasn’t a shock by any stretch. He said it, that it was time for a change. Why it was time, I think there was a feeling of him wanting to do it his way and wanting to get outside of the Patriot Way.”
Belichick demands the most out of every player on the roster, whether they’re on the practice squad of a six-time Super Bowl champion. That gruff approach and demeanor can certainly wear on players over the years.
“It’s difficult and exhausting,” Light said. “It’s difficult to be told that you have to do this or that better. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but at the end of the day I think it was time for him to do something on his own and step away from what he has worked really hard for 20 years here in New England.”
Light said that no team works harder than the Patriots, down to even the most minuscule details. That hard work is usually rewarded in the win column and with Super Bowl rings.
“If you go through all that you want to know you have a chance to win, and that’s exactly what you have in New England. It’s also why guys will sacrifice as much as they do,” he said. “But it also takes a toll on the guys.”
That’s also the reason Light wasn’t surprised when Rob Gronkowski came out of his one-year retirement to join Brady in Tampa.READ MORE: I-Team: Correction Officers Suspended After Vaccine Exemptions Were Rescinded
“A guy like Gronk, he wants to have fun every day. When it wasn’t as fun here in New England because of the grind, it was always in the back of his mind that if he had a chance to go somewhere else with guys he trusts, he would do it,” said Light. “I had a feeling the minute Tommy went to Tampa Bay that Gronk was going to find a way to join him. And he’s no stranger to the state of Florida, so it worked out pretty well.”
Brady’s departure leaves the Patriots with Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer at quarterback heading into the 2020 season, with all signs pointing to Stidham at Brady’s successor. Light said that Belichick has made it pretty clear that he has faith in the second-year quarterback, but Light is concerned what this unusual offseason could do to the 23-year-old’s growth.
“If Bill didn’t like what he saw, he would be making more moves than what you see now. What I worry about for a young quarterback taking the reins in New England off the heels of a Brady departure is, you’d love to see him taking the time right now working with receivers, talking with guys during workouts. Those things, that bond, is important, and he doesn’t get any of that right now,” said Light. “He’s going to have a crazy accelerated learning curve leading into camp, and then he’s going to have to have a really solid camp. He’s going to be a guy that will help them manage the game and hopefully he’ll be able to develop in the first few weeks of the season and roll from there.”
This all sets up quite the storyline for Patriots and football fans to follow throughout the 2020 season.
“I think [Brady and Gronkowski} are going to go down to Tampa and perform really, really well. It’s going to be really interesting for all of us, whether you’re a sports fan or a Patriots fan, this is a case study in real time how the greatest coach in NFL history responds to the most challenging time in his career,” said Light. “He lost a ton of coaches, he lost some really key players, and he has a lot of young guys who are being asked to step up and fill voids. That is going to be fun to watch.”
While many pundits are writing the Patriots off in 2020, Light believes that with Belichick still in charge, the team may surprise a lot of people. New England could even have a better season than Tampa Bay.
“You always put your faith on what you know best. I don’t know what Tampa Bay looks like all the way around; I know they have a decent defense and have a real shot with Tommy at the helm offensively. I don’t know enough about their special teams and how the coaching style will meld with everyone there. I have to still give the advantage to the guy who has proven year in and year out that he can do it with a lot of different variations. A lot of different license plates and turnover.MORE NEWS: 'Too Much That Can Go Wrong': Local Movie Prop Master Explains Dangers Of Guns On Set
“I think Belichick may win this battle this year, but give Tommy and the boys enough time and I can see them having a lot of success in Tampa as well,” he said.