By CBSBoston.com Staff

FOXBORO (CBS) — Bill Belichick was in a shockingly good mood when he took the podium Wednesday morning, even cracking a smile and a joke surrounding all the hype for this weekend’s matchup against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Gillette Stadium.

“Any stories this week?” he asked with a grin.

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Brady and Belichick will square off for the first time since the quarterback departed for Tampa Bay two years ago. After winning six Super Bowls over his two-decade run with the Patriots, Brady promptly brought a Lombardi Trophy to the Buccaneers in his first season with the team.

Belichick is known for hyping up his team’s opponent each and every week, no matter their talent level, but he was pretty genuine with his praise for Brady on Wednesday.

“Tom has had an unbelievable career. There are not enough superlatives and adjectives to compliment him on everything he has achieved and continues to achieves,” Belichick said of his former QB. “Unbelievably impressive.”

He made it clear that he is very appreciative for everything that Brady — and former Patriots and current Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski — did for him and the Patriots over the years.

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“Rob and Tom have done a lot for this organization and for me, and I appreciate everything they’ve done. I have a ton of respect for them,” said Belichick. “But we’re going to do what we can to make them not enjoy the night, and I’m sure they’ll do the same for us. Look forward to the opportunity and the challenge and I look forward to Sunday night.”

The session soured a bit when Belichick was asked about excerpts from a book by ESPN’s Seth Wickersham that painted a toxic relationship between Belichick and Brady, which were released Wednesday morning. The head coach didn’t want to discuss anything from the past, and maintains that he has a good relationship with his former quarterback — and always has.

Asked if Brady is “tough to defend,” Belichick was a little shocked by the question.

“Consider him a tough quarterback to defend? Is that the question? Yeah,” he said with a surprised smirk. “He’s as tough as any quarterback there is or ever has been. Enough said.

“His numbers are incredible. He’s about to pass the all-time passing record. He’s done more than any other player at that position. Whatever measurement you want to take, whether it’s yards, completions, touchdowns, championships, you name it. Put anything out there you want,” said Belichick. “It doesn’t get any tougher than that.”

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WBZ-TV gets you ready for Tom Brady’s big return to New England starting Wednesday night on TV38 with Patriots 1st Down at 10:30pm. Patriots All Access keeps it rolling Friday night at 7pm on WBZ-TV, followed by the Patriots Power Hour on TV38 starting at 8 pm. We kick things off Sunday morning with Patriots GameDay at 11:30am, and after the big Patriots-Buccaneers showdown, tune in to Patriots 5th Quarter on WBZ-TV for full reaction and analysis!

CBSBoston.com Staff