Tom Brady has made a Hall of Fame worthy career out of proving people wrong. He's hoping his teammates on the offensive line can do the same this season.
Brady has shared the outside criticism that has circulated with his offensive line, a unit that has already been challenged this season. The team lost Alex Cappa to the Bengals in free agency. Ali Marpet called it a career after seven seasons in Tampa. Ryan Jensen was recently placed on injured reserve after suffering a knee injury during training camp.
"It's going to be a challenge," Brady said on his podcast when discussing the offensive line.
Despite the unit's turnover, Brady continues to have confidence in his line. He had plenty of good things to say about the players who will look to make their mark on the Bucs' line this season.
"We've got Shaq Mason, who I love to death," Brady said. "I've played with him a long time, I know what he's all about. Robert Hainsey, he earned the respect of his teammates with his work ethic and him showing up every day last year. ... He's going to step in and try to do a good job. And we've got a left guard who is battling every day. Luke [Goedeke] has done a great job for us in training camp. We drafted him to come in here and play. We'll see if he can get in there and be prepared to do a great job."
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Brady has shared with his linemen some of the negative things that have been said about them from the outside. He is hoping that they use the negative comments as motivation.
"I hope they take it to heart, all the things that people have said about them, which has not always been the most flattering things," Brady said. "But like all of us, we have to go out there and earn it and either prove them right or prove them wrong. ... I think I've always used little different [criticisms] as motivation for me. I'm a really motivated person, but it always helps when someone says something that's not flattering."
Brady also elaborated on his decision to return for his 23rd season following his 40-day retirement. Brady is coming back a year after leading the NFL in passing yards and touchdown passes.
"I just felt like I had a little left, and I want to give it a shot," he said. "I owed it to my teammates, our great coaches and our whole organization. We've built something pretty special here in Tampa the last few years. We were pretty close at the end of last year. We lost to the Super Bowl champ. They made a few more plays than we did in that game.
"The competitive fire still burns. I want to get out there and I want to have a great season for everybody because there's a lot people that have supported me along the way."
Brady was asked to compare himself now to the 25-year-old version of himself. He said the perspective he has as a 45-year-old is the biggest difference between himself now and the person who was coming off of his first Super Bowl win two decades ago.
"As you get older, life changes quite a bit," he said. "There's responsibilities that take form in your life. ... When I was 25, all I did was think about football. That was my life. ... Over time, other priorities develop because you change and evolve through life and grow in different ways. You take on these different responsibilities, a family and commitment and so forth, you commit time and energy to those things.
"Was I a good football player then? Yeah, I was pretty good. I think I'm a better football player now, obviously. ... It's a huge commitment to take care of myself physically, much different than when I was 25. My routine is great, but at the same time, it requires time, energy and focus."
While Brady has committed to playing at least through this season, one of his greatest teammates, tight end Rob Gronkowski, decided to hang up his cleats for a second (and likely final) time this offseason. Brady will miss not having the colorful Gronkowski in his huddle, but he is optimistic in what the Buccaneers' current tight ends can do in his absence, a group that includes Cameron Brate, Kyle Rudolph and rookies Cade Otton and Ko Kieft.
"You're missing someone that was one of the all-time greats," Brady said of Gronkowski, who was teammates with Brady for four of his seven Super Bowl wins. "You can't replace that. We all love him, we miss him. ... We've moved on and have tried to solve some things without him."