Tom Brady

Brady Could Be Playing Final Regular-Season Game as a Patriot

Tom Brady runs onto the field at Gillette Stadium
Billie Weiss/Getty Images

The circumstances are different. The approach, Tom Brady says, remains the same.

With his contract due to expire in the upcoming offseason, Sunday's contest with the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium could be the 42-year-old quarterback's last regular-season game with the New England Patriots.

Free agency awaits. Retirement is a possibility. While a return for a 21st season with the team that selected him in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL draft is also in the equation, it isn't guaranteed.

But even with all that uncertainty looming, Brady says his approach to what will be his 285th regular-season game with the Patriots remains unchanged.

"I would say (it's) no different than I've approached it for the last 20 years," Brady said Friday. "Try to do the best I can do and help our team win, be a great player and have a winning attitude, try to bring it to the field."

As the quarterback of an offense that's struggled for much of the season — the Patriots are ranked a middling 16th overall — Brady's numbers might not be up to his lofty standards. His 88.0 quarterback rating is below his career number of 97.0 and ranks 20th in the league. But he's still managed to throw for 3,836 yards (ninth in the league) and boasts a touchdown-to-interception ratio that's better than 3-to-1 (22 TDs; seven interceptions).

And even at his advanced age, Brady says he still feels like the kid from San Mateo, California, who used to throw the ball around outside the stadium in San Francisco.

"I go out there and I'm throwing the ball around to these receivers and you think when I was a kid I would be in the parking lot at Candlestick throwing the football with my friends," said Brady. "Now I'm throwing to the best athletes in the world and I'm getting paid for it."

His team is 12-3 and clinched its 17th AFC East title of his career with its 24-17 win over Buffalo last Saturday, with the conference's second seed and the first-round postseason bye that goes with it to be gained with a win on Sunday. Brady insists the stakes will be high when the Patriots play host to the 4-11 Dolphins.

"I think the thing about the football season is it's 16 individual games, but in the end it's a long span of practice/play, practice/play, practice/play," said Brady. "I've said before, it's like a marathon and you have these individual sprints within the marathon, and it's really about the competitiveness that you bring on a weekly basis.

"Everyone has the competitiveness through the first four games, the first eight games. And probably toward the end of the year you probably get a little second wind because things are kind of a bit more clear as you go through the season. It's good to be at this point. Everyone's worked really hard, but the point for all of us is to go out there and win and do the best we can possibly do."

Whether this is his final regular-season outing as a Patriot — or as an NFL player altogether.

"So I'm excited for this team to take the field on Sunday," Brady said. "We've got a lot to play for. It's a huge game for us and really to get to 13-3 is a great accomplishment that's very hard to do. So we've got a lot at stake and we've got to go play like it."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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