Days before his return to Gillette Stadium, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady appeared to be having a harder time dealing with a sore throat than the emotions of facing off against the Patriots.
Speaking to reporters Thursday about the game on "Sunday Night Football," his voice sounded hoarse, but he insisted he was in good shape for the game.
"My throat's more tired than my arm," he said.
In fact, he jokingly blamed it on an emotional start to the year, which also included a game last week in his native California: "Maybe that's the problem with my voice!"
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Brady will be playing his first game in Foxboro as a visitor after 20 years, nine Super Bowl appearances and six titles with the Patriots. In his first year as a Buc in 2020, Brady captured his seventh Super Bowl title in a 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
But Brady said he was preparing for this game just like any other.
"I'm just going to do what I always do," he said, adding that he'll be excited to see his friends on the other side sideline -- after the game ends.
"I still have a lot of great friends there, but they know I want to kick their butt this week."
The news conference was Brady's first chance to make public comments since excerpts of ESPN writer Seth Wickersham's new book, "It's Better to Be Feared," were released Wednesday.
While the majority of the news-making items centered around Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft, there were still plenty of Brady-centric nuggets. Had there been an NFL team in Los Angeles earlier in his career, Wickersham reported that Brady may have tried to force a trade there.
In addition, Brady met with Kraft and others late in 2017 to discuss who might replace Belichick as head coach in New England.
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It was also reported that Belichick refused to meet with Brady in person upon his departure for Tampa Bay, preferring instead to discuss the matter over the phone.
"That's not true," Belichick told the media on Wednesday, saying the book "sounds like a lot of second-, third-, fourth-hand comments."
Belichick was also unusually complimentary of an opposing quarterback ahead of a game against the Patriots.
Asked about those comments, Brady said Belichick "taught me a lot, was a great mentor for me for a long time, and I really enjoyed my time in New England. But at the same time, [I'm] really excited about what we've done here, great group of coaches."
And asked about the book, Brady said, "we had a great relationship. I think it was handled the right way, we handled everything as gracefully as we could."
In his last comments, Brady downplayed the more personal aspect of the game.
"It's not about the quarterback, it's not about the fans or the home crowd or relationships of 20 years. It's about two football teams going at it," he said.
Brady, 44, is off to one of the best starts of his career statistically, having thrown for 10 touchdown passes against two interceptions over his first three games. He needs just 68 yards Sunday to surpass Drew Brees as the NFL's all-time leader in passing yards -- Brees has 80,358.
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Source: Statehead.com, NBC