Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady will be hearing the same question for the rest of this week until his primetime matchup against his old team of 20 years, the New England Patriots. “How do you feel about playing up against Bill Belichick and the Patriots, in a stadium you made countless memories in?”. Brady has consistently blocked out the noise. He’s made his pleasantries to Coach Belichick, Robert Kraft, and his former teammates. Acknowledging just how much this game means to the NFL at large. But in typical Brady fashion, he stops it there.

On the other side, Belichick hasn’t exactly given too much to the media either. He often never does play into the hype. But he did give us this nugget about the 2020 free agency, where TB12 took his talents to Tampa Bay. Belichick in his weekly call-in to WEEI on Monday said; “There were a lot of things there that … he looked at his options and made his decision. We weren’t as good an option as Tampa, so I mean, you’d have to ask him about all of that… it wasn’t a question of not wanting him. That’s for sure.”

Fans will always be nostalgic

All storylines aside, nobody reasonable could expect the watchers to just focus on the now. We are nostalgists at heart. From the fans at 50+ to the younger guys like me who only started watching after Super Bowl XLVI (still can’t believe Eli Manning made that sideline throw. Much respect). This week is the perfect time to go down memory lane.

This week I caught myself watching old Patriots games in the background while doing some classwork. I say old, but it’s more like 2015. The Thursday Night Football matchup against the Dolphins to be exact. They started off 6-0 and made it 7 with a dominating win against Miami. It was thrilling to see the prime Tom Brady-Rob Gronkowski connection, along with Julian Edelman being as reliable as ever on third down.

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I was dumbfounded when seeing some of the names on the roster that are no longer on the team. Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, LeGarrette Blount, Danny Amendola, Dion Lewis (who was exceptional in that season before tearing his ACL against Washington), among countless others. Sure, roster turnover happens all the time. But for many fans, their childhood Patriots team is being wiped away before their eyes. There are just five players left from the Super Bowl XLIX winning roster on the current roster.

Seeing Tom Brady play against the Patriots isn’t something many Patriots fans fathomed as a reality until the Summer of 2019. Many until the second he tweeted “FOREVER A PATRIOT” with a three-page statement basically ripping the heart out of the tri-state area on St. Patrick’s Day 2020.

Little love lost for Tom Brady from Patriots fans

Still, New England fans are still enamored by their former quarterback. I’m willing to bet at least a sixth of fans in Gillette on Sunday night will be wearing Tom Brady’s new jersey. It’s not often players have that kind of pull when switching teams. Peyton Manning is probably the only name that I can think of where fans followed him from Indy to Denver. The pull that Brady has in the Boston fanbase, one that is typically only loyal to Boston and that’s it, is extraordinary. I’m not saying that the typical Patriots fan left with TB12 to Tampa, but a whole lot of them smiled when he lifted up that Lombardi Trophy for a seventh time. Even if he wasn’t representing the Patriots anymore, he still felt like a major part of our football lives.

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Sunday night football will be loaded with plenty of difficult emotions. As we discussed, for a long time Brady was the only thing some fans knew. Myself included. Seeing him go against the team that we all loved won’t be easy. But ultimately, most of you reading are Patriots fans first. So let’s just hope Tom gives us a good game and we’ll go from there. I wouldn’t be shocked if TB12 and Gronk get a standing ovation from the crowd before kickoff and fans bring signs that read “thank you TB12”. I know it’s easy to say it’ll be all business come Sunday, but we all know that isn’t exactly true.

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