Three-time Patriots champion Tom Brady still hungry
As we walk from the practice field to the Patriots' locker room, Tom Brady is trying to explain what can best be described as his addiction to playing football, about why -- even at the age of 35 with a Hall of Fame resume and more money than he could have ever dreamed of -- he still loves playing the game he has dominated for more than a decade.
Brady has just finished another demanding 2½-hour practice, and his uniform is soaked with sweat before he heads for a quick shower. Then he'll return to his exhaustive film study and more team meetings. It is all he has known for most of his life, so the answer about why he never tires of the grind is simple and straightforward, punctuated with a smile.
"Well, I don't know what else I'll ever do," Brady said. "I love playing. This is what consumes my thoughts. Every day, I wake up and try to be a better football player and learn something different that will help me be a better leader. It's a great sport. There's no better job in the world, as far as I'm concerned."
Brady's job is to lead his team to Super Bowls, and he has few peers in that pursuit; there are five Super Bowl appearances and three championships, and the thirst for more becomes more pronounced the longer he plays.
As much as he has already accomplished, the most decorated quarterback of his generation believes there is so much more to do. Asked if he believes the trajectory of his career is still pointed up, Brady says, "I hope so."
Then he tells of how he tries to keep himself performing at the highest level.
"I don't drink alcohol,'' he said. "I never smoked a cigarette in my life. I try to eat really well. I try to keep myself really fit. You work on your wellness so you can come out and run around with guys in their second or third year every single day. That's the type of consistency you need to play."
That consistency has served him well since becoming the Patriots' starter, taking over for an injured Drew Bledsoe on Sept. 23, 2001 and never relinquishing the job. The only interruption was a season-ending knee injury in the 2008 opener.
Brady already has accomplished more than nearly every quarterback in history. But there is so much more to be done, especially while trying to come back from a second Super Bowl loss to the Giants.
Redemption isn't what really drives him, though.
"I honestly don't think about last year much," he said. "This is a totally different team, and we're in a different situation. All of us have pretty much moved on from last year. We have to go out and establish what this team is all about. The only way to do that is to work hard, practice and get better and try to execute at a higher level every week."
This is the time of year he sees as so critical to his and the team's ultimate success. What you see on game day is the end result of what Brady and his teammates do in the obscurity of training camp, where the players tend to every minor detail that coach Bill Belichick demands.
"This is where you build your foundation," Brady said. "The guys have been out here, we're trying to make improvements and not make the same mistakes twice. You have to put the time in, the effort in, be enthusiastic every day and mentally tough enough to really push through it. We've made some progress, but there's still a long way to go."
It is on the practice field, and in the meeting rooms, where Brady is so comfortable. And, of course, on game day, where he takes all that preparation and puts together the transcendent performances that make him the greatest player of his generation and one of the greatest of all time.
This is what he loves, what he hopes will go on as long as he can do it at the highest level.
"There's nothing better than playing football," he said. "To think we get paid to do this is a pretty good gig."
For Brady, there is nothing better. It is all he knows. It is all he ever wants to know.