For the first time since 2000, an NFL season will begin with Tom Brady not on an NFL team. But he will be in an NFL stadium on the opening Sunday.
Brady returns to Gillette Stadium to be honored by the team during its game against the Eagles. It will be his first visit to the venue in a capacity other than player.
In the first episode of the third season of his Let's Go! podcast, Brady was asked by Jim Gray about his feelings as he prepares to return to Foxborough.
"A lot of gratitude, a lot of gratitude," Brady said. "I had two decades of incredible, life-altering experiences. I have so many memories from my time there and memories with people there, and I'm creating a new memory with the people there. And to go back to that stadium and bring my kids and my family in a different way, you know, I've not been to that stadium in this way ever.
"I went there as a player, I went there once as a competitor, and now I'm gonna go there as really a fan. And then I'm gonna be there in the future as a broadcaster. . . . So I love the sport and I love the Patriots, so going up there to see a lot of my friends and family is gonna be really a great experience.”
It's the first time in more than three decades that Brady won't be playing the sport he loves.
"Thirty-two years, man" Brady said. "Thirty-two years. High school, college, and then obviously 20 years in New England."
Along with three in Tampa Bay.
It has to be a strange feeling for Brady. The football train is pulling out of the station without him, for the first time since he was a teenager. He's had chances to climb aboard. He has resisted.
Presumably, he will continue to resist. Even if he sees Mac Jones play in person and realizes that Brady could walk right out there and play better than Jones and plenty of other current NFL quarterbacks.