As the New England Patriots gear up to play against Tom Brady for the first time since the veteran quarterback left the organization – after 20 years and six Super Bowl wins – head coach Bill Belichick addressed his departure on Monday, saying it was never “a question of not wanting him.”
Belichick told WEEI radio on Monday that his interest in staying with Brady never faltered and his eventual signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came down to who the better “option” was.
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“Yeah, well I think we’ve been through all the dynamics of that,” he said, via CBS Boston. “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.”
Belichick spoke highly of his relationship with Brady but said their approach to Sunday’s game against the Bucs will be like every other game.
“Tom and I had a, I feel like a good relationship and a lot of production, obviously, while we were together. And I enjoyed coaching Tom, and he was a great player for us,” he said. “Sunday night, we line up across from Tampa — not just him, but the entire team. They’re obviously a good team. So it’s all about our team competing against Tampa’s team. It’s like it is every week. But there’s guys on New Orleans — you know, Chris Hogan — there’s guys every week that have been on our team, or guys on our team that have been on the other team. Certainly Tom is a special player, I’m not trying to put him in the same category as a guy who was here for a year or something like that. But at the same time, you’re competing against the team you are playing against, and that’s what you do.”
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Belichick spoke to reporters on Monday after his interview and was again asked about why the Patriots weren’t the better option back in 2020 but he declined to elaborate.
“I’m not going to go back and rehash all of that. We’ve talked about all that. Our focus is on the game here. And look, I have so much respect and appreciation for Tom and everything he did here and for me and for our team. We’re just getting ready to compete against Tampa this week and we’re gonna keep our focus on that.”
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Reports at the time indicated that the Patriots and Brady couldn’t agree on a long-term deal. Brady initially signed a two-year, $50 million contract with the Buccaneers in March 2020 and after winning his seventh Super Bowl ring he agreed to a cap-friendly four-year contract extension that will keep him playing through the 2022 season.