Tom’s Two Towns: Tampa, NE abuzz as Brady prepares to return

Sep 27, 2021, 11:13 PM | Updated: Sep 28, 2021, 11:15 am
FILE - A fan arrives wearing shoes from both Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady's teams bef...

FILE - A fan arrives wearing shoes from both Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady's teams before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, Fla., in this Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, file photo. Brady hasn't played an NFL football game in New England since Jan. 4, 2020. But remnants from his 20-year run with the Patriots remain everywhere in Foxborough. With Brady's new Tampa home just as rabid about the player who brought it a championship in Year 1, it's created a tug-of-war between the fan bases as he gets set to return to the place where his career began. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

              FILE - Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) meets a fan before an NFL preseason football game against the Tennessee Titans in Tampa, Fla., in this Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, file photo. Brady hasn't played an NFL football game in New England since Jan. 4, 2020. With Brady's new Tampa home just as rabid about the player who brought it a championship in Year 1, it's created a tug-of-war between the fan bases as he gets set to return to the place where his career began. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio, File)
            
              FILE - A fan arrives wearing shoes from both Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady's teams before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, Fla., in this Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, file photo. Brady hasn't played an NFL football game in New England since Jan. 4, 2020. But remnants from his 20-year run with the Patriots remain everywhere in Foxborough. With Brady's new Tampa home just as rabid about the player who brought it a championship in Year 1, it's created a tug-of-war between the fan bases as he gets set to return to the place where his career began. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — It’s been 633 days since Tom Brady played an NFL game in New England.

He trudged off the field on Jan. 4, 2020, after a playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans, a rare loser in the place he helped to hoist six Super Bowl championship banners.

But remnants from his 20-year run with the Patriots remain everywhere in Foxborough.

Brady’s No. 12 Patriots jerseys still dot the stands on game days at Gillette Stadium. Viewership in the Boston market topped that of Tampa for the Bucs’ Super Bowl win last season, and New England fans continue to huddle in bars to tune in for Brady’s games in droves through the first three weeks of this season.

With Brady’s new Tampa home just as rabid about the player who brought it a championship in Year 1, it’s created a tug of war between the fan bases as he gets set to return to the place where his career began.

“As a fan, I think this is one of the greatest moments in Boston sports history,” said Jermaine Wiggins, a tight end for the Patriots’ first championship team in 2001 and a radio personality for Boston’s WEEI. “I still haven’t been able to get over it since he left here. I never thought I’d see it coming where he’d be wearing another uniform. I don’t think anybody would have ever thought that five years ago.

“No matter how bad people might have said (Brady and Belichick’s) relationship was, I think we all felt like it would have all got worked out.”

It’s why so many New England fans keep reminders of Brady so close.

Last week before the Patriots hosted the Saints, 24-year-old East Greenwich, Rhode Island, resident Jeremy Batista was donning a No. 10 Michigan Brady jersey as he tailgated in the parking lot outside of Gillette with friends.

“I can’t wait for him to come back,” Batista said. “I’ve been here long enough and I watched him over the years and I can’t wait. He’s my guy still.”

Not far away, Brian O’Reilly was wearing a faded blue Patriots No. 12 jersey, but still gushing with memories of watching the player who brought so much success.

A Patriots fan since he was a kid in the 1970s, the 59-year-old Dorchester, Mass. resident is a first-time season ticket holder this year after spending 20 years on the waiting list.

“We had such terrible teams for so many years and the last 20 years that he gave us were unbelievable. We couldn’t have asked for more out of him,” O’Reilly said. “If we could have him now, I’d love to have him back.”

O’Reilly’s tickets will come in handy this week for a game that secondary ticket marketplace TickPick says is the Patriots’ most expensive on record and the NFL’s most expensive ticket of the year.

With an average purchase price of $1,236, it is 79% more expensive than their next priciest home game on record — $689 for the Patriots’ 2017 matchup with the Chiefs.

Brady will have former teammates on the field and on the sideline. Jerod Mayo, who played with Brady on the 2014 title team, remains in awe of his longevity.

“His career alone is old enough to drink,” he said. “It’s crazy.”

For his part, Brady said this week that as much as he cherishes his time in New England, he’s heart is now with the new Tampa fan base that has wholeheartedly welcomed him.

In a city that has celebrated the Bucs’ Super Bowl win, back-to-back Stanley Cups by the Lightning and a World Series appearance last season by the Rays, he’s turned “Champa Bay” into a reality.

“I have some of the greatest experiences of my life took place in the last 20 years,” Brady said. “Going back to a place that I know so well with so many friends will be a really exciting thing for everybody.”

When he returns to New England, though, his heart will be with the team represented on his new jersey.

“I had a great time, but really my focus has been on trying to be the best I can be for this team and trying to go out and be a winning quarterback, be a championship-level quarterback, for this team and for this organization because they certainly deserve it.”

Back in Boston, Wiggins expects people to be talking about Brady’s return for generations, no matter the outcome.

“It’s something we’ve never seen before because you’re talking about the greatest coach and the greatest quarterback,” he said. “They had success for 20 years and now they’re going against each other. … It’s going to be amazing to see how the fans embrace this game.”

Two cities hold their collective breath.

___

AP Sports Writer Fred Goodall in Tampa, Fla. contributed to this report.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Christian Pulisic of the United States scores his side's opening goal during the World Cup group B ...
Associated Press

Pulisic goal advances US in World Cup with 1-0 win over Iran

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Christian Pulisic scored while crashing headfirst into the goalkeeper in the 38th minute and the United States advanced to the knockout round of the World Cup with a 1-0 win over Iran on Tuesday in a politically charged rematch of their famous meeting a quarter-century ago. Pulisic sprawled on the field […]
2 days ago
Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze, center, gets ready to take the field with his team to play Arkansas...
Associated Press

Hugh Freeze asks Auburn fans for ‘chance to earn your trust’

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Hugh Freeze’s checkered past in the Southeastern Conference means he’ll have to win more than just games. He’ll also have to win over Auburn fans. Freeze’s return to the league more than five years after his scandal-plagued exit was greeted by considerable backlash from wary fans on social media. The former […]
2 days ago
England's Phil Foden, center, scores past Wales' goalkeeper Danny Ward, right, his side's second go...
Associated Press

England advances after beating Wales 3-0 at World Cup

AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — Marcus Rashford and Phil Foden both scored Tuesday to put England into the last 16 of the World Cup with a 3-0 victory over Wales. England coach Gareth Southgate opted to add both players in the starting lineup for the team’s final Group B match and they responded with all […]
2 days ago
Wales' Gareth Bale runs during the World Cup group B soccer match between England and Wales, at the...
Associated Press

Bale makes early exit for Wales against England at World Cup

AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — If it was Gareth Bale’s final game for Wales, it ended rather unceremoniously. The Wales captain was substituted at halftime of the team’s match against England at the World Cup on Tuesday because of an injury. While it was unclear when Bale was hurt, it appeared he was struggling late […]
2 days ago
Wales and England players take knee before the start of the World Cup group B soccer match between ...
Associated Press

England and Wales players take a knee in World Cup match

AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — The players for both England and Wales took a knee before their final World Cup group game on Tuesday. The teams made the gesture as a sign of solidarity in the fight against discrimination. England and Wales were among seven European nations that had intended to have their captains wear […]
2 days ago
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers reacts during the second half of an NFL football game a...
Associated Press

Rodgers says he plans to play Sunday when Packers face Bears

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers says he expects to play Sunday at Chicago after a rib injury knocked him out of a 40-33 loss at Philadelphia. “I got good news with the scans yesterday, so I plan on playing this week,” Rodgers said Tuesday on “The Pat McAfee Show” […]
2 days ago
Tom’s Two Towns: Tampa, NE abuzz as Brady prepares to return