TAMPA — Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady's going to run out of the visitor's locker room at Gillette Stadium for the first time Sunday when he returns to New England. He's going to see a lot of familiar faces this weekend, but he knows they'll know what to expect.
"I still have a lot of great friends there, but they know I want to kick their butt this week," Brady said after Thursday's practice. "They’ll know exactly how I’m feeling once I’m out there."
Brady prides himself on diving into his preparation and visualizing success, but this is one of the few situations he hasn't encountered in 22 NFL seasons.
"I’m not sure. I haven’t done it yet. You’re right, I’ve played in a lot of big games," Brady said. "This is a big game for our team. We want to get back on track, get back to winning. We gotta do things the right way."
Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich knows what it's like to be a quarterback who returns to where his career started. He doesn't think Brady will have an issues dealing with the nostalgia of going back to New England.
"Being in the games that he’s been in. Being in the moments that he’s been in. I think he’ll handle his emotions well," Leftwich, who began his nine-year playing career in Jacksonville, said. "These guys are professional athletes. It’s hard to get to this level. All these guys are pretty good at handling emotions."
"It’s not about the quarterback, or the fans, or the home crowd, or relationships of 20 years," Brady added. "It’s about two good football teams going at it. We’ve gotta do a great job."
Brady's teammates know this is a big game for their quarterback. They said they want to rise to the occasion every week, but maybe just a little this week.
"We don’t really talk about it too much," linebacker Shaq Barrett said. "But I know I’m having an extra chip on my shoulder to make sure Tom, and [Rob Gronkowski]- [Antonio Brown] was there for a little while- make sure they get this win. But especially Tom."
Two more career records are in reach for Brady this weekend. He needs 68 passing yards to break Drew Brees' all-time record of 80,358. If the Buccaneers (2-1) beat the Patriots (1-2), Brady will be the fourth quarterback in NFL history to beat every team in the league.