Two all-time-great No. 12s will be on the field Sunday night at Gillette Stadium when Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers square off for just the second time.
So it was that Brady’s Friday afternoon press conference with the local media kicked off with a question wondering how the New England GOAT came to be TB12.
“It wasn’t really my choice,’ Brady explained, thinking back to arriving in New England as a sixth-round draft pick in 2000. “I was 10 in college. When I got here [punter] Lee Johnson was 10. So whatever number was on my locker, which was 12, that was the one that [late Patriots equipment manager] Don Brocher gave me. So I wore that my first year. Then we released Lee and I thought about going back to 10. But I just stuck with 12.”
Brady and Rodgers have added to the legacy of the No. 12 jersey among elite NFL quarterbacks, joining the likes of Jim Kelly, Terry Bradshaw and many others.
“I haven’t thought about that much. But, yeah, there have been a lot of great quarterbacks that have worn it,” Brady said. “It’s kind of a pretty typical quarterback number. It’s worked pretty well for me, so I’m glad they gave me that when I first got here.”
Beyond the history of Brady’s success as No. 12, here are some other takeaways from his Friday afternoon press conference.
Scouting Rodgers – Though they won’t actually face each other this week, the biggest story of the game has been the Brady-vs.-Rodgers matchup. After shooting down a reporter’s attempt to call the pair’s relationship a “bromance,” Brady acknowledged that Rodgers is indeed a friend and talked about what the Packers No. 12 brings to the field as he approaches the much-hyped individual battle that’s part of a big game.
“Like every other week. I try to put everything into it,” Brady said of his approach. “This is a great team. You are right, they have a great quarterback and it’s just a great test. They’ve been a great team for a long time. Very well-coached. A team that executes well under pressure. They play well at home. They play well on the road. We just can’t have anything less than our best.
“He’s a great player. He’s gonna play his best. He always does. He plays pretty great every week.”
Gronk’s limited production: There is no doubt that Patriots All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski has had a quiet first half of the 2018 season. After scoring on opening day, he has not reached the end zone since. Through eight games – while dealing with back and ankle injuries – Gronkowski has just 29 catches for 448 yards, putting him on pace for his lowest production during a full season since his rookie year.
Friday Brady was asked for his view on the inability for him to connect with a guy who has been one of his most productive targets over the years.
“I don’t know,” Brady began. “I don’t think we’ve played our best offensively over the last eight games. So I’d say we have to all figure out, whether it’s me and Rob or me and Josh [Gordon] or me and Jules [Julian Edelman], I think we’re just trying to work on it every week. But we’re 6-2. I think we realize our best football is ahead of us if we work hard at it. And that’s what our goal is.”
Three from 1,000 – Brady has jokingly talked over the years about his slow approach to becoming a 1,000-yard rusher for his career. Now, he’s just 3 yards away from the milestone. In recent weeks he reminisced about one of his more famous runs when he juked out Bears Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher. He was asked this afternoon which other runs from his career stood out to him over the years or maybe just playoff touchdown runs that he’s particularly proud of.
“I had a good dive over the top against the Ravens when we beat them,” Brady said. “Ray Lewis put his helmet right in the middle of my back. That was probably the one I remember the most because it probably hurt the most. I’ve kind of inched along for a long time. It really hasn’t been a part of my game. But I’m getting close, I’ve been at it for a long time. Hopefully we can get it this week. Hopefully we can get more than that.”
A reporter then wondered if Brady might be hesitant to take a knee at the end of the game on Sunday night and lose a yard if he had already passed 1,000, putting his statistical milestone in jeopardy.
“I’m sending Hoyer in if I do that,” Brady joked of backup QB Brian Hoyer as he walked away from the microphone.