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Tom Brady on facing off against old Patriots friends: 'They know I want to kick their butt this week'

Thursday was Tom Brady's day to talk about that game.

Brady addressed his Sunday return to New England for the first time since leaving the Patriots, a little over 24 hours after excerpts from Seth Wickersham's new book described a fractured relationship between the quarterback and coach Bill Belichick. TB12 dispelled that notion while offering his thoughts on his departure from the only team he'd ever known and how he's changed since then.

"All those things are super personal. We had a great relationship," Brady said of his split from Belichick, with whom he won six Super Bowls. "I think it was handled the right way. We handled everything as gracefully as we could. It was an amazing time and It was handled perfectly. I think everyone understood where we were at, with the people involved in the situation. Things worked out for the best for all of us, and we're all trying to do the best we can do now. That's what happens in life. You go through these experiences, you don't know where life's going to lead.

"I'm just excited to go up there and try to beat a really great football team, that's ultimately what this week's about. It's not about the quarterback, it's not about the fans or the home crowd or relationships of 20 years. It's about two good football teams going at it and we got to do a great job, it's going to be a huge test. Last week was a huge test, we didn't quite meet it. This is another huge test. We got to go meet the challenge."

The challenge arrives in the form of Belichick, who continues to run a tight ship in New England under the motto of The Patriot Way. For Brady, that meant never divulging much publicly, always keeping it professional, and putting in maximum effort to win a title.

It produced a half-dozen rings, more than Brady can fit on one hand (we know you've seen the photos). But while his departure left a void in New England, it gave Brady a chance to spread his wings within an organization that simply isn't quite as strict as Belichick's Patriots.

It's no coincidence that Brady has seemed more open with his personality since joining the Buccaneers, especially after winning Super Bowl LV with them last season. He's appearing in advertisements that show off his humor, he's a better quote with the Buccaneers than he ever was as a Patriot, and at 44 years old, he's still playing excellent football.

Perhaps the fountain of youth isn't filled with a miracle liquid, but just a relaxation of requirements.

"Super excited about what we've done here. I've got a great group of coaches here, an amazing group of guys that still motivate me and inspire me to be the best I can be for this team and this organization," Brady said. "The last 18 months have just been very fulfilling in a lot of different ways and I've loved my football experience here as well. I feel very blessed. I went to high school football where I fell in love with it; I went to Michigan, which was amazing for me, had its challenges but I learned a lot; and 20 years in New England was incredible, I learned a lot. Come down here for a year-and-a-half, I've learned a lot."

Brady certainly isn't relaxing when it comes to football, of course, and after his Buccaneers took their first loss since Week 12 of the 2020 regular season last weekend, he'll undoubtedly be bent on getting back in the win column this weekend. It'll be more emotional and require more focus -- and it might be a little strange for Brady to jog toward the lighthouse at Gillette Stadium, not away from it -- but ultimately the goal is the same: win, and keep chasing another title.

"I have nothing but incredible thoughts, memories, emotions towards all the kind of football experiences I've had, and that's obviously one that was the longest," Brady said of his time in New England. "I still have a lot of great friends there, but they know I want to kick their butt this week. So they'll know exactly how I'm feeling once I'm out there."

The best feeling is a winning feeling. Brady hopes to experience it once again, while sending the Patriots home losers for the first time in his storied NFL career.

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