Former New England Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork believes Tom Brady's return to Gillette Stadium will feel like a "home game."
Wilfork, who was a teammate of Brady's in New England for 11 seasons (2004-2014), believes the quarterback's legacy will outweigh any potential jilted feelings brought on by his decision to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in March 2020.
“I think it’s going to be a home game feeling for him. I really do,” Wilfork said via NESN. “I think the fans are going to welcome him with open arms. I think he’s going to be embraced because of so much he’s done for that organization. You know, Tom is Tom — a New England Patriot or a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. He’s Tom, and people love Tom and people hate Tom. But he’s going to a place where he won a lot of football games, he started the Super Bowl runs. I really think they’re going to welcome him with open arms. I really do.”
Patriots defensive tackle Byron Cowart, who was a rookie during Brady's final season in New England, doesn't share those sentiments.
Cowart told the Patriots Way of Life podcast that he plans to treat the now-Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback like any other opponent during the teams' Week 4 matchup on October 3.
“He’s done a lot of things for this organization,” Cowart said on the Patriots Way of Life podcast. “He’s coming back, but he’s coming back as an opponent, so I’m going to treat it like any opponent.”
Cowart added that he doesn't want the franchise to do anything special for Brady, who won six Super Bowls during his 20 seasons in New England.
“We ain’t welcoming him, we just got to play him. There ain’t going to be no damn ceremony for him or nothing like that,” Cowart said. “They might clap for him, but there’s not going to be no— bro, this is our opponent. Bro, what? We like to win.”
While Cowart's competitive spirit is admirable, it's likely wishful thinking to assume the Pats aren't going to honor Brady in his first appearance back at Gillette Stadium, or that it'll be regarded as just another game.
Tickets for the Week 4Sunday Night Football matchup are currently listed at a minimum of $625 on Ticketmaster, which are located in the very last section of the stadium.
The matchup will also feature the return of longtime Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Brady and Gronkowski both spent their entire NFL careers with the Patriots prior to joining the Buccaneers last offseason.
Brady was selected in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft and led the Pats to six Super Bowl championships during his 20 seasons with the organization. Gronkowski, who was selected by New England at No. 42 overall in the 2010 NFL Draft, spent his first nine seasons in the organization, winning three championships alongside Brady before initially retiring in 2019.
Brady signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent in March 2020 and was soon joined by Gronkowski -- who came out of retirement shortly after Brady's decision -- after he was acquired by the Bucs via trade.
True to form, Brady and Gronkowski enjoyed record-setting performances during Super Bowl LV.
Brady finished the game with 201 yards and three touchdowns on 21 of 29 passing, winning a record fifth Super Bowl MVP Award, which surpassed his own previous record set in Super Bowl LI (2017.)
Gronkowski led the Buccaneers with six receptions for 67 yards and two touchdowns, the first of which set a new NFL record for most postseason touchdowns by a duo, as the 13th between himself and Brady during their lengthy run as teammates.
Brady and Gronkowski, who had previously appeared in five Super Bowls together prior to Sunday's game, connected on an 8-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, which surpassed former San Francisco 49ers Joe Montana and Jerry Rice's previous record of 12.
Brady later connected with Gronkowski on a 17-yard touchdown with 6:05 remaining in the second quarter to extend the Bucs' lead to 14-3 and set the new record at 14 touchdowns.
The duo has now won four Super Bowls together, while Brady -- who won his record-setting fifth Super Bowl MVP -- has won seven all-time, the most by an NFL quarterback.
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