Boston (CBS Boston) – In just 10 days, Tom Brady will be returning to New England as the quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Chances are he’ll get the warm welcome any athlete left from Boston would have received on his return, considering the utterly absurd 20-year career with the Patriots in charge of the six Super Bowl banners now hung at Gillette Stadium.
That race, technically speaking, began when the Patriots drafted Brady in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft. But no one knew what incredible heights Brady and the Patriots would reach in the near future at that time, as Brady was buried on a New England depth chart. He spent his rookie season as the team’s fourth player, appearing only once this season.
Brady never saw his first fact Working with the Patriots until Week 2 of the 2001 season – 20 years ago today – when he replaced badly injured Drew Bledsoe in the late fourth quarter of their 10-3 loss to New York. The rest, as they say, is history.
Bledsoe miraculously played the series on Sunday afternoons after Mo Lewis make it on the sidelines, a massive blow caused the New England quarterback to suffer a concussion, a collapsed lung and internal bleeding. Bledsoe nearly died from the violent collision.
He obviously sidelined Bledsoe for a while, and paved the way for Brady to take over. And he took the reins, leading the Patriots to a record 11-3 as a team starter and an unlikely Super Bowl with an unlikely title win over the St. Louis Rams.
But all of that, and the other five Lombari Cups he won as the Patriots, were coming in a long time ago when Brady returned to the field on September 23, 2001.
Looking back at the debut of Tom Brady Patriots
The mature-faced, slightly plump quarterback (compared to Tom Brady today) took the field at Foxboro Stadium with 2:16 to the left and the Patriots slipped 10-3. He completed his first pass, a four-yard hookup with Patrick Bass. Then he completed another nine yards for Troy Brown. After Brown was not completed, the two were connected again for another nine-yard touch, and Brown moved the chains when Brady hit him for another three yards on the third and 1 to bring the Butts into the New York area. That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship between Brady and Brown.
Kinda felt like Brady was about to lead the team in the game’s hook campaign. This would have been the first of many comebacks the midfielder would lead the team over the next two decades. But it wasn’t meant to be Sunday, as Joe Andrews’ penalty kick took a nine-yard reception with a tight finish by Jermaine Wiggins and pushed the Patriots back 10 yards.
Brady ran for nine yards on the first and the next 20 and then picked up 21 yards on a nice touch with David Patten, putting the Patriots on the New York 29-yard line. But there was no comeback magic as Brady’s next four passes fell incomplete, and the Patriots walked off the field with a 10-3 loss and a 0-2 score.
New England wasn’t in great shape after that defeat, but no one knew it was the start of something special. Just when things were looking worse and worse for the Patriots, Tom Brady came along and saved the situation.
‘He’ll go out there and do well’
The former Michigan man impressed during training camp and pre-season, leading Bill Belichick to lift Brady up the depth chart over veteran Damon Howard, placing the 24-year-old as Bledsoe’s backup.
After that second week of losing the Jets, Belichick expressed confidence that Brady could lead the way until Bledsoe’s return.
“I really don’t think I’m going to stand here week in and week out talking about all the issues Tom Brady has had. I trust him, I think the team trusts him and I think he’ll prepare himself well and get out there and do well.” Via Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston. “I’m sure that like any other young player, there will always be something in the game that you want to do differently. People say that about every player, young or old. It will always be that way. Everyone is going to make a mistake in the game, but I really think General that he will play in the offense we designed for him and give the plays he can do.This is my expectation and I think Tom will work hard to respond to that opportunity.
“No one ever likes to see a teammate fall especially a warrior like Drew, only to get back into the game in that situation and the state he did shows what kind of toughness and determination he has and what he respects for him, but at the same time every player loves to play, wants to play. Every player is taking advantage, of a chance, and I know Tom has warmed up strongly and that is the quarterback’s back-up work,” Belichick continued. “Being ready when the opportunity presents itself. It was a tough situation he was pushed into last night, but overall I thought he responded well to it. I just wish we could play again.”
Brady got his first start the following week against Indianapolis, as the Patriots beat the Indianapolis Colts 44-13 in Foxboro. It was Brady’s first win as a start, though he only threw for 168 yards and didn’t land in victory. (The New England defense had a pair of six-strokes and three interceptions overall on Peyton Manning that afternoon.) He didn’t throw his first touchdown pass until week five.
But by the time Bledsoe was ready to come back, Brady had won the kickoff ceremony. As the season went on and the Patriots continued to win games – mostly thanks to the defense, but also thanks to some very quiet and wonderful play from Brady late in the games – you couldn’t help but feel that something special was building at Foxboro.
It all began on September 23, 2001, when Tom Brady took charge of the quarterback, the beginning of an incredibly impressive career that will never be repeated in the NFL.