FOXBORO — The face had been hung a little hastily, it seemed. But the pieces of tape stuck to Tom Brady’s larger-than-life two-dimensional head were at least strong enough to keep it in place for a couple of days.
The question was why was Brady’s mug slapped to the inside of Adam Butler‘s locker door to begin with?
“When I was a kid,” Butler said, “my dad’s favorite team was the Patriots. Still is. I remember watching Tom all the time. I’ve been here two years and it’s still crazy just to be in the same locker room with him.”
Butler, a 24-year-old defensive lineman in his second season, was 7 when Brady won his first Super Bowl. Despite his father’s appreciation for Brady, Butler never had a poster of Brady in his room growing up.
“But I got one now,” Butler said with a smile. “I don’t know if he knows about it. I don’t expect him to pay attention to it.”
Brady, 41, has long been significantly older than many of his Patriots teammates. It comes up all the time in press-conference settings.
“Age equals wisdom,” he was asked this week, “right?”
“I certainly have the age part,” Brady said, “and the wisdom I’m working on.”
Brady has picked up two more rings and an MVP Award since his 37th birthday. As he’s has gotten into his late 30s and early 40s, his standing in the eyes of his younger teammates has only grown from when they watched him as kids.
Butler, for instance, didn’t include Brady on his list of Top 100 that the NFL Network asked players to fill out last year. His reasoning?
“I didn’t even count Tom because he’s too good,” Butler said. “Like, c’mon. He’s No. 1, like every year. Regardless of who picked him, he’s No. 1. Everybody knows he’s No. 1. If you don’t want to go by whatever numbers he puts up every year, go by how many rings he has and what he has behind his name.”
This story has been written before in various forms. What’s it like for the younger generation of Patriots to play with a childhood idol? What does Brady try to do to bridge the gap with a different generation off the field so they can help him on?
But, if memory serves, this is the first time one of those players from that newer generation has had an oversized headshot of Brady on display in his locker space. (Butler declined a photo with the photo.)
Its origin story is a little hazy.
Butler found the Brady head on a table by Julian Edelman‘s locker recently. He asked if it was Edelman’s and was told no. He asked if he could have it and was told yes. So Butler took it.
“I have no clue what you’re talking about,” Edelman replied coyly when asked about the Brady head Friday.
It was still on the inside of the door to Butler’s locker Friday afternoon. Butler boiled down the reason for why he wanted it there thusly: “This whole thing isn’t easy,” Butler said, meaning playing and winning in the NFL.
“People watch on TV, and they get mad when people don’t win the Super Bowl . . . They get mad in the moment, but they don’t understand the type of grind they go through just to be where they are in the first place.
“I have a lot of respect for somebody who’s been here for that long . . . I sure don’t take for granted sharing a locker room with him. It’s more of a respect thing. A respect-slash-fan thing.”
“He’s the GOAT,” said Deatrich Wise, whose locker is just steps from Butler’s. “It’s like having a Fathead in your room. [Butler] has [Brady’s] face in his locker. Nothing wrong with being a fan of one of your own teammates.”
Like Butler, Wise doesn’t have a chance to share a huddle with Brady. But the more limited interactions with the quarterback doesn’t mean Wise can’t still appreciate calling Brady a teammate.
“It’s a very surreal feeling, having him on your team and seeing him actually play,” Wise said. “It’s a blessing to be in the league, one. Then to be on his team? You see him make his spectacular throws or his comeback moments? I used to watch that at home, and now I’m watching it live, and I’ll have stories to tell my kids when they ask about him.”
Wise, another second-year player, isn’t looking for a duplicate Brady head for his locker. But he said he’d liked to have some Brady memorabilia at some point. He hasn’t asked yet.
“In due time” he said. “In due time everything will get worked out. A picture, whatever it is.”
Ted Karras, a third-year offensive lineman, is in a little different position. Of course he had moments when he was a little starstruck when he first arrived in Foxboro.
“For sure,” he said. “Sometimes. You’re used to it now in Year 3, but for a while it’s a big deal. You get to tell your friends you talked to Tom Brady. You tell your mom and dad, ‘I talked to Tom today.’ That was big as a rookie. It was cool.”
But when Karras was a rookie he was trying to get accustomed to playing some center, even though he hadn’t really played there much before. He couldn’t watch Brady in awe from afar. He had a job to keep. He couldn’t geek out at the sight of Brady because he had to make sure the guy was OK with his snaps.
“It’s pretty wild. You gotta grow up fast, though, or else you’re not going to be a part of it,” Karras said. “You can’t be too starstruck or you’re just going to be gone . . . You gotta treat it like it’s business. Afterward you think, ‘Man that was pretty darn cool. Got to play with Tom Brady.’
“Mexico City (where Karras started for injured center David Andrews in 2017), is one of my favorite memories, being the starting center. That was the first time I’d been on the line for Tom so that was a big deal for me.”
Despite Edelman claiming not to know anything about the Brady head that landed with Butler, he did say on Friday that he has a Fathead of Brady in his room. “It’s pretty tight,” Edelman said.
“Honestly, I feel like I’m playing with an older brother,” Edelman said, “that treats me like a younger brother, in a good and bad way . . .
“I mean, it’s not always great being the younger brother. You get picked on. Sometimes he tries to pick on me. But as the younger brother, sometimes you have to take care of the older brother.”
Brady and Edelman’s relationship is well-documented. And it speaks to Brady’s remarkable longevity that someone years older than Butler, Wise and Karras — Edelman turned 32 May — also considered Brady something of a childhood hero. Both are Bay Area kids. Edelman was, of course, a quarterback all the way through his days at Kent State.
“It’s been pretty cool to get to play with Tom,” he said. “I remember being on the asphalts of eighth grade, playing quarterback saying, ‘Yo, I’m Tom Brady.’ And then you play 10 years with him. So it’s been pretty cool.
“But now it’s kind of changed, and you think of what you can do to go out and try to win ballgames. You don’t really reflect. I don’t know. You guys ask all these reflections questions, this, that. They keep you so busy here — honestly, you’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, we did do that, didn’t we?’ But it’s pretty cool. Pretty cool.”
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