It’s been 633 days since Tom Brady played an NFL game in New England.
He left the field on Jan.4, 2020, after a playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans, a rare loser where he helped hoist six Super Bowl championship banners.
But the remnants of his 20-year career with the Patriots remain all over Foxborough.
Brady’s No.12 Patriots jerseys still dot the stands on game day at Gillette Stadium. The Boston market audience surpassed that of Tampa for the Bucs’ Super Bowl victory last season, and New England fans continue to congregate in bars to listen to Brady’s games in droves during the last season. of the first three weeks of this season.
With Brady’s new home in Tampa equally enraged for the player who won him a championship in the first year, it has created a tussle between the fanbases as he prepares to return to where his career began.
âAs a fan, I think this is one of the greatest moments in Boston’s sporting history,â said Jermaine Wiggins, a 2001 Patriots first-team champion tight end and celebrity figure. radio for WEEI from Boston. âI still can’t get over it since he left here. I never thought I would see him come where he would wear another uniform. I don’t think anyone would have thought that five years ago.
“No matter how bad people might have said (Brady and Belichick’s) relationship was, I think we all felt like it would have worked out.”
This is why so many New England fans have memories of Brady so close.
Last week, before the Patriots welcomed the Saints, 24-year-old East Greenwich, Rhode Island resident Jeremy Batista wore a Michigan No. 10 Brady jersey as he sped through the parking lot. outside of Gillette with friends.
“I can’t wait for him to come back,” said Batista. âI’ve been here long enough and watched it over the years and can’t wait. He’s still my guy.
Nearby, Brian O’Reilly wore a faded blue No.12 Patriots jersey, but still full of memories watching the player who brought so much success.
A Patriots fan since growing up in the 1970s, the 59-year-old Dorchester, Massachusetts resident is a season ticket holder for the first time this year after spending 20 years on the waitlist.
âWe’ve had such terrible teams for so many years and the last 20 years he’s given us have been amazing. We couldn’t have asked for more from him, âsaid O’Reilly. “If we could have it now, I would love to find it.”
O’Reilly’s tickets will come in handy this week for a game that secondary ticket market TickPick says is the Patriots’ most expensive ever and the NFL’s most expensive ticket of the year.
With an average purchase price of $ 1,236, it’s 79% more expensive than their next most expensive home game on record – $ 689 for the 2017 Patriots game with the Chiefs.
Brady will have former teammates on the pitch and on the sidelines. Jerod Mayo, who played with Brady on the title team in 2014, remains impressed with his longevity.
âHis career alone is old enough to drink,â he said. “It’s crazy.”
For his part, Brady said this week that while he cherished his time in New England, his heart was now with the new Tampa fan base who welcomed him wholeheartedly.
In a city that celebrated the Bucs’ Super Bowl victory, back-to-back Stanley Cups by the Lightning and a World Series appearance last season by the Rays, he made “Champa Bay” a reality.
âI have had some of the greatest experiences of my life over the past 20 years,â Brady said. “Going back to a place that I know so well with so many friends will be a really exciting thing for everyone.”
Upon his return to New England, however, his heart will be with the team depicted on his new jersey.
“I had a great time, but really my goal was to try to be the best that I can be for this team and to try to be a winning quarterback, to be a championship level quarterback. , for this team and for this organization because they certainly deserve it.
Back in Boston, Wiggins expects people to talk about Brady’s return for generations, no matter the outcome.
âIt’s something we’ve never seen before because you talk about the best coach and the best quarterback,â he said. âThey were successful for 20 years and now they are competing. â¦ It’s going to be amazing to see how the fans embrace this game.
Two cities collectively hold their breath.
AP Sports Writer Fred Goodall in Tampa, Florida contributed to this report.