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Patriots reflect on QB Tom Brady's ability to rekindle motivation

By
Alex Butler
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady speaks to reporters after arriving at Super Bowl Opening Night Monday at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady speaks to reporters after arriving at Super Bowl Opening Night Monday at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

ATLANTA, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- Can a five-time Super Bowl champion, three-time NFL MVP and arguably the greatest football player of all time ever be an underdog?

That's what Tom Brady has been selling fans this postseason. While some of his New England Patriots teammates aren't completely buying that narrative -- entering a Super Bowl LIII matchup on Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams -- they can't help but respect it.

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Brady, 41, has literally done it all during his illustrious NFL tenure. He has enough accolades for multiple bronze busts in the halls of Canton, Ohio. But still, he wants more.

He figuratively dropped the mic after the Patriots reached the AFC Championship game, telling CBS in a post-game interview that everyone thinks the Patriots "suck and can't win games."

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"We'll see," he added, before the Patriots beat the Kansas City Chiefs to reach Brady's third consecutive Super Bowl. Brady has reached the NFL's biggest stage nine times.

Where does his motivation come from? Part of it is that master motivator Bill Belichick and his coaching staff have continued to push "do your job" or "no days off" among other slogans.

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New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady greets fans wen he arrives at Super Bowl Opening Night on Monday at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

"It's really about what we think we can do," Brady said. "One of the things we've talked about is ignoring the noise. We use everything to motivate us. I feel like for a long time people have expected us to do so well. Those are good expectations to have but also a little unrealistic at times.

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"I really feel like this team came together when we needed to."

He proclaimed on Sunday there is a "zero percent" chance he doesn't return to the team for a 20th season in 2019, over annual speculation that his career is nearing its end.

While some viewed Brady's 2018 campaign as a "down year" by his standard, he put up above-average statistics. He completed 65.8 percent of his throws -- the fifth-most accurate season of his career. He passed for 4,355 yards -- his seventh-best total. He threw 29 scores -- 0.3 more than his season average during is career.

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"It's just unbelievable," Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski said. "He's always feeling good. He's always motivated. He's always working hard. He's a great teammate and he motivates players around him. So it's awesome to be a part of his legacy."

Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman added more motivation for Brady when he told Bleacher Report that "age has definitely taken a toll" on Brady.

Robey-Coleman attempted to backpedal like he was facing a speedster wide receiver when he was pressed about the comments on Monday, still referring to Brady as the "GOAT," greatest of all time.

But the stone was already turned for Brady.

"For the most part I ignore the noise, but every once in a while something trickles in," Brady said.

"It's part of who I am," Brady added. "It's part of my DNA. I think those emotions run really deep. When I get them kinda scratched at, I think it's great motivation for me."

Running back James White has proved to be one of Brady's best sidekicks in his biggest games. He said the Patriots' motivations don't only flow from Brady. He also said Brady isn't the only Patriots player targeted by the "haters."

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"A lot of people doubted us at the beginning of the year with the slow start or whatever," White said. "We know what we are capable of as a team and we stood together in the locker room no matter what was going on, up or down. We just work very well together."

White called Brady the ultimate competitor, ultimate teammate and a great person, but also the Patriots' unquestioned "leader."

"We see a guy that has had so much success in this league for such a long time we only want to emulate it," White said.

But not all of the Patriots are sold on the narratives.

Julian Edelman -- who was on the receiving end of one of the Patriots' most iconic Super Bowl moments -- says he has heard it all before.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) has completed 63.3 percent of his passes for 10,917 yards, 73 touchdowns and 33 interceptions in 39 career postseason games. He has a 29-10 record in the playoffs. Photo by Kyle Rivas/UPI

"I honestly don't think any of it is new," Edelman said. "I think it's a bunch of recycled bull [expletive]. Each year you guys hear like a new saying that we use all the time."

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It seems to be working for the Rams' Foxborough foes. With another Lombardi Trophy on Sunday, Brady would not only answer the critics, he'd also set the record for the most Super Bowl victories in NFL history.

"It has been different teams every year," Brady said. "We have fought through different adversities every year and we have played great teams in the Super Bowl ... It's going to be a great game. We are going to work hard to get everything out of the way and put all of the distractions aside."

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