Allen Park — There's a duality to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
On one hand, it's easy to argue Brady is the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. A sixth-round pick out of Michigan in 2000, he's gone on to win three MVP awards, been selected to 14 Pro Bowls and sits at or near the top of most of the career passing lists.
More importantly than any of that, Brady has won six Super Bowl rings, earning MVP honors in four of those games.
Yet, he tries to present himself as just another player, a cog in the wheel of the great Patriots organization. That's a theme coach Bill Belichick is happy to play along with.
The day after Brady agreed a restructured contract, one that pays him more than twice as much as anyone else on the roster, Belichick did his best to gloss over it in the opening remarks of his Monday press conference, minutes before the Patriots took the field for the first of three joint practices with the Detroit Lions.
"On the Brady contract, you know it’s always good to come to an agreement with a player – any player – so that’s a good thing," Belichick said. "I’m not going to talk about the contract, so we’ll move on from that and focus on what we’re here for, which is a great opportunity to work against the Lions."
The Patriots, under Belichick, are famous for living in the moment, focused far more on the present than either the past or the future. It's tough to argue against a mindset that's been a central theme of the organization's championship culture.
Brady plays the card well, always answering questions in the scope of the current season, but his future is becoming a more and more pressing topic. He turned 42 this week, a dinosaur by football standards, but he continues to buck father time and perform at the highest of levels. Last year, he completed 65.8 percent of his throws for 4,355 yards and 29 touchdowns. He also won another ring.
How long can he realistically go? That's anyone's guess. But he's so confident with the way he's been able achieve the longevity, he's shared his process with the world.
"You’ve got to take care of your body," Brady said. "I wrote a book on it, literally. I live by it and I think it’s given me pretty good results. I try to pass it on to the next generation, so they don’t have to go through the same mistakes I did. But everybody learns different ways and hopefully I can be an inspiration. I’ve had a great opportunity to prove to a lot of people I could do it and hopefully I can."
Former teammate Tavon Wilson is a believer. The safety, now with the Lions, bought Brady's book, and said he's applied some of its lessons to his own training regimen.
As for how Brady looked on the field Monday — while a handful of fans in his Michigan jersey looked on — it's even better than Wilson remembered.
"He’s continued to get better," Wilson said. "Every year, he continues to find a different way to get a little bit better and that’s something I’ve tried to take from him, watching him over the years.
"I’m definitely amazed at it, but seeing all the work he puts in, day in and day out, I’m not really surprised."
Brady's new contract is technically a one-year deal. The second and third years on the contract automatically void at the end of the league year and there's reportedly a provision that prohibits the Patriots from franchising him. That means he'll be a free agent next offseason, not that anyone really believes he'll play an NFL game for anyone other than New England.
But that's too far into the future for Brady to talk about right now.
"I mean, it’s really the reality for most guys in the NFL," Brady said. "I don’t want to think I’m any different than anyone else. Football is a tough business, it’s a production business and I’m ready to go this year. That’s really what matters. That’s where my focus is. There are a lot of guys that have one year left on their contracts. I have one year to go and we’ll see what happens."