When you’re among the NFL’s most recognizable signal callers, life off the field can’t be easy.

For Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, life as he knew it changed pretty quickly. He went from a skinny 6th round draft choice back in 2000 to a Super Bowl MVP season just one year later.  He went from being a guy who very few fans paid much attention to during his rookie season, to being the guy people now need to try and meet in the event they catch him outside his workplace – which just happens to be a football stadium.

Like another profession, trying to be the best at what you do requires a lot of work.  During the week it’s mentally draining on the players as they try and take in the game plan, while on Sunday they put their bodies through the weekly rigor of an NFL football season in hopes that it all results in a victory.

Then once it’s over, they do it all over again. And on and on it goes for 16 games, with each and every week presenting it’s own challenge. Should they make it to the postseason, there’s more at stake and the demands are even higher.


After a performance in which he said he “sucked”, Tom Brady didn’t feel like going out with friends following their win over the Ravens to clinch a Super Bowl berth. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

It’s no wonder that Brady, who had a lot of friends in town when his team battled and defeated the Baltimore Ravens to win the AFC Championship, didn’t have the energy to go out and celebrate it.

“I don’t have as much energy as I used to,” said Brady during his weekly radio appearance on WEEI on Monday.  ”I really feel like I need my energy for this team, and I need to be emotional. By the end of the week I’m kind of spent, and I need to regroup before the game because that’s how I play the game. Then, after the game, I’m exhausted.”

“Like the AFC championship, we win the game and I have all of my best friends in town, and they’re like, ‘Can we come over?’ Nope, I’m putting my kid to bed and I’m going to sleep. I wish there was a part of me that felt like I could be a little more social and outgoing — to go to a Celtics game, which I’d love to do, but to me, it ends up being a little more of an energy drain than something I can really enjoy.”

Part of the price of success is recognition by the fans who appreciate how much he means to the team they root for.  However, Brady doesn’t mind the attention.  His biggest concern is simply the fact that should someone approach him, he genuinely wants to make sure that they don’t walk away disappointed.

“If people get the opportunity to come up to me and introduce themselves to me, I want them to walk away and feel, you know what? That was a nice experience,” explained Brady.  ”I think there’s times when I don’t have that energy to put on a face, like everything’s great. I sucked in [the AFC championship] game. I didn’t want to go out there and shake hands, [and say] ‘Thanks.’ I just wanted to go home and really be myself. I think the place where I can be myself is at home with my family and my friends. That’s probably where I’m most comfortable.”

Now the obvious plan is to hopefully make sure his fans have a lot to celebrate in another week.  Fans in New England have gotten pretty accustomed to seeing Brady and the Patriots in this position, having witnessed four previous Super Bowl appearances and three titles.   This time around they’ve never gone this long in between a Super Bowl berth, and it’s almost gotten to the point where it feels like the odds are pretty good each year they’ll be in this position.

As many great teams have found out, getting to the NFL’s biggest stage is about as difficult as it gets.  Brady admitted that as he’s gone through his NFL career, winning a title – as well as having the opportunity to battle for one – definitely isn’t easy.  He claims that to get to this point requires playing well as a team on a consistent basis, along with a little luck.  He knows how rare an opportunity like this truly is, and for now he plans on savoring every moment.

“Last year, I thought we had a great team, and we lose in the divisional round of the playoffs,” said Brady, who has won two straight playoff games for the first time since the ’07/’08 postseason.  ”Green Bay had a pretty damn good team this year, and they lost in the divisional round. You can have a great team. You need some things to go your way, too. Ultimately, the thing we can control is playing good.”

“I’m not taking this for granted. I’m enjoying every second of it. The opportunity to play this game, to represent the Patriots, I don’t take that for granted.”

In the meantime Brady and the Patriots will spend this week going through the paces of preparing for one more game in hopes of being crowned the NFL’s best football team for an unprecidented fourth time.  It’s one of the most coveted trophies in sports, and the Patriots have raised it three times with head coach Bill Belichick and Brady leading the way.  Some players go their whole careers without even sniffing one, yet Brady’s now playing in his fifth.

The veteran quarterback said on Monday that he doesn’t reflect too often, but said that even he got a little caught up talking with Deion Branch about the opportunity in front of them.  They’ve got yet another chance to bring another Championship home to a region that has been fortunate enough to see a historic run over this past decade.  Now all they need to do is take advantage of it.

“I was sitting in front of my locker the other day talking to Deion, who’s my lockermate, and we’re like, “Can you believe this?” I don’t think, as an athlete, you can ever imagine that. You hope for the best, you work hard for it, and if you get the opportunity, a lot of things need to come together to make it to this point.

“Look at the Packers, the Saints. It’s hard to get to this game. To do it five times, it’s crazy. You don’t take it for granted.”