Tom Brady has thrown 300 touchdown passes in his 12 seasons with the Patriots.
Different column this week, stretching from Foxboro (Tom Brady) to San Diego out West (Dan Fouts), from an unhappy Dolfan in the Southeast (Daniel Tosh) to Russell Wilson in the Land of Opportunity in the Northwest (Seattle), from a hotel in Oakland to a bar in D.C., from a hockey rink in New York to the busiest building in North America (Staples Center in Los Angeles) ... well, let's just get on with it.
Last of the (New England) Mohicans, and he's not planning to leave anytime soon.
Matt Light retired the other day. Peyton Manning plays for Denver now. This means that Tom Brady is the lone member of an exclusive club.
Sept. 30, 2001. Ninety players dressed for the first start of Brady's career, against the Indianapolis Colts, at the rickety old Foxboro Stadium on a cloudy and windy Sunday afternoon. Eighty-nine played. And Tom Brady, 34, is the only man who suited up that day who not only still plays for the Patriots, but also still plays for either team. (Notes for you sticklers: Reggie Wayne was inactive that day, and he still plays for the Colts. Kevin Faulk had 11 touches that day, but he's an unrestricted free agent and doesn't play -- yet -- for the Patriots this year.)
Look at the turnover. One player out of 89 remaining, less than 11 years after the first start of Brady's career. It's Brady and Bill Belichick against the world now.
"Well,'' Brady said Thursday afternoon, trying to figure out what it meant but not sounding at all surprised about it, "Matt called me a while ago and told me what he was planning to do, and I've called him every week since then trying to talk him out of it. He had such a great year for us. But there was no way I was going to be able to talk him out of it. He'll be a tough player to replace. But, you know, every year in this game, there's a lot of change.''
Except with one guy. One guy living a bicoastal life, married to one of the most famous women in the world, with two kids, and with a coach who's not very concerned with all of that stuff.
Who can know now, but it's going to be interesting to see if Brady outlasts Belichick. Because Belichick has been coaching in the NFL since Carlton Fisk willed the 12th-inning home run fair in the '75 World Series -- actually, he's been coach a few months longer than that -- and, amazing as it seems, Belichick is three years shy of 40 seasons as an NFL head coach or assistant. Not to get sidetracked, but this will be Belichick's 38th year as an NFL coach. Don Shula coached for 36.
Now, Belichick announced his new coaching staff last week, and it includes his son Steve as a coaching assistant. So Belichick, who just turned 60, will likely be around for a while to show the kid the ropes. But you get the impression talking to Brady that he'd like to be around longer than a while.
"My wife [Gisele Bundchen] said to me, 'When I met you [in 2006], you said you wanted to play 10 more years. How come that number never goes down?' It's that I love the game. I love the game. I'm going to play until they tell me they don't want me anymore.''
Coming off a season with 13 wins, a career-best 5,235 passing yards and 39 touchdown passes (second-best in his career), he won't be evicted from the lineup soon.
"I just met with coach Belichick this morning,'' Brady said. "I still feel like I'm in my first year trying to prove myself. There's no entitlement around coach Belichick. I've got to be the best guy for him to keep playing me. When I'm not, someone else will play.''
I've wanted to ask Brady about one play in the Super Bowl since the game was played. Early in the fourth quarter, with New England up 17-15, Brady escaped traffic in the pocket, faded right, and threw the ball 54 yards in the air, aiming for tight end Rob Gronkowski. The ball was underthrown by four to six yards, and New York linebacker Chase Blackburn intercepted it.
"Has anything happened to your arm, or your arm strength, that prevented you from throwing that ball where you wanted it?'' I asked.
"No,'' he said. "It was a bad throw. Bad throw. You hope your bad throws don't come at big times or really hurt the team, but that one did. Bad throw, bad decision.''
I don't think it was a bad decision at all. I thought it was a good decision and a good matchup -- the athletic Gronkowski on the not-so-athletic Blackburn. It was just underthrown. I could hear the disappointment about the play in Brady's voice, and I don't blame him for that. He had to watch that play on replay and say, Are you kidding me? Chase Blackburn in coverage and I can't get it over that guy's head?
"I can throw the ball today as far as I've ever been able to throw it,'' Brady said. "That's not the issue there. [Brett] Favre threw it great in his last year or so. Jamie Moyer's still getting people out. That's not a problem.''
Brady called the other day to discuss one of the things he's felt strongly about for years -- an organization called Best Buddies, a volunteer movement that promotes personal and professional relationships and work opportunities for intellectually and developmentally disabled people. Brady's been attending the major Boston fundraiser since 2002, and his support has helped the cause raise millions.
"This is not the hip, cool cause of the day,'' said Best Buddies founder Anthony Kennedy Shriver. "But Tom has been huge in helping us build our brand. I think he saw an underserved population, and he saw an organization with a commitment to help, and he's been there for us to help us grow.''
"Anyone who takes part is never the same,'' Brady said. "You can see how important this is in so many people's lives. It's a great feeling for me to be able to give back to a community that's been so wonderful to me.''
Brady plays in a touch football game on June 1 at Harvard Stadium, then takes part in the 100-mile bike ride from Boston to Hyannis June 2 with several Patriots and local celebs. Last year, Belichick made the bike ride. For free tickets to the Friday night game, go to hpchallenge2012.org/tickets, and for information on joining the bike ride, go to hpchallenge2012.org.
"For as long as I'm here in Boston, and beyond, I'll spread the message,'' Brady said.
As for how long that will be, Brady says all the right things -- he'd love to play his entire career in New England, but he's got to earn his spot every year. He saw what just happened with Peyton Manning, and he knows that might be something he faces one day. "That's a great example of how sometimes true professionals have to move on,'' he said. "Nothing surprises me anymore in the NFL.''
It's unlikely Brady moves on, but it's not impossible. Brady knows if it can happen to Manning, it can happen to him, especially with a bottom-line guy like Belichick making the calls.