FOXBOROUGH – It was Testimonial Thursday for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who met with the media at Gillette Stadium and offered his reflection on the retirement of Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, the induction of former Patriots offensive lineman Stephen Neal into his alma mater’s Hall of Fame, and the recent passing Patriots long-time equipment manager Don Brocher.
Brady was one of the few quarterbacks who survived a head-to-head collision with Lewis on the gridiron, during a regular-season home victory over the Ravens three years ago, and lived to tell the tale.
“It was a quarterback sneak for a first-down conversion,’’ Brady recalled. ``He was and is still and incredible player and competitor. Like I said, there are so many people who have said so many things about him, in terms of guys who have played with him and guys speak to him being the best about his approach.
“But it was a privilege to play against him.’’
Asked if his conversion against Lewis was a personal highlight, Brady replied, ``I always enjoy beating the Ravens. So, yeah, any time I can beat those guys. They got us once this year … so there’s nobody who’s played the position any better than him.’’
On Neal’s induction into the Cal-State Bakersfield Hall of Fame: ``Steve was a great player for us, a great teammate and a great friend. It was pretty impressive to do what he accomplished in terms of becoming a great wrestler and then becoming a great NFL football player. He left everything on the field. I’m sure he did the same as a wrestler, too, and left everything on the mat. But he was just a great friend and someone I enjoyed being with, such a positive attitude about everything.
“Such a great guy.’’
Brady expressed a similar sentiment about Brocher, an employee with the Patriots since 1972, who passed away New Year’s Day at age 60 after a bout with leukemia.
“It was a very sad day and sad week for all of us,’’ Brady said. “He lost a very tough battle and I’ve known him since the day I got here. He was a great man, a special man, who cared very much about our team, the players and the organization, and always represented us in the best way he possibly could.
“He brought so much experience to our team and everyone misses him and certainly our thoughts and prayers are with his wife [Laurie] and the rest of his family. He was a great man.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.