Tom Brady is ready to move on from the Aaron Hernandez saga.
UPDATE: Thursday, July 25, at 11:40 a.m. ET by Brandon Galvin
Tom Brady addressed the media this morning, as documented by ESPN's Michele Steele:
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Speaking with Peter King of SI.com, the New England Patriots quarterback opened up about his feelings regarding Hernandez's arrest and subsequent cut from the team. Brady also reflected on his own playing future and even his long-term friendship with Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.
When asked about how he felt Hernandez's absence would affect the team—specifically the Patriots offense—Brady said he's learned that "putting aside personal agendas" was best for the health of the team. He wants to move forward with players who are actually able to help the organization win:
I have moved on. I’m focusing on the great teammates I have who are committed to helping us win games. The only thing I care about is winning. Nothing is going to ever get in the way of that goal. I’m just excited to report to camp and see what we can accomplish as a team. The fate of our season will be determined by the players in our locker room—nothing else.
Hernandez was arrested in June and charged with the first-degree murder of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd. He was also charged with five gun-related charges, to all of which he pleaded not guilty. The Patriots released Hernandez within hours of his arrest.
Hernandez, 23, is scheduled for his next court date on Wednesday.
Hernandez had been an integral part of the New England offense since being drafted in the fourth round in 2010. Over his three-year career, he made 175 receptions for 1,956 yards and 18 touchdowns, forming a formidable duo with fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski. The Hernandez-Gronkowski duo was largely seen as the driving force behind the Patriots' move away from spread-heavy formations and toward two-tight-end sets.
When King moved toward less serious topics—most notably Brady's future plans—the biggest takeaways from Brady are far less dire for Patriots fans.
King asked Brady, who turns 36 next month, if he planned on playing until 40—as he had said five years prior. Brady replied that barring a devastating injury, he plans on playing past his 40th birthday provided a team, Patriots or otherwise, will have him:
The way I feel now, it’s beyond 40. I have a lot of goals, and I am in this for the long haul. I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. Whether the team wants me, or whether something [like an injury] happens tomorrow to stop me from playing, that remains to be seen. But my training, my nutrition, the bodywork I do—I can’t see not playing at any time in the near future. There’s nothing I love to do more. Whether the New England Patriots want me, or anyone wants me, I know I want to play for quite a while.
Brady signed a three-year, $27 million extension with New England in February. The deal will keep him under contract through the 2017 season, at which point he'll be 40 years old. Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in March that he could see his Pro Bowl quarterback playing beyond the length of his current deal, while acknowledging his health was paramount.
Health, as it is for plenty of aging NFL players, is usually one of the largest mitigating factors to force retirement. Brady's biggest rival throughout his career, Peyton Manning, faced a career-threatening neck injury before the 2012 season that led to his departure from Indianapolis and arrival in Denver.
Often the subject of a "who's better?" debate, Manning and Brady have developed a strong friendship over the years. Brady even acknowledged to King that he hopes the two keep up their closeness well beyond their playing years.
Yeah, I hope so. We’re pretty good friends. I like that. It’s important to me. Peyton has two brothers he’s really close to; I don’t have a brother. We’re competitors on the field, but there’s no reason we can’t be good friends off it.
Brady is in New England for the beginning of training camp. The public portion of New England's preseason camp begins Friday and will last into August.
Brady threw for 4,827 yards and 34 touchdowns against eight interceptions, making his eighth Pro Bowl appearance last season. The Patriots lost to the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC championship game.
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