Tom Brady’s latest Super Bowl run began with a sweaty butt

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When Tom Brady arrived in Tampa to begin his late-career drive toward winning Super Bowl 55, he called every one of his new Buccaneers teammates right away, knowing they had limited time to form an essential bond.

In the process, he had one crucial question for Ryan Jensen, the team’s starting center: can you please dry off your butt?

“Brady has long detested it when his center has a sweat-soaked behind…because it moistens his hands and increases the chances of an errant pass,” writes Lars Anderson in his new book, “A Season in the Sun: The Inside Story of Bruce Arians, Tom Brady, and the Making of a Champion,” the story of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Super Bowl-winning 2020-21 season (William Morrow).

“We’re gonna shove a towel down your a– and put powder everywhere,” the legendary QB told his new teammate.

Such was the respect the Bucs had for their new field general that “for the entire season, Jensen would be seen on Sundays with little puffs of white emanating from his backside.”

A Tampa Bay victory in Super Bowl 55 seemed like a ridiculous pipe dream just a year earlier. As of early 2020, the Buccaneers had an all-time winning percentage of .387, making them the losingest franchise in all four major professional sports.

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Tom Brady taking a snap from Buccaneers center Ryan Jensen before the start of the 2020 season.
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But by then, Brady had decided to leave his longtime home with the New England Patriots — his relationship with coach Bill Belichick had always been brittle — and Tampa Bay, which went 7-9 the previous season, offered a unique challenge for the six-time Super Bowl champion.

The Buccaneers were quickly indoctrinated into Brady’s relentless work ethic. Minutes after Brady signed with the team, he was on the phone to Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht.

“He informed Licht they had roughly 4,270 hours for him to learn the Bucs offense…before the regular season kicked off,” writes Anderson. “‘I’ve got to get to work,’ Brady told his new general manager. ‘I’ve got to get started right now.’”

“Even if you’re Tom Brady, you don’t just snap two fingers and suddenly you have chemistry with the guys you’re throwing to,” Clyde Christensen, the team’s quarterbacks coach, said in the book. “It takes time. It takes work. And no one — not one player — wanted to let Tom down.”

Tom Brady book

The team quickly learned, and embraced, the intensity of Brady’s perfectionism.

Christensen saw it when Brady pulled out his phone to discuss pictures of himself in action, throwing the ball.

“‘If my head starts to tilt outside of my left knee,’ Brady said, ‘it means I’m probably tired and this can cause me to miss some throws,’” writes Anderson. “Brady also asked his coach to listen to his cadence at the line of scrimmage, making sure he wasn’t tipping off the defense of when the ball would be snapped by the tenor of his voice…on the field, Brady wanted nothing but perfection.”

Given the circumstances, he didn’t find that right away.

During his first practice with the Bucs, Brady got “confused at one point and made the improper play call. ‘It’s probably been twenty years since I flat out messed up a call,’” Brady said.

“Brady confessed that the transition from one offense to another was difficult,” Anderson writes. “‘You’re going back a very long time in my career where I really had to put in mental energy like this,’ he said.”

And while Brady understood that he and his new teammates were learning how each other operated, his leadership included knowing when to use the carrot, and when to employ the stick.

“After one play early in camp, the rest of the offense was slow to return to the huddle, and Brady suddenly unleashed a profanity-laced tirade,” writes Anderson. “He erupted, forcefully telling his new teammates that they were forming bad habits…his words were firm and final. No more motherf—ing loafing to the huddle!”

Even with such intense practice, it took time for Brady to meld with his team. The season opener against the New Orleans Saints found him passing for a touchdown on the opening drive, but then botching several key passes that showed he was not yet in sync with his receivers. The Buccaneers lost, 34-23.

“Tom looked like a stranger running our offense,” Christensen said. “On some plays, Tom didn’t even know where his receivers were or where they were going. It’s tough to play well under those circumstances.”

But the Bucs won their next three games — the third victory, 38-31 against the Los Angeles Chargers after a 24-7 deficit, saw Brady tie a team record with five touchdown throws, making 30 of 46 pass attempts for 369 yards — and Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians said that the year prior, their win over the Chargers would have been a 30-point loss.

“We have a quarterback who gives us an assurance that no deficit is too big to overcome,” Arians said.

As it happened, that would apply the same to the season as it did to any individual game, as the Buccaneers found themselves 7-5 at mid-season. The national media began dissecting the team, wondering if Brady and Arians were incompatible, or even, some speculated, if Brady was unable to win without Belichick guiding him.

Both Arians and Brady knew something needed to change. While they got along well, Arians’ preference for embracing risk with long throws clashed at times with Brady’s short-pass strategy.

“If you don’t like something in the playbook, throw it out,” Arians told Brady during a crucial mid-season phone call. “We need to do what you’re comfortable with. If something isn’t working, we’ll ditch it. We’re going to come together and we’re going to do it right now.”

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Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians (l.) talking to Tom Brady.
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That call became the “call that would change everything.”

An example of the team’s newfound fortitude was seen on December 20, when the Buccaneers found themselves down 17-0 at the half against Atlanta. After defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul gave the team a frenzied pep talk — more like pep scream — Brady gathered the offense together just before the second half.

“When we get the ball, we’re gonna score every time we touch it,” he said. “We get the ball, we score – simple as that. Defense will get us stops, and we’re not losing this f–king game!”

The Buccaneers offense took possession five times and scored on every one, getting four touchdowns and a field goal en route to a 31-27 victory.

Arians called the second half of that game, “the turning point of our season,” as the Buccaneers would not lose again.

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Tom Brady leading the Buccaneers to a comeback win over the Falcons on Dec. 20, 2020.
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Brady’s leadership on and off the field turned Tampa Bay into champions. Before passing 21 of 29 for 201 yards and three touchdowns in Super Bowl 55, Brady gathered his team.

“When you win this game, you honor your family and you honor your family name. No one can ever take that away from you or your family,” Brady told them. “Play for your families. Play for their honor. Now LET’S F—ING GO!”

After the Buccaneers’ 31-9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs — Brady’s seventh Super Bowl win — his wife, supermodel Gisele Bündchen, asked him, “What else do you have to prove?”

“For Brady, the answer was nothing and everything,” Anderson writes, noting that between his seemingly effortless mastery of the game, his “J. Crew looks and his supermodel wife,” Brady was a larger-than-life star “with whom fans felt they had nothing in common.”

“But this season had been different,” writes Anderson.

“This had been a struggle. There had been moments, so rare in his career, when Brady seemed almost frail,” making him “more relatable, more real, more authentic than ever before. Suddenly, fans could see how he was fighting like hell to hold on to his youth and his boyhood dreams, and to enjoy at least one more season in the sun.”

“What else do you have to prove?,” Anderson writes. “‘I want number eight,’” Brady said. “‘Gotta keep pushing.’”



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