Brady, Patriots eye unbeaten streak
Los Angeles (AFP)
The New England Patriots will aim to set aside fresh speculation about Tom Brady's future on Sunday as they look to extend their unbeaten start to the season against the struggling Cleveland Browns.
The defending Super Bowl champions have built an ominous head of steam as the regular season reaches its halfway stage this weekend, with eight victories and zero defeats to take control of the AFC East.
It's the sort of relentless form that has helped New England capture a record-equalling six Super Bowls in the era of Brady and head coach Bill Belichick, the NFL's longest-running double act.
Yet the question of how much longer the Brady-Belichick axis will rule over the league has re-emerged this week, with the veteran quarterback confessing he was uncertain about his future plans.
The 42-year-old superstar has previously indicated he hopes to play until his mid-40s, form and fitness permitting.
But the fact that Brady has a clause in his contract which allows him to walk away as a free agent in 2020, and the fact that the quarterback has put his Massachusetts mansion up for sale, have ensured that the guessing game over his future has not subsided.
Brady himself admitted to a sense of uncertainty this week in an interview with WEEI radio in Boston.
"That is the great part for me -- I don't know," Brady said when asked about his future. "I think that has been a unique situation that I have been in because I think, when you commit to a team for a certain amount of years, you kinda feel like (there is) the responsibility to always fulfill the contract.
- 'Day by day' -
"I am just taking it day by day and I am enjoying what I have. I don't know what the future holds and the great part is for me, football at this point is all borrowed time.
"I never expected to play 20 years and I am playing on a great team and it's just been an incredible 20 years of my life."
"One day I will wake up and I will feel like, 'OK, that will be enough.' When that day comes, that day comes. I don't know if it will be after this year. I don't know if it will be five years from now.
"I don't have to determine those things right now, either."
Brady remains the elder statesman of the NFL's fraternity of veteran quarterbacks, which has so far endured a turbulent start to the season. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (37) was ruled out for the season after week two, while New Orleans Saints star Drew Brees, 40, has missed five weeks of the season after undergoing thumb surgery.
Brees could be back this weekend against the Arizona Cardinals after returning to limited practice this week.
While Roethlisberger and Brees have struggled with fitness, Aaron Rodgers is quietly compiling an impressive record as he aims to lead the Green Bay Packers back to the playoffs after missing out on the postseason in 2018 and 2017.
- 'Ridiculous talent' -
Rodgers, regarded by many as the most skilful quarterback in the NFL, delivered a sublime performance in last weekend's 42-24 rout of the Oakland Raiders, throwing for five touchdowns, rushing for one himself and finishing with 429 yards from 25-of-31 attempts and a perfect passer rating.
The Packers are now 6-1 as they prepare to face the Kansas City Chiefs, who are anxiously hoping to discover whether the prodigious Patrick Mahomes can shake off the after-effects of a knee injury to take the field on Sunday.
Rodgers' team-mates meanwhile have become accustomed to their quarterback's brilliance.
"We see it every day in practice," center Corey Linsley said. "This dude's ridiculously talented. He's a great dude. He's a perfectionist."
Right guard Billy Turner said Rodgers perfect performance last week was the stuff of legend.
"Never been on a team with a quarterback of that caliber who has done things that special with the football," Turner said.
"He's one of the greatest of all time, if not the best. There's a lot of guys who are trying to emulate their game after the things he does, and to be able to continue to elevate his game again and again is special."
© 2019 AFP