FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady takes the field for Saturday night’s divisional-round game against the Houston Texans, it will be his NFL-record 32nd career postseason game.
It’s a nice round number in the world of football. He will have officially played two extra seasons of football.
“That’s a crazy stat,” marveled receiver Julian Edelman, one of Brady’s closest friends.
“Wow. To hear 32 by No. 12, it really leaves you at a loss for words,” added veteran receiver Matthew Slater, a fellow captain alongside Brady. “Two full seasons on top of what he’s done during the regular season is so impressive.”
Brady’s 32nd postseason game will extend his own record. Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri is the only other player in NFL history to appear in 30 playoff games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Among quarterbacks, Brady further distances himself from the next closest players on the all-time list – Peyton Manning (27), Brett Favre (24), Joe Montana (23) and John Elway (21).
“That’s a lot of football played, a lot of postseason games,” Brady acknowledged. “But I think Coach [Bill Belichick] has done a good job talking to us about experience and how little that means going into the postseason. You’re putting a lot into these games and there are no promises beyond this week, so I’m going to try to do the best I can do.”
No one is saying Brady’s postseason experience automatically will produce a victory for the heavily favored Patriots, although it probably can’t hurt the cause. But more than that, what seemed to stop teammates in their tracks this week about postseason game No. 32 is how Brady has met the physical demand of essentially playing two extra seasons.
This is officially his 17th NFL season but it could actually be considered the 19th.
Or, if he eliminates a rookie season (2000) in which he briefly appeared in one game, and then factors in the 2008 season in which he was sidelined for all but 15 plays with a torn ACL (not exactly a vacation), it still is almost a full 17-year career for Brady.
That’s a lot of miles on the odometer of a 39-year-old player (the oldest active non-kicker in the NFL) who drives either a Cadillac Escalade or an Aston Martin to Gillette Stadium each day.
“He’s running on premium fuel, getting his oil changed often,” Slater said with a touch of humor. “You don’t end up 39 years old, playing maybe as good of football as you’ve ever played, without taking care of yourself.
“The demand physically that it requires to play in the postseason, you get to the end of a 16-game season and you’re probably beat up, but then it’s time to play the most important, most physical football of the season. To do that year after year, the way he’s done it, it’s unbelievable.”
As Slater pointed out, by playing deep into the postseason on almost an annual basis, it has also cut into Brady’s recovery time in the offseason. Veteran defensive end Rob Ninkovich said it usually takes two months to recover from the rigors of a full NFL season, which puts Brady well behind others around the league.
While impressed with Brady’s playoff experience, teammates say it hardly ever becomes a topic of discussion.
“As a player, we look at it like, ‘Oh my God!’ But he has the most beginner's-type mentality in the locker room. He doesn’t care about what he went through in the ’04 season, or in ’01. He doesn’t talk about it,” said safety Devin McCourty, another team captain alongside Brady and Slater.
“If something comes up where he thinks his experience might help, he might bring it up, but most of the time he’s that guy that’s zeroed in, that’s on the plane with his laptop watching film of the next opponent.”
McCourty said that approach rubs off on other players: “When your best player is doing more than everyone else, everyone else is trying to catch him. If everyone does a little more trying to catch Tom, I think we have a chance to play our best football Saturday night.”
Furthermore, teammates say the added grind of the postseason is something Brady seems to embrace.
“I think he views this as the fun part of the season. He doesn’t look at this as another season. It’s more like, ‘This is why I’m here. This is what I can’t wait for,’" McCourty said. “You put that together with everything he does physically – eating right, body work, all those things – and it’s like this guy is a mutant.”
Added receiver Danny Amendola: “He lives for that moment more so than it takes a toll on him. That’s why he works so hard in the offseason and doesn’t take many days off, so he can be in those big games and big moments.”
For his part, Brady smiled when asked about the extra mileage logged, saying simply, “I feel good.”
Next up, record postseason game No. 32.
“It's an unbelievable thing,” Edelman said, “but I can tell you right now, the most important thing to him is that he’s trying to get to 33.”