TAMPA – New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will cross off one stadium on the list of those he’s never played a regular-season game on Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Raymond James Stadium opened in 1998, and the last time the Patriots played a regular-season game in Tampa was 1997 at Houlihan’s Stadium. Brady, of course, entered the NFL in 2000.
Teams aren’t supposed to have that long of a gap between visits, which is the purpose of the NFL’s rotating schedule format that was adopted in 2002.
As part of that rotation, the Patriots would have played in Tampa in 2009, but that game was played in London and was technically a home game for the Buccaneers (37-7 win for New England).
Still, Brady won’t be seeing Raymond James Stadium -- with its distinctive pirate ship in one end zone -- for the first time because the club has visited Tampa five times in the preseason (2001, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2012).
After Thursday’s game, there will be just four active stadiums in which Brady has never played a regular-season game:
Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta) – Opened in 2017
LA Coliseum (Los Angeles) – Temporary home of the Rams until 2020
Stub Hub Stadium (Los Angeles) – First-year home of the Chargers after relocation; until move into Rams' new stadium in 2020.
US Bank Stadium (Minnesota) – Opened in 2016
Based on the present schedule rotation, the Patriots are projected to visit the Falcons in 2021, the Rams in 2020 and the Vikings in 2022.
As for the Chargers, there are two ways the Patriots could play a road game against them -- if the teams match up in the same spot in the division standings in the year the AFC East is scheduled to visit the AFC West, or in the pre-determined slot in the once-every-six-years cycle (currently projected to be 2020).
And let’s wrap up this game of stadium “Brady-ums” with one final nugget: Including stadiums no longer being utilized, neutral sites, temporary venues and also factoring in postseason play, Brady has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 38 different stadiums.