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Tom Brady enjoying his eighth Super Bowl as much as his first

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. -- At one point on opening night of Super Bowl LII, Tom Brady had to stop himself from laughing.

“Hey, Tom!” someone from the overflowing crowd around Brady's podium called out. “If things don’t work out, would you consider the XFL?”

Brady, who was full of smiles throughout the night, took the bait.

“If what doesn’t work out? I think things have worked out pretty well,” he responded.

“That’s your opinion!” the questioner shot back.

Brady, who has won five Super Bowl championships, loved it. He laughed. And then laughed a little more while smiling wide.

“You’re right!” he exclaimed.

The exchange, one of many over the past four days in which Brady spent nearly three hours in front of reporters, highlighted one of the obvious themes of the week: The 40-year-old quarterback, on the cusp of becoming the oldest non-kicker to play in the Super Bowl, has been having a blast.

He’s savoring every moment, too.

“It’s fun. I mean, look at this, how could you not have fun doing things like this?” he said at one point. “To be at Super Bowl media day and to have send-off rallies, these are dreams come true. I think everyone should enjoy this. This is a very unique experience and a unique week.”

In saying that, Brady also served up a reminder that no Patriot should forget their purpose: to win a football game. But Brady’s experience of having gone through the frenzy of Super Bowl week -- this is his eighth time -- clearly has him in a good place.

“I could never imagine being in this position eight times. To be in it one time is a dream come true, and to be here eight times is unbelievable,” he said. “I think I just appreciate it as I’ve gotten older.

“Early on, it went so fast. I think I really relish these experiences and opportunities and make the best of them. We lost a couple of them -- in ‘07 and 2011 -- and we were lucky to get back and win a couple of times, but this is the one that matters the most.”

As game time approaches, things will obviously become more serious for Brady, and it was naturally all business for him on the practice field. But in the extracurricular activities around Super Bowl LII, Brady was as loose as ever -- which included trying on a cowboy hat and sharing the story of the time he was bitten by a dog as he watched members of the military training at Gillette Stadium.

“Some guys were kind of excited to see us walk out, so I kind of got close to all the guys, and I didn’t realize there were dogs. Obviously, those weren’t Labrador [Retrievers], these were like tough dogs. I raised my arms up over my head, and right when I raised my arms, the dog jumped up,” Brady said, raising his arms as if to demonstrate how it unfolded.

“I guess it was going for my neck, and the guy grabbed the dog back down, and the dog got my thigh on the way down. I have a nice little scar on my quad thanks to that night.”

While Brady smiled recalling that experience, he was in a deeper, more meaningful place as he reflected on the time he spent catching sunfish while visiting his grandparents and cousins in Browerville, Minnesota, and then having his uncles fillet them and his mother and grandmother fry them.

He said he loved fishing in those days and also was exposed to hunting.

“My grandpa would sit me on his lap and I’d shoot his 22-gauge into the tree with the target, and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world."

Another time over the past few days, Brady high-fived U.S. Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan after she asked what he'd have at his Super Bowl party (seven-layer dip or pizza) and told one person in the crowd that he loves tequila. And in case anyone was wondering, if he was calling the opening coin flip of the game, it’s “heads, always.”

Keeping with the lighthearted theme, Brady had provided a four-step plan to make Bill Belichick smile and laugh -- “just say Navy, lacrosse, Lawrence Taylor and Bon Jovi” -- and detailed in a more introspective moment how car rides to and from work with the right music get his mind in the right place.

But more than anything, there was laughter, which began with his mic drop at the fan rally back at Gillette Stadium and included the time he asked, “Why does everyone want me to retire so bad?”

Then he said, “I’m having fun. I'm really enjoying it. I obviously enjoy the experience of playing in this game.”

It showed all week.