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Loyalty and respect spark Tom Brady's brief return to the spotlight

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tom Brady has tried hard to avoid being the center of attention through the first five days of New England Patriots training camp.

He hasn’t addressed the media. He has seemingly made a point to not wear his jersey upon entering the field so capacity crowds can't easily identify him and start chanting his name. On one day, he entered on the opposite side of the practice field so television cameras couldn’t initially spot him.

Brady obviously doesn’t want to be the story, but on Monday night, he made an exception because of two things that he obviously feels strongly about: loyalty and respect.

In an unforgettable moment that longtime Boston sports fans might say had some similarities to when Boston Bruins defenseman Raymond Bourque shed his No. 7 sweater for Phil Esposito in 1987 so it could be retired, Brady made a surprise appearance at the end of running back Kevin Faulk’s induction to the Patriots Hall of Fame before at least 5,000 fans.

It was unannounced and authentic, with Brady initially having trouble with the zipper on his jacket, before ripping it open and revealing that he was wearing Faulk’s old No. 33 blue Patriots home jersey.

In his remarks which lasted about two minutes, Brady thanked the fans for supporting Faulk before calling them “the best fans in the world.” The crowd started chanting “Brady! Brady! Brady!” which is precisely what Brady seemingly has been trying to avoid.

“No, this is for Kevin!” he reminded them.

That moment captured the essence of what unfolded Monday night in what has become an annual tradition -- a Hall of Fame induction followed by an in-stadium practice under the lights.

Everything Brady does is big news these days, and when the goal is to not be a distraction to the team, the last place he wants to be is in front of a microphone with cameras pointed at him. But he did it Monday night because of the loyalty and respect he has for Faulk, who was a selfless teammate for 12 seasons (1999-2011) and also wore his No. 12 jersey as the alumni representative announcing the Patriots’ third-round pick at this year’s NFL draft.

Brady’s appearance Monday initially left Faulk -- who wore Brady’s jersey under his sport coat Monday as he walked the red carpet en route to his place on the stage -- speechless.

“It was respect, something we’re losing sight of in America, in the world right now,” an emotional Faulk said. “That’s what that was to me -- respecting me as an individual, respecting the things I did, and showing it right back. … There’s so much love there, so much emotion.”

Brady hasn’t said it publicly, but since Deflategate first became a big thing following the Patriots-Colts AFC Championship Game two seasons ago, he wouldn’t be human if he didn’t take note of those who steadfastly supported him and those who didn’t.

Few have shown more support than Faulk, which probably helps explain why Brady concluded his remarks Monday night by saying, “As great a player as Kevin was, he is a better friend. There’s no doubt. We love you.”

And with that, Brady shared an embrace with Faulk, posed for a few photos and then exited stage right.

After a brief return to the spotlight to show his loyalty and respect -- and an appreciation for Faulk's -- it was time for Brady to return to the background once again.