TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady has officially shed the trademark sleeve he has worn on his left knee since suffering a torn ACL in 2008. He wore it Sunday in his first training camp practice, but Monday, he had it rolled down at his shin. By Tuesday, it was off. He hasn't worn it since and doesn't plan to put it back on.
"I don't need it. It's been 14 years since I've [started wearing] it. It feels good," Brady said Friday, the Bucs' final ramp-up day before the pads come on Saturday and the intensity level rises.
Brady hadn't practiced as a Buc without it. He even wore it during recreational activities such as golfing, pickup basketball and boating.
He underwent surgery this offseason to repair a torn MCL he played with all of last year.
"It feels good now," Brady said. "It was not my favorite offseason of all time. I haven't had surgery in a long time, so you kinda forget the rehab process and so forth. It's kind of a long, arduous offseason when you go through rehab like that. I got a lot of time with my family and stuff. That was really enjoyable. I'm happy to be back to work. I've just gotta get out and try to get better tomorrow."
The injury required a significant amount of time during the week devoted to body maintenance and rehabilitation and cut into the time he devoted to game preparation and spending time with his family.
"Alex [Guerrero] and I would spend a lot of time last year -- day after day after day, 'Let's tape it, take the tape off' in pregame, pre-practice, taping it at 7 a.m., leaving the tape on at night, just trying to stabilize it as best as I could," Brady said.
"I've had a lot of injuries in football -- it's just what it is. I think you manage them over the course of a year. I kinda knew what I was dealing with. It was just kinda what I was dealing with, and this year it's just nice not to have to deal with any of that and just show up, try to get my workouts in."
The knee hasn't been an issue in camp. Unlike June's mandatory minicamp, where Brady was held out of blitz periods for precautionary reasons, Brady has been full go. His footwork remains pristine, and he looks stable when shifting his weight and stepping into his throws.
"I can see a difference," wide receiver Mike Evans said. "He looks very springy and wiry right now."
Brady's workload for preseason, which they didn't have to deal with last season due to the pandemic, has yet to be determined. But Brady emphasized that he likes playing and wants reps with teammates, who have marveled at the way he persevered last year.
"I knew he was hurt, hurt pretty bad," Evans said. "But you know, he's as tough as you're going to get. He was battling. I didn't know it was torn. But it speaks to how tough of a player he really is."
"Tom's toughness is on another level," tight end Rob Gronkowski said. "Sometimes you don't even know what he's dealing with and he's just dealing with it on his own.
"He's always shown that toughness mentality throughout his whole career, and he does whatever he needs to do to get it done. It's impressive."