TAMPA, Fla. -- Tom Brady says his breakup 18 months ago with the New England Patriots was handled "perfectly" and that "things worked out the best" for himself, his former team and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Brady's comments came one day after Bill Belichick denied a passage in a soon-to-be released book stating that the Patriots coach refused to meet with the star quarterback in person before Brady left New England to sign with the Buccaneers in March 2020.
"All those things are super personal," said Brady, who returns to Foxborough on Sunday night for the first time since his departure after 20 seasons. "We had a great relationship. Everything was handled the right way. We handled everything as gracefully as we could. It was an amazing time, it was handled perfectly. I think everyone understood where we were at -- the people involved in the situation. Things worked out the best for all of us.
"We're all trying to do the best we can do now -- that's what happens in life. You don't know where life is gonna lead. I think the only thing I know how to do is give it all I can in every day, every moment and the people who really bet on me, I want to do really well for them. [General manager] Jason [Licht] and [head coach] Bruce Arians -- with them coming into my life, and saying, 'Hey, we really want you here' -- it's been an amazing thing for me."
On March 17, 2020, after meeting with Robert Kraft at the Patriots owner's house -- a meeting he described as emotional, where tears were shed -- Brady announced he was leaving the Patriots. Kraft later described the meeting as a "really positive, loving moment" and said he "loves Brady like a son."
But such a moment never happened between Brady and Belichick, despite 20 years of history together that included winning six Super Bowls.
In his book "It's Better to Be Feared," which will be published Oct. 12, ESPN senior writer Seth Wickersham writes that Belichick insisted they conduct Brady's exit meeting over the phone -- and Brady told a friend the fact that it came that way was "telling" about how badly the duo's relationship had deteriorated over the years.
"No, that's not true," Belichick said Wednesday when asked if he declined to meet with Brady prior to his departure. "There are a few things about this book; it sounds like it's a lot of second-, third- and fourth-hand comments. I'm not going to get into that. I'm going to focus on this game and try to prepare for the Bucs."
When asked about Belichick, Brady said: "He's a great coach. Has everyone prepared. Does a great job. He was a great mentor for me for a long time. I enjoyed my time in New England."
Brady then quickly steered the discussion toward his current team -- his focus all week after a 34-24 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, the Bucs' first defeat since Nov. 29, 2020.
"I'm super excited about what we've got here," Brady said. "I've got a great group of coaches here, an amazing group of guys that still motivate me and inspire me to be the best I can be for this team and this organization. I've just had a great last 18 months. It's been very fulfilling in a lot of different ways. I love my football experience here as well. ... My 20 years in New England was incredible. I learned a lot. Coming out here for a year and a half, I've learned a lot so ... I have nothing but incredible thoughts, memories, emotions towards the football experiences I've had. That's obviously been the longest. I still have a lot of great friends there, but they know I want to kick their butts this week."