The New England Patriots play an important game this Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, but it's hard not to look ahead to Oct. 3.
That's when Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady returns to Gillette Stadium for the first time since his 20-year tenure with the Patriots ended in March 2020. It should be a fascinating scene in Foxboro, with Brady squaring off against his former head coach, Bill Belichick, and several of his longtime ex-teammates.
One of those ex-teammates, Jerod Mayo, is now New England's inside linebackers coach. Mayo was asked Tuesday if it will be weird going up against Brady as a coach after eight seasons as his teammate from 2008 to 2015.
Mayo's answer: nope.
"It wouldn’t be weird at all," Mayo said in a video press conference. "We’re both competitors. You always want to coach against the best.
"And I think Tom’s a great -- obviously he’s a great quarterback, a very cerebral person. I kind of look at myself the same way. I definitely would enjoy the challenge."
That's a refreshingly honest and straightforward answer from Mayo, whose first year as a Patriots assistant coach (2019) was Brady's last in New England. Mayo obviously has a ton of respect for Brady, but he's also looking forward to trying to beat him in two weeks. (We're guessing Brady has the same mindset.)
You'll probably hear different responses from Patriots coaches and players when asked about Brady's return; some, like Belichick, will keep their answers short and polite, while others, like Byron Cowart, might argue that Brady shouldn't get any special treatment.
But the current Patriots who spent the most time with Brady likely feel similarly to Mayo: Nothing but respect for the guy ... and eager for the opportunity to hand him a rare loss.
Patriots-Bucs is set for Sunday, Oct. 3 at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC's Sunday Night Football.