The New England Patriots are set to play their biggest regular-season game in franchise history Sunday as Tom Brady makes his anticipated return to Gillette Stadium.
The homecoming undoubtedly will spark fond memories of the legendary quarterback's tenure in Foxboro, but don't expect the Patriots to get caught up in the moment. Pats running backs coach Ivan Fears perfectly summed up the team's attitude heading into the marquee matchup.
"I love Tom Brady. I always have," Fears said Tuesday. "I spent 20 years with the young guy. I am very honored to have been a part of the team with him. I still think he's the greatest. But right now, that SOB is on the enemy. So however you put it, he's the enemy. I still love him, I think he's a great person, but I'm not going to be sharing any love when it comes to gametime. We'll share that love afterwards when it's all said and done.
"I think he's a hell of a player. He's a great person, hell of a leader. He's got all that stuff going. We miss him, or I should say I miss him as a person. Right now, I'm happy for him, for the success he's had, and I'm looking forward to trying to beat his butt. That's what counts. That's all that matters right now."
Fears has been on the Patriots' staff since Brady was just an unheralded sixth-round pick out of Michigan. The 66-year-old has had a front-row seat to watch Brady go from being Drew Bledsoe's backup to a seven-time Super Bowl champion.
But leading up to Sunday, it's clear there's no time to reminisce about the glory days. The Patriots are focused on shocking Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and turning things around after a 1-2 start to the season.
Kickoff for Patriots-Bucs is scheduled for 8:20 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC.