Locked in a fourth-quarter duel with the New York Giants — the one-win New York Giants — you couldn’t have blamed Tom Brady if he wished he had been able to bring one of his housemates to the game.
No, not his supermodel wife or any of his three children.
Antonio Brown, the mercurial, if massively talented, wide receiver signed with Tampa Bay a couple weeks ago, but was still serving the end of his eight-game NFL suspension for multiple violations of the league’s personal conduct policy.
To help Brown get comfortable, or maybe to keep him on the straight and narrow, Brady had AB move into his Tampa home. Since it’s a 30,000-square-foot, waterfront mansion (which Brady rents from Derek Jeter) there is, presumably, plenty of space. It has seven bedrooms, after all.
Teammates. Housemates. Whatever it takes.
“He’s just getting settled, and l know he’s looking for places,” Brady said on his weekly Westwood One show Monday, just before he led the Buccaneers to a come-from-behind 25-23 victory that wasn’t settled until a failed, final-minute New York two-point conversion.
“It’s nice to have him around. It’s a big transition for him moving across the state not knowing anyone. I’m just trying to be a good teammate and help somebody out.”
In general, moving all the way from Miami to Tampa isn’t much of a transition, especially for a 32-year-old multimillionaire such as Brown. Then again, this is Antonio Brown. Across nine starring seasons in Pittsburgh, he led the league in receiving yards (twice) and touchdown receptions (once).
Ever since, he has led it in self-inflicted wounds.
Consider that Brown and Brady were teammates last year, at least for one game. AB joined the New England Patriots after orchestrating his way out of Oakland — where he signed but never played — via bizarre antics. Frostbite. Helmets. Instagram. You name it.
AB lasted just one game in New England. He recorded four receptions and one touchdown. Then, he self-destructed, reportedly sending threatening text messages to a woman who was accusing him of sexual misconduct. The Pats cut him soon after, and the NFL suspended him half a season.
Brown is an elite talent, arguably the league’s best receiver. Guys like that get chance after chance, including signing with Tampa as his suspension wound down.
If Brown is even remotely as good as his Steeler days — and Brady seems to believe he is — then it’s worth letting the guy crash at your house.
That much was apparent as the Bucs slogged through a Monday night affair with the generally hapless Giants. The offense wasn’t clicking. The Bucs trailed 14-6 at the half.
“It was on the skill guys, not getting open,” receiver Mike Evans said on ESPN.
It got better, and Brady finished with 279 yards passing by spraying it around. Eight Bucs caught passes, including touchdowns by Evans and Rob Gronkowski. While they were missing Chris Godwin, a key cog to the attack, it was clear another weapon wouldn’t hurt.
“He is an unbelievable receiver, one of the best of all time,” Evans said of AB. “He is going to help us a lot. Hopefully take some double teams off of me and just make plays like he always has.”
Brady is 43. He isn’t doing this for a paycheck anymore. He isn’t doing it just to play. He is doing this to win a seventh Super Bowl.
That’s always been his ultimate goal, and at this stage of life, his only one. He went looking for the best opportunity to win a title. Tampa was it. And Tampa has plenty to make a run. It is 6-2 heading into a NFC South heavyweight match with New Orleans next week. The Bucs will now do so with an embarrassment of offensive options.
Brady knows what a Super Bowl roster looks like. He knows you don’t leave opportunity to chance. He knows one more punch of talent can be the difference.
He knows truly great teams don’t get locked in a final-minute battle with the 1-7 Giants.
The Bucs needed more. He lobbied the Bucs for another receiver.
That’s what got Antonio Brown signed. And that’s what got him a spot in one of Brady’s spare bedrooms.
If that’s what it takes, then that’s what it takes. Next week, they can commute to the game together.