A look back at Tom Brady’s NFL preseason debut 22 years ago in Canton

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Tom Brady’s NFL career began, appropriately enough, in Canton, Ohio.

Thursday night’s Hall of Fame game between the Jaguars and Raiders kicked off another NFL preseason. A little over 22 years ago, on July 31, 2000, the same game saw the Patriots and the 49ers face off.

Brady, now 45, will be sidelined for this year’s Bucs preseason opener next weekend against the Dolphins, but in 2000 he was just another humble replacement with the Patriots, waiting until the fourth quarter to see his first professional shots.

As if playing Canton wasn’t perfect enough, Brady’s debut came against the 49ers, the team he grew up playing for in Northern California, and San Francisco was in the game because Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott was among those inducted into the Hall of Fame over the weekend, watching part of the game from the 49ers sideline.

Brady’s first outing in the NFL was unremarkable. He entered the game with 9:36 left with the Patriots leading 20-0, and went 3-of-4 for 28 yards. His first pass was an 8-yard throw to receiver Sean Morey, and he added short completions to running back Chris Floyd (his former Michigan teammate) and receiver Shockmain Davis. After a practice he came back into the game, only to take a knee twice in the winning formation in the dying seconds.

“Tom was in a position where they already had three quarterbacks, and I was the 18th receiver and there were only 15 in the camp (laughs), and the reality is you only have a limited number of reps in practice,” said Morey, who played one season in New England, later winning a Super Bowl ring with the Steelers. “So after practice Tom and I would do the two minute drill, down and back twice, and my tongue was hanging out and my legs felt like rubber. All of his throws were like transfers, they were so accurate.

The Associated Press story on the game made no mention of Brady, with much of the attention that night on ‘Saturday Night Live’ star Dennis Miller, who made his cabin debut. broadcast “Monday Night Football” that night. Even the game’s history on the Patriots’ official website makes no mention of Brady. The New York Times story on the game mentions rookie quarterbacks, but it was San Francisco’s Giovanni Carmazzi, drafted ahead of Brady that year, and 49ers seventh-rounder Tim Rattay.

“It was an interesting game, because we started off on Tim Rattay’s trail a bit and (late quarters coach) Dick Rehbein went over there and coached him at (Louisiana Tech),” said Patriots coach Bill Belichick told NBC Sports in 2016. “They ran a big offense and he had a lot of big numbers. We kinda liked him, thought he might be a late-round pick. Then we had Brady, so it was sort of Brady (in round six) and Rattay in round seven. Luckily, we took Brady, they took Rattay, and here they are playing against each other. So we kind of took a look at that. I guess we took the right one.

Not a week later, Brady and Morey would reconnect, this time a more auspicious sign of things to come. In a preseason game with the Lions tied at 10, Brady won the ball with 49 seconds left, threw a 12-yard pass for a first down, then connected with Morey on a 47 pass. yards at the Detroit 10, setting up an Adam Vinatieri field goal with six seconds left for the win.

“The opportunity to come and go on the pitch during the two-minute drill with Tom and understand how it works, that’s how I built teams for the rest of my career,” said Morey. “The story I always cite when I talk to friends who follow up on ‘You caught Brady’s first pass’ is that I think I caught his first pass in training camp. We broke up huddle and he kicked me in the butt and said ‘Let’s go. I come to you.’ I just ran a loop, but it felt like the last practice of a playoff game. He instilled that sense of urgency, and he commanded a presence. It was an awesome experience.”

Setting up a game-winning field goal in the last minute also meant avoiding unnecessary preseason overtime, and as a sign of how much his Patriots teammates appreciated that — and how long it had been — Brady told the Boston Globe this week. there that a teammate let him borrow his portable DVD player as a thank you for finishing the game.

“These guys didn’t want to keep playing,” Brady told The Globe. “One of the guys let me use his DVD player because he was like, ‘At least you didn’t keep me another half hour.’ So that was fine.

Oddly enough, Morey has other personal ties to today’s Bucs. He won a Super Bowl with Pittsburgh in 2005 with Bruce Arians as receivers coach, and he’s from the same Massachusetts town (Marshfield) as Bucs snapper Zach Triner, who went to his teams’ summer camps special as he grew up.

Sure, Brady quickly became a superstar whose health was more important than getting snaps at August shows, and yet over 22 years his preseason career is prolific, passing 5,920 yards. , 46 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. That first year, Brady was out of place enough to sit out two of New England’s five preseason games, but in the last he had his first touchdown pass in the NFL, connecting with the catcher Dane Looker.

This pre-season, Brady was just a late rookie trying to stay in the final cuts, and a quote at The Globe about the importance of focusing on daily improvement sounds a lot like a post-practice quote from Brady. today, when his work is much more secure.

“I go out there every day, trying to improve and see how good I can be because there are a lot of good quarterbacks here,” Brady said. “It’s so competitive that you just have to go out and worry about yourself, worry about finishing balls when you’re in it, and hopefully getting better every day. Then hopefully the coach sees something he can work with and then you can get your shot.

(Photo: Carlos Osorio/Associated Press)

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