During his first New England Patriots training camp, Chase Winovich would stay after practice to work 1-on-1 with Tom Brady. He’d simulate a pass rush, then swing a pad at Brady, helping the legendary quarterback work on his evasion.
Why? Because Winovich, a fellow Michigan product who revered Brady, simply viewed it as “a great opportunity to maybe get to know him a little better.”
Two years later, Winovich is preparing for another opportunity. And this time, he’ll be looking to hit Brady for real.
Brady, who left the Patriots for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after Winovich’s rookie season, will make his wildly anticipated return to Gillette Stadium this Sunday, facing off against his former team for the first time.
Winovich can’t wait.
“It’s definitely super cool to have the opportunity to play against Tom Brady,” the Patriots outside linebacker said Monday in a video conference. “I’ve thought about it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it. … I’m just super thankful for the opportunity to have the chance to play against somebody like Tom, and to do it in this setting is truly a blessing. So it’s definitely something I’m not taking for granted.”
Winovich said he even sent his dog away for the week so he can devote additional time to Brady prep.
“Zeus is away, so I’ve been relieved of my dogsitting duties,” he said. “We’re even extra dialed in, ready to roll.”
Asked what he remembers about his one season with Brady, Winovich initially deadpanned a story about Brady sneakily cutting his long, blonde hair on the sideline during a 2019 preseason game (“Nobody cuts my hair except Cheryl Holliday, my stylist”) before raving about the 44-year-old QB’s leadership and “cool” factor.
“I know better than to give Tom any fuel,” Winovich said. “Honestly, he’s someone that I really look up to. I’ve managed to learn so many lessons during our time together, just from an inspiration standpoint, a leadership standpoint and just a way of operating and a way of existing. There’s few people that I’ve ever met that are cooler and do it better than Tom. So it’s something that I definitely cherished, but this is a different week.”
Different or not, the Patriots need to start stacking up wins regardless of opponent. Their 28-13 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday dropped them to 1-2 on the young season, putting them in a precarious spot entering this week’s matchup.
Brady’s Bucs are the defending Super Bowl champions and just lost their first game since last November, falling 34-24 to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 3.
“This is a huge, huge game,” Winovich said. “There’s a reason that tickets are the prices that they are. But with that being said, I would say that it just falls into the category of ‘the noise.’ No matter how inflated the game may appear, at the end of the day, what it comes down to is a lot of 1-on-1s, a lot of fundamentals and technique and assignments and just beating the man across from you.
“I’m just focused on having a good week of preparation, taking care of my body, making sure I get enough rest and hydrated and I’m eating enough food, my hands, my body and my mind are sharp and strong, just taking care of all of that stuff and then hoping and letting the rest of it fall into place as opposed to getting caught up in the excitement. We need a big week because we’re in the NFL. If you don’t have a big week, you’re going to be in trouble.”
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