Tom Brady's Super Bowl heroics last February came with the 43-year-old quarterback knowing he would need surgery on a major left knee injury, the Tampa Bay star revealed Wednesday.
After completing a mini-camp with the reigning NFL champion Buccaneers, Brady told reporters he was pleased with his rehabilitation progress after an operation that been thought to be only a minor arthroscopic clean-up.
"I feel really good," Brady said. "I worked really hard to try to get back to full speed, to get what I need to do, to begin to improve. It has been a good process of learning and I feel like I'm there now."
Brady completed 401 of 610 passes for 4,633 yards and 40 touchdowns with 12 interceptions during the 2020 season, then sparked the Bucs on a playoff run to the title, culminating with a 31-9 Super Bowl win over Kansas City at Tampa, where he was named Super Bowl Most Valuable Player and the oldest quarterback to win the title, the seventh of his career.
All the while, even when he flipped the championship trophy from one boat to another in a parade to celebrate the crown, Brady was nursing a substantial left knee injury.
"It was an injury I dealt with really since last April, May," Brady said. "I knew I'd have to do something at the end of the year and happy I did it.
"It was probably something that certainly needed to be done and there was a great outcome, so I'm very happy about that. I feel I'll be able to do some different things this year than I was able to do last year."
After six Super Bowl titles in 20 years with the New England Patriots, Brady joined Tampa Bay last March and within weeks was struggling with the injury, the details of which he did not reveal.
"I never like to talk about injuries," Brady said. "I'm just a little bit old school in that way. You deal with them and then you just make the most of them.
"The good part is I'll be able to commit a lot of time to other parts. I'm sure I'll be faced with different adversities this year, but I had to spend a lot of time tending to that particular injury, which happens when you have something that you ultimately need to have surgery on to get fixed.
"So I had my knee surgery, and that was about 15 weeks ago today. Really happy with my rehab process."
Brady said his preparations for the 2021 campaign will be easier with the injury rehab behind him.
"From this point to the beginning of training camp, I really feel like I can really work hard at football improvement as opposed to getting back to a place where you're more baseline," Brady said.
Bucs captain Brady is among all 22 Super Bowl starters that are back in Tampa Bay working on a title repeat, a feat last accomplishd by the Brady-led Patriots in 2003 and 2004.
- Things different in '21 -
Brady stressed that he and his teammates could not just assume things would fall into place late in the season as they did in 2020.
"The assumption comes from the belief that it'll just be exactly like it was last year. I think that's what you've got to not fall into," Brady said.
"The reality is everything's different. The teams will approach you a little bit differently. You're kind of the team everyone's watching now. There's different degrees of expectation. There's more external noise.
"The reality is you've got to stay focused on what's really important. How do you improve? How do you get better from week-to-week, day-to-day?"
A year ago, Brady was defying reality by learning a new system with new teammates and keeping his injury a secret.
"It was a very different situation," he said. "Starting at a place like I'm at now allows me a better grasp of things. We're starting at a good place. We just have to build on it."