Against all odds, it's officially Super Bowl week in the NFL. The raging COVID-19 pandemic threatened to delete the 2020 regular season before it ever got underway, and again posed several threats to its continuation once it did, but 256 games later, the playoffs were underway and both the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fought their way to Super Bowl LV. Thanks in large part to future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, it's the first time in NFL history a team will host the Super Bowl, but trying to win it and prevent reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes from repeating won't be an easy task.
It's a legacy game of the highest order, and one further spiced with a hint of revenge -- from Brady having ended Mahomes' championship aspirations in overtime of the AFC title game two years ago in Kansas City. This time, Mahomes is bringing it to Brady's [new] backyard, and with his usual ton of artillery to try and counteract a dominant Bucs defense. The road to Super Bowl LV gets underway on Monday with a list of player and coaching interviews, all done virtually as the pandemic forces the NFL into adjusting the biggest week of its season, but considering what could've been -- the excitement for this coming Sunday is at an all-time high.
Top Opening Night takeaways
This year's Opening Night was more like a subdued afternoon because of the pandemic, which limited the first Super Bowl media sessions to a few virtual press conferences. Still, we've got a Tom Brady three-pack of takeaways for you after the opening day:
Brady probably isn't close to retirement
As if there were any doubt. Asked straight-up about his future at age 43, the six-time Super Bowl champion said he'll "definitely consider" playing past 45, which would mean at least three more seasons -- to give him 24 for his career.
"I think I'll know when it's time," Brady said, of retiring. "I don't know when it's time, but I think I'll know ... When I put it all out there and I feel like I can't do that anymore and I can't commit to the team in the way that the team needs me, then I think that's probably time to walk away."
If his production moving forward is anywhere close to his 2020 output with the Buccaneers, you can count on him sticking around.
Brady and Mahomes love each other (for now)
Pleasantries are commonplace at Opening Night media sessions, even among the opposing quarterbacks. This year's opening conferences were no different, with Brady and Patrick Mahomes dedicating praise to one another.
"The way he's able to dissect defenses before the snap is something that I truly admire," Mahomes said of Brady. "I'm trying to get to that level ... As I continue in my career, I'm trying to do whatever I can to watch the tape on him because he's doing it the right way, and you can tell by ... the rings on his fingers."
Just wait until Sunday night. One of these guys -- the one without another ring -- might not be so effusive, at least immediately.
Brady has no hard feelings for Belichick
Anyone hoping for TB12 to spend his Super Bowl Week poking fun at his old boss, Bill Belichick, for failing to return to the Super Bowl without him is probably going to walk away empty-handed. Brady spoke nothing but positives about his longtime coach when asked about Belichick on Monday.
"I have a great relationship with him," Brady said. "I'm just incredibly grateful for what he's meant in my life as a coach. He was everything you could ask for as a player ... I had two incredible decades there. My football journey took me to a different place, and I certainly could never have accomplished the things in my career without his support and his teachings. An incredible coach and mentor for me ... He's at the top of the list."
Arians frustrated over 2021 HC cycle
Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians spent plenty of time discussing the big game on Sunday, but one of his most emotional notes came in response to a question about his offensive coordinator, Byron Leftwich, who went overlooked in this year's head coaching cycle.
"I was very, very pissed Byron at least didn't get an interview this year," Arians said. "For the job that he's done -- I get way too much credit and so does Tom Brady. I think next year people will see he took Jameis Winston -- who broke every single record here for scoring and passing -- and now Tom has broken both."