Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots reacts before a preseason game with the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium on August 31, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Jim Rogash/Getty Images/AFP
FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts — The previous time Patriots quarterback Tom Brady opened a season at home against Kansas City in 2008, it ended with him limping off the field with a season-ending knee injury.
Now nine years removed from the most significant injury of his career, Brady said it is the furthest thing from his mind as New England prepares to host the Chiefs on Thursday night.
“Yeah, I didn’t think about that,” Brady said Monday. “Time flies.”
What’s also a distant memory is the unfamiliar situation he found himself in last season when he was forced to sit out the first four games of 2016 after accepting his four-game “Deflategate” punishment.
Brady brushed off that disappointment by capturing his fifth Super Bowl in February. Now he’s happy just to be thinking about football and how to get the best of a Kansas City team that was the AFC’s No. 2 seed in the playoffs last season.
It’s a unique challenge for a Patriots offense that will have several new options for the 40-year-old quarterback to utilize as he tries to deal with a defense that ranked first in the NFL last season with 33 takeaways.
With minimal new film of Kansas City’s starters to dissect at this point, Brady is expecting to see plenty of wrinkles from what he called an “explosive” unit.
One of the players he singled out was cornerback Marcus Peters. Peters tied for the NFL lead with eight interceptions during the 2015 regular season. He followed that up by tying for second in the league with six picks in 2016.
Brady also is expecting to be challenged by safety Eric Berry and the active linebacker duo of Derrick Johnson and Justin Houston.
“They have playmakers,” Brady said. “When they’re roaming around, you can’t just stare them down right where you want to throw the ball. It’s always a little cat and mouse with safeties and cornerbacks. … That’s why they force that many turnovers.”
But Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said familiarity alone won’t be enough to get Brady off his game.
“I don’t know if it helps. You’re aware of how good he is,” Sutton said. “When you play (271) games, pass for 61,000 yards — or whatever he has — you’re playing against a football player, a quarterback that’s really talented, that has a great skillset — great command of his offense in all regards. It’s just a huge challenge.”
But even at 40, Brady said opening a season in prime time still offers the same excitement as it did early in his career.
“Everyone’s pretty amped up for this one,” he said. “It’s been waiting a long time for this. … It’s a big game and it’s an important one.”