Panthers not taking Tom Brady lightly

Tom Brady

CHARLOTTE — When you mention Tom Brady's name, four letters of respect usually aren't far away:


A six-time Super Bowl champion and three-time league MVP, Brady's accolades are too long to list. But even at the age of 43, he commands respect because everyone knows what he's capable of.

"I grew up a Colts fan in Indianapolis, so definitely have a lot of memories of Tom Brady," said rookie safety Jeremy Chinn, who was two years old when Brady made his NFL debut in 2000. "The kid in me is really excited, but there's also a job to be done, and I'm excited to have that opportunity."

Panthers safety Juston Burris faced Brady as a member of the Browns last year. While playing the future Hall of Famer seems like it would carry a mystique from afar, it doesn't feel that way in the middle of a game.

"He's an NFL player just like we are," Burris said. "Once you start playing a game, you've got to go get him. You can't be scared of him just because of what he's done in the past. He's trying to win just like we're trying to win. You've got to go make plays on him."

Veteran middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead took on Brady once with the Lions back in 2014. Detroit lost that game, 34-9, and Whitehead has one lasting impression.

"I think he had a good hold on the fans and making sure that they were quiet when he was on the field because he's listening to every single last thing you're talking about on defense," Whitehead said. "He'll come up, he'll give a check, and then we're talking on defense. And he's looking at you and shaking his head and smiling, like, 'Yeah, I know what that call is.'"

Brady's command was even more apparent in the Patriots' 27-13 victory over the Browns in 2019.

"You'll see him actually controlling the game," Burris said. "There's very few quarterbacks you can who are truly managing the game, who is truly a general of the game, and Tom Brady is one of them."

Defensive coordinator Phil Snow had a similar impression of Brady's football acumen when scheming against him as the Lions linebackers coach in 2006. Detroit was up 21-13 in that game early in the fourth quarter, but Brady engineered a pair of scoring drives to win, 28-21.

"(He) knows what you're in, takes what you give him, and executes," Snow said. "That's who Brady is, and I don't think that's changed.

"He's as smart as he's ever been, and he can still throw the ball when he needs to."

Brady doesn't often take sacks either, as he has a penchant for getting rid of the ball quickly. But bringing him down would be a dream come true for any pass rusher, including defensive end Brian Burns.

"I was close to sacking him last year in the preseason when we played the Patriots," Burns said. "But now I've got two opportunities to do it, so I'm excited about it."

In many ways, Brady is defying Father Time by playing quarterback at 43 years old. But he has looked human in his most recent starts. He's thrown a pick-six in three consecutive games, dating back to New England's Week 17 matchup against Miami, and he threw two interceptions in last week's loss in New Orleans.

Still, Brady has earned the benefit of the doubt to think that he will bounce back until proven otherwise. He threw for over 4,000 yards for the third consecutive season last year — his eighth time in the previous nine seasons going over the mark. The only time he didn't was when he served a four-game suspension to start the 2016 season.

That's why no one is taking arguably the greatest quarterback who's ever lived lightly in this Week 2 matchup.

"He's done a lot of great things in the NFL," Burris said. "He's still a capable player who can get the job done."

Carolina is 25-19 all-time against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, posting a 13-10 record at home and 12-9 on the road.

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