Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan insisted the team's Super Bowl LI meltdown has "no bearing" on Sunday's NFL clash with Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Brady was part of the New England Patriots team that completed the largest comeback in Super Bowl history after rallying past the Falcons in 2017.

Ryan's Falcons surrendered a 28-3 lead as the Patriots sensationally prevailed 34-28 in overtime.

Falcons veteran Ryan will do battle against Brady, who now wears a Buccaneers jersey after leading Tampa Bay to the Super Bowl last season.

But that Super Bowl collapse is not in Ryan's head, with the 36-year-old – who is 0-5 against Brady in his career – discussing the infamous defeat on Wednesday.

"I haven't," Ryan said when he heard a reference to the Super Bowl LI loss. "I never heard of it."

The Falcons lost 32-6 to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1 after Ryan (21-of-35 passing for 164 yards) did not throw a touchdown.

Ryan threw for 164 yards, his fewest in a game since Week 7 of 2019 (159) and his second fewest to open a season in his career, behind only the 161 yards in his first career game in 2008, per Stats Perform.

It was Atlanta's worst loss to open a season since losing by 38 in their opening game in 1987. The Falcons made field goals on each of their first two drives and then either punted or had a turnover on downs in each drive after that.

"Of course we want to win. It's not going to make up for that," Ryan said, discussing the Super Bowl defeat to the Patriots. "You know, it's one of those things. It's part of your past, it's part of what happened.

"But it's got no bearing on this week."

Tom Brady was grateful for Ryan Succop's last-gasp field goal as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened the 2021 NFL season with a dramatic win over the Dallas Cowboys.

The Bucs' Super Bowl defence looked set to begin with a loss as they trailed 29-28 with seven seconds remaining in Thursday's opening-night thriller at Raymond Jones Stadium.

But inspired by seven-time Super Bowl winner Brady, the hosts edged a see-saw battle 31-29 thanks to Succop's game-winning kick in the dying seconds.

After surviving a scare against the Cowboys, Brady accepts there is plenty of work for his side to do.

"The margin of error is thin in the NFL," he said. "One or two plays, it's always that's the way the game goes. Fortunately, we found a way to win. 

"I'm really happy Ryan and the field goal team made that really clutch kick there at the end. That was great to see. But as a team, we all know we've got to get back to work.

"We won, it's great, but we know that it was far from perfect and we have to get back to work and clean a lot of stuff up."

Brady completed 32 of 50 passes for 379 yards against the Cowboys and passed Drew Brees for most career passing touchdowns in season openers in NFL history with 43.

Cowboys counterpart Dak Prescott, making his comeback from a long lay-off, was 42-for-58 passing, with 403 yards, three TDs and one interception.

Prescott has now had 400-plus yards in four games since the start of last season – the most by any player in the NFL.

But from the Bucs' perspective, it was far from a vintage performance as they committed 11 penalties for 106 yards and converted just two of six third-down tries.

"We've got a lot a lot to learn," head coach Bruce Arians said. "I'm obviously not pleased with the start of the game, though I loved the finish. 

"Our guys are winning. They're going to finish and we're going to win, but we can play better and not put ourselves in that situation."

Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won an opening-night thriller in the NFL, the Super Bowl champions overcoming the Dallas Cowboys 31-29 thanks to a field goal with two seconds remaining.

The Cowboys led 29-28 with seven seconds on the clock at Raymond Jones Stadium – the home of the Buccaneers and the scene of their Super Bowl LV triumph in February.

But after Brady led an 11-play, 57-yard drive, Ryan Succop stepped up to convert the last-gasp field goal as the Buccaneers opened the 2021 season with a win.

It was another memorable outing for seven-time Super Bowl champion Brady (43), who passed Drew Brees for most career passing touchdowns in season openers in NFL history.

Brady completed 32 of 50 passes for 379 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions as the 44-year-old quarterback fuelled the Buccaneers.

Cowboys counterpart Dak Prescott – back on the field for the first time since his season-ending ankle injury in Week 5 of the 2020 season – was 42-for-58 passing, with 403 yards, three TDs and one interception.

Prescott has had 400-plus yards in four games since the start of last season – the most by any player in the NFL.

The Buccaneers and Cowboys traded touchdowns in the opening quarter – Brady finding Chris Godwin before Prescott's 22-yard pass was caught by CeeDee Lamb inside the final two minutes.

Brady and Rob Gronkowski connected for a touchdown as the Buccaneers reclaimed the lead and while Prescott's TD pass to Amari Cooper and a Greg Zuerlein field goal put Dallas ahead, Tampa Bay had the last say before half-time – Antonio Brown on the end of a 47-yard throw.

There was history made in the third quarter as Brady and Gronkowski combined for their 100th touchdown, the star pair joining Hall of Famers Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison (114) in the 100 club.

With his 22nd career game with multiple receiving TDs, Gronkowski broke a tie with Antonio Gates for most games by a tight end in the Super Bowl era and moved into a tie for sixth in any position.

Dallas only trailed 28-26 entering the final period thanks to Cooper's second TD and the visitors took the lead with just over a minute remaining via another Zuerlein field goal, but Succop and the Buccaneers were not to be denied.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are expecting Dak Prescott to be at his best as the Dallas Cowboys quarterback returns to action in Thursday's NFL season opener. 

Prescott did not play in the pre-season and has not seen live game action since suffering a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle last October against the New York Giants. 

But Cowboys CEO and director of player personnel Stephen Jones said Tuesday that Prescott is "100 per cent ready to go" for the game and he has "total confidence in Dak and how he feels about what he can do for this football team." 

The defending Super Bowl champions are of similar mind, said Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians. 

"Knowing him [Prescott] personally like I do, there's no change in him, with the way he's gonna play," Arians told reporters. "He only knows one way how to play, and that's full-speed."

At full speed, Prescott is one of the most dangerous playmakers in the NFL. In his last full healthy season, 2019, Prescott led the NFL with 4,902 passing yards and 30 touchdowns, and added 277 yards and three more TDs running the ball. 

He was off to a similarly effective start before going down in Week 5 last season, completing 68 per cent of his passes for 1,856 yards with nine passing and three rushing touchdowns. 

The opposing quarterback Thursday, Tom Brady, can relate to returning from a serious leg injury. He spoke Tuesday of his mindset in coming back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in his left knee in the first quarter of the 2008 opener, an injury that cost him the rest of the season. 

"We kind of feel invincible at times, especially playing a really physical sport, but I think one thing about getting injured is we're not invincible," Brady said. "I think you have a different perspective when you come back.

"You're really disappointed when you lose games, but it's more disappointing when you don't get to play in games. I'd rather play and lose than not play at all, as crazy as that sounds. If you're not playing it just means you're at home.

"I remember that was a tough year just sitting, watching, watching all my teammates, and I made a pretty conscious decision I was gonna do everything I could at that point to stay healthy as I could my entire career."

Brady has, starting every game since the 2009 season opener aside from his four-game "Deflategate" suspension at the beginning of the 2016 season. 

As he prepares to begin his 22nd NFL season, Brady knows he and his team will need to out-play Prescott and the Cowboys to get off to the start they want. 

"[Prescott is] a really talented player," Brady said. "Really since the day he got in the league he's shown to be a great leader of the team, and you know we're just expecting him to play like that, like Dak Prescott does.

"He's very talented, moves in the pocket, throws a good ball, they've got a lot of talented skill players.

"So for us, offensively, we're gonna have to do a good job putting our defence in a good position, I don't think we can give any extra possessions.

"Turnovers will be a big factor, field position is going to be important. It's a big challenge for our team."

Tom Brady has confirmed he contracted coronavirus shortly after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl and predicted this season will be even more challenging for the NFL. 

The 44-year-old led the Buccaneers to glory in February – his record-extending seventh Super Bowl ring – and celebrated accordingly with his team-mates over the following days, including a boat parade for the newly crowned champions.

Brady has since been fully vaccinated, along with the whole roster, as the Bucs get ready for a new campaign. 

With vaccinated players permitted to leave their hotels on the road and visit families this coming season, however, as well as fans returning to stadiums, the veteran quarterback believes the changes could have an impact. 

Asked if he already had coronavirus, Brady told the Tampa Bay Times: "Yeah. And I think it's going to be challenging this year. 

"I actually think it's going to play more of a factor this year than last year, just because of the way what we're doing now and what the stadium is going to look like and what the travel is going to look like and the people in the building and the fans. 

"It's not like last year, although we're getting tested like last year. It's going to be, I definitely think guys are going to be out at different points and we've just got to deal with it." 

Four Bucs players have already gone on the reserve/COVID-19 list: Ryan Succop, Ndamukong Suh, Nick Leverett and Earl Watford. 

Head coach Bruce Arians and his team are seeking to become the first since the New England Patriots in 2003 and 2004 to retain the Vince Lombardi Trophy. 

Tampa Bay open the season against the Dallas Cowboys on September 9 and Brady, who is preparing for his 22nd season at the age of 44, reiterated last week he has no plans to retire just yet. 

"I'll know when the time's right. If I can't … if I'm not a championship-level quarterback, then I'm not gonna play," he told Peter King's Football Morning in America. 

"If I'm a liability to the team, I mean, no way. But if I think I can win a championship, then I'll play." 

David Patten, a three-time Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots, has died at the age of 47, his agent has confirmed.

Patten played for the Patriots between 2001 and 2004 and won three Championship rings with the franchise.

He had previously played for the Cleveland Browns and the New York Giants and went on to have spells in Washington and New Orleans before returning to Ohio and then New England to round off his career as an offseason and practice squad member.

The former wide receiver, who had been the assistant coach of the Western Carolina Catamounts since 2013, cemented his place in Pats history when he caught Tom Brady's first postseason touchdown pass to put New England 14-3 ahead against the St. Louis Rams in 2002. 

New England went on to win 20-17, with the catch the only one Patten made in the game. It was Brady's first Super Bowl success, and the quarterback went on to become an all-time great, winning the Championship game on seven occasions, most recently with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this year.

Patten tallied up 4,715 regular-season receiving yards over a 12-year career in the NFL, and 106 for rushing.

On Friday, news of his passing was confirmed by Sam Gordon, who runs the G2 Management agency of which Patten was a client.

"Today, I woke up to the worst news you could hear," Gordon posted on Instagram, alongside a photo of himself and Patten.

"My close friend and childhood hero David Patten passed away suddenly last night.

"Very rarely do people get to call their childhood heroes/favorite players their friends. Or even have them take a chance on you. You blessed with me with that. You blessed me with your belief in me when I was getting my company off of the ground.

"But most important of all, you were there to talk when the stress was too great and I was unsure of myself in my field. Mr Patten. My friend, my hero, the first one to believe in me as a manager/agent. I will miss you every day.

"Thank you David Patten. Thank you so much for your friendship, your inspiration, believing in me and trusting me to be your manager."

Richard Seymour, who was Patten's team-mate during his stint with the Patriots, tweeted: "heartbroken... great man of God… lost for words – David Patten..."

A whirlwind day last Friday saw Manchester United reach an agreement with Juventus to bring Cristiano Ronaldo back to the club.

The deal was confirmed just hours after it had looked likely the Portugal star would be heading to Premier League champions Manchester City instead.

According to reports, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer encouraged the club to enter the race when it began to seem inevitable Ronaldo would head to the Etihad Stadium. Contact from Bruno Fernandes, Rio Ferdinand and even Alex Ferguson helped persuade Ronaldo that a return to Manchester could mean only one thing.

It all made for a short-lived but extraordinary transfer saga that ended with United re-signing a player who made history with the club between 2003 and 2009, winning three Premier League titles, the Champions League and the first of his five Ballons d'Or.

Here, Stats Perform looks at some other deals that caused a shock in the sporting world...

 

Lionel Messi: Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, 2021

In the most sensational free transfer of all time, PSG again laid down a marker to the football world with the signing of Lionel Messi on a two-year contract. Just as he looked to sign a new Barcelona contract, the club informed him that their dire financial situation meant they could not bring their greatest ever player back under LaLiga's salary restrictions after his previous deal expired in June. A tearful Messi said farewell to the only club he had ever played for before heading to the fanfare of Paris and a reunion with Neymar.

Neymar: Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, 2017

The Brazilian had formed a potent attacking trio with Messi and Luis Suarez at Camp Nou but a move to PSG was inevitable when the French side met his world-record buyout clause of €222million. He has played an important role in their continued dominance of French domestic football but has so far been unable to guide them to Champions League glory. He was reduced to tears by his side's 1-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in the 2020 final and then failed to inspire the team in the 2021 semis as Manchester City knocked them out.

LeBron James: Cleveland Cavaliers to Miami Heat, 2010

Basketball icon James announced he would sign with the Miami Heat instead of returning to his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a six-time All-Star, James added to the spectacle of the stunning move by announcing it on a special television broadcast called The Decision. He enjoyed four years in Miami, where he won a pair of NBA titles, before returning to the Cavaliers in 2014. 

Tom Brady: New England Patriots to Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2020

Few people expected Brady to leave the Patriots after 20 years and six Super Bowl victories. Not only did one of the game's greatest ever quarterbacks leave, but he joined one of the least successful franchises in NFL history and instantly guided them to glory, leading the Buccaneers to the franchise's second Lombardi Trophy with a 31-9 triumph over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.

Luis Figo: Barcelona to Real Madrid, 2000

Should Messi ever return to Camp Nou as an opposition player it is unlikely he will be on the receiving end of the kind of abuse that greeted Figo. Barca fans threw bottles, lighters and even a pig's head at the Portuguese star when he went back to Camp Nou with Los Blancos in the seasons following his controversial move.

Wayne Gretzky: Edmonton Oilers to Los Angeles Kings, 1988

In 1988, the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings agreed a deal that shook the NHL to its core. The trade left Canada in disbelief, with a member of the country's parliament even proposing the federal government block the trade or buy Gretzky's contract and sell it to another Canadian team. "The Great One" would go on to enjoy eight successful years in Los Angeles before spells with St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers superstar Tom Brady said he will continue playing for as long as he can win Super Bowls.

Brady – who is the most successful player in NFL history with seven Super Bowl rings – is preparing for his 22nd season at the age of 44.

The veteran quarterback led the Buccaneers to glory last season before undergoing knee surgery, having earned Super Bowl MVP honours and a contract extension in Tampa.

Tampa Bay open their season against the Dallas Cowboys on September 9 and Brady has no plans to retire just yet.

"I'll know when the time's right. If I can't … if I'm not a championship-level quarterback, then I'm not gonna play," Brady told Peter King's Football Morning in America.

"If I'm a liability to the team, I mean, no way. But if I think I can win a championship, then I'll play."

Brady added: "I love playing football. [Offensive coordinator] Byron Leftwich said something really good the other day: It's a very simple game that's so hard to execute.

"It's a totally imperfect game that you're trying to do as perfectly as possible. Every day I come out trying to do it. I'm hoping this is my best year."

Brady – in his first season with the Buccaneers after 20 successful years at the New England Patriots – claimed his seventh Lombardi Trophy as Tampa Bay became the first team in NFL history to win the Super Bowl at their home stadium, ending the Kansas City Chiefs' hopes of retaining the title in a 31-9 rout.

He threw for 4,633 yards and 40 touchdowns with 12 interceptions, his passer rating of 102.2 his highest since his MVP season of 2017 (102.8).

Only Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes had more completions of 20 yards or more than Brady's 63 as he experienced a revival as a downfield passer in Tampa.

In the playoffs, he helped the Bucs come through a gauntlet, winning three games on the road to get to the Super Bowl.

By defeating Mahomes and the Chiefs, the Bucs became the first team to win three games against former Super Bowl MVPs in the same postseason having also seen off Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints and Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

Tom Brady is a seven-time Super Bowl champion who celebrated his 44th birthday earlier this month, but the evergreen Tampa Bay Buccaneers superstar is not slowing down ahead of the NFL season.

Brady – who is the most successful player in NFL history – is gearing up for his 22nd season in the league after guiding the Buccaneers to glory last term.

The quarterback underwent a knee operation following Super Bowl LV, which he earned MVP honours and a contract extension.

Brady has already defied his age, but Father Time is not derailing the former New England Patriots QB.

"It's really fun for me. I love physically to train and put myself in a position to compete," Brady told reporters on Wednesday.

"I love the mental aspect of the sport. I have a lot of fun doing it. It's a lot of joy in my life.

"You can do anything with people you want to be with. You're with your kids, you're with your family, it doesn't matter if you're at the park, the house, the movies, you'll have a great time."

Brady – in his first season with the Buccaneers after 20 successful years at the Patriots – claimed his seventh Lombardi Trophy as Tampa Bay became the first team in NFL history to win the Super Bowl at their home stadium, ending the Kansas City Chiefs' hopes of retaining the title in a 31-9 rout.

He threw for 4,633 yards and 40 touchdowns with 12 interceptions, his passer rating of 102.2 his highest since his MVP season of 2017 (102.8).

Only Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes had more completions of 20 yards or more than Brady's 63 as he experienced a revival as a downfield passer in Tampa.

In the playoffs, he helped the Bucs come through a gauntlet, winning three games on the road to get to the Super Bowl.

By defeating Mahomes and the Chiefs, the Bucs became the first team to win three games against former Super Bowl MVPs in the same postseason having also seen off Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints and Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

"We've got to keep earning it," Brady said. "I don't think there's any aspect of me that thinks what I've done last year means anything. I've got to go do it this year."

The Buccaneers will open their title defence against the Dallas Cowboys on September 9.

Paris Saint-Germain have once again rocked the world of sport after they confirmed the signing of Lionel Messi.

As bizarre as that may look written down, the deal is complete with the Argentina forward signing a two-year deal following his Barcelona departure.

Barca announced last Thursday that their dire financial situation meant they could not bring their greatest ever player back under LaLiga's salary restrictions after his previous contract expired in June. He had spent his entire career at Camp Nou.

But the Parc des Princes now beckons and he will form probably the most-feared front three in world football alongside Kylian Mbappe and his old friend Neymar.

It's with the Brazilian where Stats Perform starts in this look at a selection of other sporting deals that shocked the world.

 

Neymar: Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, 2017

The Brazilian had formed a potent attacking trio with Messi and Luis Suarez at Camp Nou but a move to PSG was inevitable when the French side met his world-record buyout clause of €222million. He has played an important role in their continued dominance of French domestic football but has so far been unable to guide them to Champions League glory. He was reduced to tears by his side's 1-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in the 2020 final and then failed to inspire the team in the 2021 semis as Manchester City knocked them out. But maybe Messi will be the final piece of the puzzle...

LeBron James: Cleveland Cavaliers to Miami Heat, 2010

Basketball icon James announced he would sign with the Miami Heat instead of returning to his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a six-time All-Star, James added to the spectacle of the stunning move by announcing it on a special television broadcast called The Decision. He enjoyed four years in Miami, where he won a pair of NBA titles, before returning to the Cavaliers in 2014. 

Tom Brady: New England Patriots to Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2020

Few people expected Brady to leave the Patriots after 20 years and six Super Bowl victories. Not only did one of the game's greatest ever quarterbacks leave, but he joined one of the least successful franchises in NFL history and instantly guided them to glory, leading the Buccaneers to the franchise's second Lombardi Trophy with a 31-9 triumph over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.

Luis Figo: Barcelona to Real Madrid, 2000

Should Messi ever return to Camp Nou as an opposition player it is unlikely he will be on the receiving end of the kind of abuse that greeted Figo. Barca fans threw bottles, lighters and even a pig's head at the Portuguese star when he went back to Camp Nou with Los Blancos in the seasons following his controversial move. 

Wayne Gretzky: Edmonton Oilers to Los Angeles Kings, 1988

In 1988, the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings agreed a deal that shook the NHL to its core. The trade left Canada in disbelief, with a member of the country's parliament even proposing the federal government block the trade or buy Gretzky's contract and sell it to another Canadian team. "The Great One" would go on to enjoy eight successful years in Los Angeles before spells with St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers.

NFL players, as a rule, tend to be rather large men. Even taking that into consideration, the rings the Tampa Bay Buccaneers received Thursday for winning Super Bowl LV were something to behold. 

The rings, which were presented in a private ceremony, feature 319 diamonds as a nod to the 31-9 final score of the Bucs' triumph over the Kansas City Chiefs in February. 

The top of each ring twists off to reveal a rendering of Raymond James Stadium, where Tampa Bay became the first team to win a Super Bowl on their home field, and engraved scores from all of the Bucs' playoff games. 

Beyond that first-of-its-kind feature, the rings are striking for their sheer size, dwarfing the fingers of the Super Bowl champs. 

"They're not so much rings, they're more like trophies that you wear on your finger," Brady said in a video released by the team. "This is by far the most incredible ring that’s ever been made."

That's saying something for a man who now has seven of them.

Brady and other Bucs players had an input in the rings' design, with the final result a collaborative product that packs as much symbolism as possible into a piece of jewelry. 

"You accomplish something of that magnitude, you want to be able to show for it," said linebacker Devin White. 

 

Tom Brady's Super Bowl triumph with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was watched by a disbelieving audience, giving him something in common with US president Joe Biden.

Brady and the Bucs visited the White House on Tuesday in honour of their Super Bowl LV win over the Kansas City Chiefs, the former New England Patriots quarterback winning a scarcely fathomable seventh Lombardi Trophy at the age of 43.

And he humorously compared that success to president Biden's win in last November's presidential election, which continues to be disputed by former president Donald Trump and his supporters despite no evidence to support claims of election fraud.

"Not a lot of people think we could've won," said Brady in his speech. "In fact, I think about 40 per cent of the people still don't think we won."

"I understand that," president Biden replied. 

Making a pointed reference to the build-up to the election in which then-president Trump and the Republicans frequently referred to president Biden as "sleepy Joe", Brady added: "We had a game in Chicago where I forgot what down it was.

"I lost track of one down in 21 years of playing and they started calling me... Sleepy Tom. Why would they do that to me?!"

Tampa Bay begin their title defence against the Dallas Cowboys on September 9, and it is safe to say nobody will be sleeping on the Buccaneers' chances of retaining the crown.

Tom Brady stunned the NFL and wider sporting world by winning a seventh Super Bowl title at age 43, and he reportedly achieved that feat while battling an injury that would ruin the season for most players.

Brady revealed in May that his offseason knee surgery that was originally reported as a "clean-up" back in February was, in fact, "pretty serious".

And the extent of the problem was fully disclosed on Thursday, with NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reporting Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to Super Bowl glory in his first season with the team through the pain of playing on a completely torn medial collateral ligament (MCL).

The difficulty level of leading a new team to a championship, having previously spent the past 20 years with the New England Patriots and winning six titles, while battling a knee issue of that severity cannot be overstated.

However, after the Bucs lost three of four games to head into the bye week 7-5, Brady made it look remarkably easy, guiding Tampa Bay to eight straight wins, a streak capped off with a 31-9 rout of the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV, as they captured the Lombardi Trophy for the second time in franchise history.

Brady finished his maiden season with the Buccaneers with 4,633 passing yards (third in the NFL), 40 touchdowns (tied-second) and 12 interceptions. His 41 passing plays of 25 yards or more in the regular season trailed only Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans (42).

Per Stats Perform data, Brady was fourth in air yards per attempt among quarterbacks with at least 100 passes. His average of 9.5 provided a further indication of his renaissance as a deep-ball thrower in Tampa.

He was second in pickable pass percentage, throwing an interceptable ball on just 2.2 per cent of his attempts. Only Alex Smith (2.1 per cent) did a better job in that regard.

The difference after the bye was stark. Brady's yards per game jumped from 275 to 299.3 while his passer rating improved to 112.4 from 95.1. He threw 28 touchdowns to 11 interceptions prior to the bye, but tossed 22 scores and just four picks across his final eight games.

His yards per attempt average leaped from 6.96 to 8.74, as the Bucs offense became more potent following the break.

Indeed, the Bucs averaged 28.7 points per game before the bye but upped that tally to 33.9 over the course of the final four regular-season and four postseason games.

Brady will be 44 when the Bucs start their quest to defend the title against the Dallas Cowboys on September 9. Conventional wisdom suggests the challenge should be tougher for him at an older age.

Yet Brady continues to challenge conventional wisdom and go beyond the limits of what was thought possible for an NFL quarterback. If the knee is healed, there's a chance that, soon to be in his mid-forties, he could be even better in 2021.

Tom Brady said Aaron Rodgers is going to make the "choices he feels are best for him" as the NFL MVP holds out from the Green Bay Packers.

Rodgers – who skipped Green Bay's organised team activities (OTA) – is officially a holdout following his absence as the Packers reported for their mandatory minicamp last week.

The three-time MVP and 37-year-old is pushing to leave the Packers – a team he has represented since 2005, winning a Super Bowl.

Reports of Rodgers' unhappiness first emerged on draft day this year, though Green Bay are unwilling to trade the veteran.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers superstar Brady, whose team topped Rodgers and the Packers in the NFC Championship Game en route to Super Bowl glory last season, weighed into the drama.

"I mean, I respect Aaron a lot," Buccaneers QB Brady told USA Today Sports.

"Aaron's going to make the choices he feels are best for him. Everyone has different dynamics in their work."

With Rodgers absent, second-year QB Jordan Love has been working with the starters at Packers minicamp.

Green Bay's first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft did not play a single snap last season as Rodgers rolled to NFL MVP honours. 

Many speculated the Packers' surprise move to select the young quarterback is at the root of Rodgers' displeasure with the team, something the latter has denied.

Amid the uncertainty, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur told reporters there is only one approach, whether it is Rodgers or Love.

 "We'll have one plan," LaFleur said. "We've kind of pretty much laid that out. Just going to fine-tune some things over the next few weeks in terms of the logistics of our schedule and whatnot.

"We've got what we feel is a pretty good blueprint in terms of how to get our guys ready to play.

"Obviously, it is a little bit different this year in terms of the number of preseason games and then you compare it to last year, so you're kind of leaning back on the 2019 season.

"We feel confident with what we'll have in place with the guys. We'll look forward to getting them back July 27."

Rodgers amassed 48 touchdowns, five interceptions and a completion rate of 70.7 per cent for the Packers – who lost to eventual Super Bowl champions the Buccaneers.

Rodgers' quarterback rating of 121.5 puts him second on the all-time list among qualifiers, behind only his 2011 campaign (122.5).

In total, Rodgers completed 372 of 526 attempts for 4,299 yards as the Packers topped the NFC North with a 13-3 record to clinch home-field advantage and the top seed in the NFC playoffs for the first time since 2011.

Rodgers is level with Brady, Brett Favre, Johnny Unitas and Jim Brown with three MVP honours – only Peyton Manning (five) has more in NFL history.

The Packers will open their 2021 season against the New Orleans Saints on September 12.

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