- Mike Reiss, ESPN New England Patriots reporter
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LONDON -- In his 10 NFL seasons, Tom Brady has experienced a wide spectrum of events -- fourth-quarter comebacks, career-threatening injuries, exhilarating Super Bowl wins and a crushing Super Bowl loss derailing a perfect season.
This week, however, is a first for the greatest quarterback in Patriots history.
Not only is he preparing for what he says he lives for -- competing on the football field -- he's also serving as the NFL's top ambassador on this trip to London. Clearly, it's a role he's embraced, as he has made himself more accessible than ever in a regular-season week. In that sense, it's been a different Brady.
Usually, Brady is happy to meet his media requirements but he almost always draws a decisive line in doing so, reminding himself that when he's done, he's done. His job is to win football games, and any time spent not working toward that goal should be kept to a minimum.
Just as Brady displays a steely focus on the field, he has similar tunnel vision off it.
But this week, Brady seemed to realize he wasn't just leading 52 teammates into action against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Wembley Stadium. He's also representing 1,643 players on the rosters of the league's other 31 teams. Not only is he wearing the Patriots' logo on his sleeve, he's also showcasing the NFL shield.
He had a 30-minute conference call with international media members on Tuesday, then followed up with his regular 15-minute weekly interview with New England reporters at Gillette Stadium. When the Patriots arrived in London early Friday morning and practiced a few hours later, Brady was front and center once again, this time entertaining the international press in person.
In a game that truly is not a compelling matchup -- the 4-2 Patriots versus the 0-6 Buccaneers -- Brady's star power is the selling point as the league hopes to spread its brand internationally.
"Hopefully over the last few years, with the NFL being here, we've created some interest and some excitement," Brady said Friday at The Brit Oval cricket ground, where the Patriots held a review-type workout, having installed their complete game plan back home. "I know all the players are really looking forward to the game. It's a pretty unique experience for all of us."
In playing the role of NFL promoter this week, Brady has allowed himself to be a center of attention, understanding that his worldwide appeal benefits the league. That's been another change for the team-first-oriented Brady.
One exchange Friday highlighted that aspect of Brady's week, as he was asked if he can still be as focused as he's been in the past given that he's already won three Super Bowls and is now married. "What drives you?" he was asked.
Brady initially responded by saying he didn't have enough time to answer the question, before diving in headfirst.
"I really love playing the game, I love competing at this level," he said. "Believe me, when you're a kid in America and you grew up in the era I grew up in, watching the great football of the San Francisco 49ers of the '80s every time I take the field, it's an honor for me. It's a privilege to play and hopefully I always do it with the same type of competitiveness and the same type of leadership. It's not something I take lightly at all.
"There are only a couple really important things in my life and this is right at the top of the list," he continued. "Football is not something you can go at 70 or 80 percent. You're either in it all the way or you're not going to last very long. I learned that lesson early and I'd love to keep playing quarterback for the Patriots for as long as I can."
Brady has been all-in this week, in more ways than one.
In preparing to lead the Patriots into action, he's displayed the type of leadership and work ethic that makes him the cornerstone of the franchise. At the same time, he's served the NFL well, willing to take a leading role in promoting the sport abroad.
It's been a different type of week, one that Brady is determined to cap in familiar style -- with a victory.
"It'd be great to go out there and make it a memorable trip by playing our best game on Sunday," he said.
Not only are the Patriots counting on it. The NFL is, too.
In London, Tom Brady embraces his role as NFL's top ambassador.