ATLANTA — Tom Brady is dropping mics nowadays like James Harden is dimes.
Maybe this is what happens when you win at a level history hasn’t known, when you are doing things athletically at an age when folks worry most about weight gain and bone density, when your resume as the greatest to play the most important position in football can be strengthened even more with another victory.
Maybe it’s all a ruse to secure the slightest advantage, which would be such the Brady and Patriots way.
This much is true: Brady still owns an insatiable desire to succeed, and you could argue few have displayed his level of determination and commitment and unrelenting pursuit of excellence.
It’s one reason the 41-year-old quarterback has five Super Bowl rings and will go for a sixth against the Rams on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
If it takes him using a perceived decline of skill to gain added inspiration, so be it. If it takes the world suggesting New England and its most famous player has lost much of the mystique that allowed them to dominate the league for so long, he’s fine with that.
“The reality is I don’t think many people thought I’d be playing like this,” said Brady. “Some people are born with great height; some people are born with great size, speed; and some people are born with other things I would say are more intangible.
“I think competitiveness and ability to compete have been great attributes for me. People think you’re 41. What are you doing? I’ll still be shooting for the stars. I’m doing something I love to do.”
He has been carrying around the same chip on his shoulder since being a sixth-round draft pick in 2000, seemingly never weighted down by its presence and yet always cognizant of its intended purpose.
Which means Brady is more than willing to play the part, like when he led 25,000 Patriots fans in a raucous, “We’re still here!” chant before the team departed for Atlanta.
And then dropped the mic.
“We know a lot has been said about us this year, and we’ve been embracing it a bit more than usual,” said tight end Rob Gronkowski. “It is actually a fun part about it. You get to laugh at the player that gets made fun of, and then you get to say the comments to him too, like ‘Tom has a noodle arm.’
“We’ve heard that one before, and then all practice we’re telling Tom he has a noodle arm. But we’re just doing it all for laughs and fun, because we know he doesn’t have a noodle arm, and we know he’s legit and his arm is as strong as ever.”
Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman suggested the opposite, and then backed off those comments when confronted with the bright lights and media horde that is Opening Night of a Super Bowl week.
But this is Brady, held to a higher standard than any quarterback then and now, and when he does things like throw a brutal interception from the 1-yard line in the AFC championship game against the Chiefs, well, social media implodes and charges of his demise are greatly exaggerated.
His numbers dipped over the regular season from last’s year’s march to the Super Bowl, down slightly in yards and touchdowns and having thrown 11 interceptions, the most since 2013.
But his anticipation hasn’t wavered; he still thinks the game as well as anyone, or so says the quarterback who was opposite Brady when the Patriots began their historic run by beating the St. Louis Rams in the 2002 Super Bowl.
“(Brady) plays the game the same way now as he played it 17 years ago,” said Hall of Famer Kurt Warner. “He hasn’t had to adjust the way he plays even though he’s gotten older and maybe the arm strength isn’t there and the mobility isn’t there. He still plays the same way.
“I won’t be surprised if he plays three or four more years at this level because he’s not going to be doing anything different. He’s going to play with his mind.”
It was Wednesday when Patriots owner Robert Kraft was asked about extending Brady’s contract, which has one season remaining. Kraft answered by saying he would have no reservations about agreeing to a pact that could see Brady achieve his goal of playing until he’s 45.
Which means if you think he’s done dropping mics — or likely reaching more Super Bowls — think again.