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Former foes detail what it’s like to face Tom Brady at the Super Bowl

Tom Brady will play in the 10th Super Bowl of his 21-year career on Sunday. 

With a 6-3 record, he will duel with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs for a seventh title – and his first away from Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. 

But what is it like to face the ultimate competitor in the NFL’s biggest game? Eight players and a head coach tell their stories…

Tom Brady will play in the 10th Super Bowl of his 21-year career on Sunday

KURT WARNER, quarterback

Super Bowl XXXVI. New Orleans. February 3, 2002

New England Patriots 20-17 St Louis Rams

‘At that point in time he was asked to manage games, not make mistakes. Make a few plays and win in other ways.

My impression of him at the time was not that he was going to be the greatest quarterback to ever play. He was a young guy, similar to my situation, being in my second year, taking our team to the Super Bowl and doing all those things. ‘This is a great story about a young kid who’s still got a long way to go but despite what he’s not doing as a quarterback he still finds a way to lead his team and get to the pinnacle of the game and win the Super Bowl.

‘That was my impression of him at the time, but obviously that would change dramatically in terms of who he was as a player over the years.’

Kurt Warner said he never thought Brady would become the superstar he is after 2002 clash

Kurt Warner said he never thought Brady would become the superstar he is after 2002 clash

MIKE RUCKER, defensive end

Super Bowl XXXVIII. Houston. February 1, 2004.

New England Patriots 32-29 Carolina Panthers

‘Not once did we flinch in this game. It was a heavyweight bout. Two boxers were just going at it. You block some, you take a hit, you deliver a combo. And that’s what it was.

‘Brady was still young. He’s not the guy that we know in this point in time, but we knew he’s really good. We knew that he’s a gunslinger.

‘If you’re going to play a game, that’s the way you want to go out. You want to go out blazing. With the tank empty. You don’t have any more tools in the tool box. And that’s the way that that game ended. You are empty. Physically. Mentally.’

ANDY REID, Eagles head coach

Super Bowl XXXIX. Jacksonville. February 6, 2005

New England Patriots 24-21 Philadelphia Eagles

‘Well, I don’t see much difference, which is quite an amazing thing. He is a special guy. He’s done a great job of keeping himself football young. His arm is still alive. His will to win is alive. And he’s been fun to watch over the years.’

OSI UMENYIORA, defensive end

Super Bowl XLII. Arizona. February 3, 2008.

New England Patriots 14-17 New York Giants

‘Our only thinking was we have to take his head off, period. Whatever scoring they wanted to do, that’s on them. Our issue was we have to get to this quarterback and we have to eliminate this guy as quickly as possible. I think in the course of doing that, that was what enabled us to keep the scoring down.’

‘The thing that we noticed really bothered him wasn’t so much pressure off the edges because he was very nimble in the pocket, it was pressure up the middle. We had really good players in the middle who were able to really push the pocket. What we did was collapse the edge and that didn’t give him a place to step up. He usually had a lot of problems, this is how we were able to do it. Sounds simple, but that was really the plan.

Osi Umenyiora admitted their plan was to try and take Brady's head off in the Superdome

Osi Umenyiora admitted their plan was to try and take Brady’s head off in the Superdome

JASON PIERRE-PAUL, defensive end

Super Bowl XLVI. Arizona. February 5, 2012.

New England Patriots 17-21 New York Giants

‘I remember about that Super Bowl me trying to get to Brady at the last throw, trying to knock the ball out of his hands before he got it off in the air.

‘What I remember about that front seven – we was relentless.’

CLIFF AVRIL, defensive end

Super Bowl XLIX. Phoenix, February 1, 2015

New England Patriots 28-24 Seattle Seahawks

‘In most games they allow you to come back to the field, but in the Super Bowl they don’t allow you to, so I had to watch the game from the locker room. And there’s a 10-second delay. I hear the crowd cheering and then I see the play. OK, we’re working our way down and then there’s a time out. Marshawn’s just ran to the four. Oh we’re about to win this. There’s a time out or some sort and I hear the crowd cheer. And I see my team-mates walking in and I’m like, “OK. They’re like mad”. One guy throws his helmet, another guy punches a wall and breaks his hand. I’m confused – I’m like, “We’re on the one-yard line – why are you guys so mad? What’s going on?” And then I see the play and I go, “Oh my gosh, we really just lost this…”

GRADY JARRETT, defensive tackle

Super Bowl LII. Houston. February 5, 2017.

New England Patriots 34-28 Atlanta Falcons

‘He’s one of the greatest for a reason. Playing first hand, he now has great respect from me. He’s a finisher. He did his job today and led his team. I’m disappointed that we came out on the losing end. Hell of respect for Tom Brady.’

Oh his three sacks, he added: ‘I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t awesome. It felt good, but at the end of the day, I wanted the win more than anything – for myself, for my team, for my city. It just hurts when you come this far, and this close, and come up short.’ 

Grady Jarrett said he has nothing but respect for Brady after witnessing his genius first hand

Grady Jarrett said he has nothing but respect for Brady after witnessing his genius first hand

JAY AJAYI, running back

Super Bowl LII. Minneapolis. February 5, 2018.

New England Patriots 33-41 Philadelphia Eagles

‘He’s a great quarterback. But going into a Super Bowl, you can’t play with fear. You can’t be afraid of your opponent.

‘Just focus on your own team and you know your own role and playing, that’s really the best way, not worrying about whether you’re playing against the mystique of Tom Brady.

‘I believe in my defense. Tom Brady is a great quarterback, but I believe in my team. So I think that that’s what it came down to. And obviously, my team-mates did what needed to be done.’

NDAMUKONG SUH, defensive tackle

Super Bowl LIII. Atlanta. February 3, 2019

New England Patriots 13-3 LA Rams

‘I’ve played against Tom Brady it seems every single year in my career. We were in the same division for three years straight, so I got to see him twice a year, which was always fun.

‘Some good times, some bad times.

‘It was great to face him in the Super Bowl two years ago. Wish I had had the opportunity to win that. I was very confident that we had the opportunity to do so, but we just came up short.

‘I’m happy that we’re on the same team now. We can collaborate to go hopefully win a championship.’