FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — We view Tom Brady as someone who is larger than life, a football legend who lives a lifestyle few can imagine, married to a supermodel, earning millions of dollars playing a game we love.

All professional athletes, to a degree, are viewed in this way. We are envious of their talent, their earnings, their job, their celebrity status.

But one thing we tend to forget all too often is they are people, too. Just like you and me.

This week the New England Patriots are preparing to play the Denver Broncos for the AFC championship and a chance to advance to the Super Bowl. It’s their fifth consecutive trip to the conference final, a feat matched by only one other team, the high-flying Oakland Raiders of 1973-77.

To have a chance to defend their Super Bowl championship won last February, the Patriots, who advanced with a 27-20 win over Kansas City last Saturday, are going to have to put countless minutes of preparation into Sunday’s game in Denver. It will include film review, positional meetings, team meetings, practices and more film review. It will include taking your work home with you.

“When you’ve played in this game and you’ve lost and you’ve played in this game and you’ve won, you know how fine of a line it is as far as preparation, how you play, how you execute, what gets done,” said safety Devin McCourty. “It’s such a fine line, so you understand if it’s watching an extra game of film, getting the guys together for an extra hour or something and watching some film, you know that could be the difference.”


Still, they all have personal lives, and many are married with children.

At this time of year, when the stakes are so incredibly high, they have to find a balance – or an incredibly understanding family.

Brady is, of course, married to Giselle Bundchen and has three children: sons John and Ben, and daughter Vivian.

Linebacker Rob Ninkovich is married to Paige and they have a daughter, Avielle.

Special teams ace Matthew Slater is married to Shahrzad and they have a son, Jeremiah, born in November.

For them, it’s not always an easy balancing act.


Brady said his preparation now is much different than early in his career, when he was single, but that his family has settled into a routine that allows him to continue working at home.

“It is different,” he said. “When your daughter doesn’t get any sleep at night and you’re up, that’s part of us being parents and dealing with things at home and stuff. There’s a lot less time to recover if you miss nights of sleep, (but) I think things are pretty efficient for me this time of year. I’ve been at it and my kids are getting a little older now, too. So at least I’ve had a few years to kind of get into a routine.

“I think that’s probably a challenging thing for a lot of players in our career. Family is a big part of everyone’s life, and then to add it to a really busy football schedule, it’s a lot of give and take. It takes a lot of support to have.”

And Slater knows where the most support comes from.

“My wife is the MVP,” he said.

He said she allows him to do what he needs to do to get ready for the game, while taking care of business at home.


“But my family will always be the most important thing to me, and football will always come after my family,” he said. “Definitely, there is time management involved; I can’t dilly-dally around here like I used to. But I’m excited about what’s going on at home and obviously excited about what’s going on here.”


“I’ve been known to have some long conversations with guys after hours, hang around the training room after hours,” he said. “So I take care of my business and get out of here now.”

All part of the learning curve when you become a new dad, I guess. Slater now knows that football, as important it is to a man whose father, Jackie, was one of the greatest to ever play at his position (offensive tackle), can’t always come first.

Ninkovich, who has played in an incredible 115 consecutive games, said his family understands completely what he needs to do now because the season can end very suddenly.

“You do as much as you can here, obviously while you’re in the building, and then when you go home, instead of watching TV you just watch some tape on your iPad,” he said. “After the season is over I have time, but right now it’s all into what I can do to play well.”


Because, he said, his focus now has to be on going against one of the greatest quarterbacks that ever played in Denver’s Peyton Manning.

“So, really, that’s watching as much tape as I can, giving myself an advantage on anything,” he said. “I think at this time, like Devin said, you do everything you can to make sure you’re as prepared as possible.”

And his family understands?

“Yeah,” he said. “It’s my job.”

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