Tom Brady and Bill Belichick went to nine Super Bowls and won six together with the New England Patriots. David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Tom Brady may have wanted a clean break from Bill Belichick and the Patriots, but that doesn’t mean he holds any ill will for his former head coach.

On Monday, during Super Bowl LV Opening Night, Brady was asked if he had a message for Belichick. After spending 20 seasons in New England and winning six Super Bowls, Brady said he appreciates his first NFL head coach and credits Belichick for where his career went.

“I have a great relationship with him,” Brady said. “I’m just incredibly grateful for what he’s meant in my life as a coach. He’s everything you could ask for as a player. I loved my time and two incredible decades there. My football journey took me to a different place. I certainly could never have accomplished the things in my career without his support and his teachings.”

Tom Brady, left, and Rob Gronkowski were teammates together in New England and are now with Tampa Bay. Both expressed a love for their time in New England. Jeff Bottari/Associated Press

Brady’s first season in Tampa Bay has been an unbelievable success. The 43-year-old will start his 10th Super Bowl with a chance to win his seventh, which would extend his NFL record. Brady also has a chance to join Peyton Manning as the only starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl with multiple franchises.

Brady’s success has created the debate whether he or Belichick deserve more credit for the Patriots dynasty. On Monday, Brady was quick to pay respect to his head coach.

“Incredible coach and mentor for me,” Brady said. “Had a lot of those in my career, but obviously he’s at the top of the list.”

Former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who came out of retirement to join Brady in Tampa Bay, also expressed appreciation for his near-decade in New England.

“Those years in New England mean everything to me. That’s where I started my career. That’s where the legend of Gronk started. That’s where it boomed,” Gronkowski said Monday. “I appreciate those times. Grateful for all those times. I learned so much throughout those times. I feel like I grew throughout those times throughout my time in New England. I feel like I learned so much information just about the game of football, the game of life… Those times, I appreciate and that will be always in a special place in my heart throughout those nine years I was there.”

It wasn’t surprising when Gronkowski retired following the 2018 season. He played in 13 games that year, finishing with 47 catches for 682 yards and three touchdowns. He did that while dealing with several injuries. Gronkowski made the biggest play in Super Bowl LIII that year, making a 29-yard diving catch in double coverage to set up Sony Michel’s game-winning touchdown.

However, in that game, Gronk also took a big shot to his thigh. He could barely walk following the Super Bowl win and went on to tell people it brought him to tears in his hotel room afterward. When he stepped away from the game, Gronkowski said he felt like he was “losing that joy in life” throughout the pain and injuries he suffered.

Gronkowski took the 2019 season off, but teased a comeback throughout the year. It wasn’t until Brady signed with the Bucs, that Gronkowski decided he wanted to come back and play. This season, he appeared in every game and finished with 45 catches for 623 yards and seven touchdowns. Gronkowski quickly made an impression on his coaches and teammates in Tampa Bay.

Although Gronk and Brady found success outside of New England, both have felt the support from Patriots fans. Gronkowski said he still has family and friends in Massachusetts and they’ve told him that people are still rooting for him.

“It’s pretty cool to be appreciated like that because when I was up there, I did give everything I had,” Gronkowski said. “I gave everything I had on the field. I gave everything I had in practice. I gave everything I had when I was at charity events giving back to the community. It’s definitely special and settles in a place in my heart when I hear that my friends and family are saying there are a lot of people up there cheering for us and happy for us. It’s definitely pretty special.”

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