Following a trade from the Jets that brought him to Tampa Bay, nose tackle Steve McLendon has plenty of familiarity with the Bucs coaching staff hailing from his days playing for Bruce Arians, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers. The same can’t be said with his new teammates.
However, the one player he does know pretty well after going toe-to-toe with him so many times over the past couple of seasons is Tom Brady.
McLendon spent his last four seasons with the Jets while playing in seven out of eight possible games against Brady and the Patriots due to being in the AFC East division together. But even before the Jets, McLendon began his career with the Steelers from 2010 to 2015 and saw Brady three times there as well.
The outcomes of those games have not treated McLendon too kindly, however. After so many battles against each other on the field, now they’re playing for the same side.
“That was one of the things I said this morning when I first walked in and got into the locker room,” McLendon said. “I see him and was like ‘Man, we’ve been going against each other for the past couple years. Now we’re on the same team.’ The funny thing is in my whole career I only beat him one time.”
Of all the games matching up against the greatest quarterback of all time, there’s one particular moment that stands out to McLendon in part because it includes a memorable on-field exchange with Brady.
It’s not very often that an interior defensive lineman is able to grab an interception, but McLendon came very close to recording one against Brady and taking it to the house. It still sticks with him today.
“I remember we were playing in Foxborough,” McLendon said. “I had been listening to the audio all week so I kind of picked up when he would throw like a quick out if we get pressure from one side. I remember Coach Bowles told me, he was like ‘When you pop for contain, you better be ready because we’re going to blitz off this side and he’s going to check the ball down to the other side.’ And I remember as I went to go to contain, he checked down to the other side, the ball hit in my hands and I end up dropping it.
“It would have been a pick and I probably would have scored because it was very close to the end zone, but I end up dropping it. I will never forget, and he probably doesn’t even remember, but when I came back he [Brady] said to me ‘You missed your chance.’”
McLendon will make his debut with the Bucs on Sunday at 4:00 PM against the Las Vegas Raiders and should play a meaningful role on defense.