Former NFL great Barry Sanders believes Tom Brady will return, Packers strong bet to win Super Bowl
Speculation that Tom Brady might leave the New England Patriots has brought back a painful childhood memory for Barry Sanders.
“When I was a kid, I was a Raiders fan, and when I saw Kenny Stabler move on to the Houston Oilers, that was a big blow to me,’’ Sanders, the Hall of Fame running back, told USA TODAY Sports on Monday. “Just as a kid watching the game, I couldn’t believe my eyes.’’
Sanders, 51, was a faithful member of the Detroit Lions for his 10-year NFL career. But he said he wouldn’t begrudge Brady changing teams after playing quarterback for the Patriots for each of his 20 seasons. And the thought of Brady in a Lions uniform?
“We’d love to have him,’’ Sanders said, with a laugh, but later added, “we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves. I totally expect to see Tom play next year and I’m not sure that it’s going to (be) in another (team’s) uniform.’’
What Sanders talked about with greater certainty is the Super Bowl. Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans is sponsoring a Super Bowl Squares Sweepstakes that will generate a payout of well over $1 million. Two participants will win $500,000 and others will win $50,000 every time the score of the game changes, according to a news release issued by Rocket Mortgage announcing a multiyear sponsorship deal with the NFL. (More details can be found at RocketMortgageSquares.com.)
“You don’t have to be a football expert or know anything about the game,’’ said Sanders, a pitchman for the Detroit-based company. But Sanders is an expert, and so the conversation turned back to football:
Barry Sanders, who spent his 10-year career with the Lions, believes the Packers will win the Super Bowl. (Photo: Tim Fuller, USA TODAY Sports)
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USA TODAY: How do you think you’d fare in today’s game? How many yards might you get in a season?
Sanders: “Oh, I don’t know. I mean, you put me behind a good line, you never know what I might be able to do. I think not just that but I’d like some of the pistol formations and some run-pass option-type offenses. I think I could put up pretty good numbers.”
Q: So you wouldn’t be concerned about the way things have shifted and the emphasis on passing? You don't think that would hamper you in any way?
A: “You know, it may. But I just love playing the game and I think I would be up for the challenge.’’
Q: Any favorite running back out there today?
A: “Well, I think we’re seeing sort of a resurgence of the running game and I think there’s a good number of young running backs within the game. I mean, look at Derrick Henry, what he did this year. You look at Christian McCaffrey. Zeke Elliott, look at what he’s done over the last several years. And Saquon Barkley. The list goes on, really. Look at the kid out in Denver, Phillip Lindsay. Adrian Peterson’s still playing well.’’
Q: With this being the 100-year anniversary of the NFL, a lot of people have put together lists of the top 100 players. Who would top your list?
A: “I would probably go with Jim Brown and maybe with Joe Montana a close second. Just because, you know, I always loved running backs. So I’m a little bit biased toward that. But in my formative years, and also toward the beginning of my career, just watching the way Joe operated and having a chance to see him beat up on us, the Lions a couple of times. He was just a masterful player. Of course he had a lot of help with Jerry Rice, but it was just a thing of beauty to watch in person.
“My Dad was a big Jim Brown fan as well. I’ve always been hearing about Jim Brown all my life.”
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Q: Where would you be on your top 100?
A: “Oh, man. I don’t know. That’s hard to say. … I’m just so appreciative for even being a part of it and the way that my career turned out that I’m on that list, among those great, great players. But I wouldn’t even know where to begin to put myself on the list.’’
Q: Who do you think is going to win the Super Bowl and who would you like to see win the Super Bowl?
A: “Thinking about teams from our division (the NFC North), Packers, Vikings, who the Lions play against in our division. For the sake of the Super Bowl Squares, we like high-powered offenses. I hate to root for the Packers, but I guess in this case they may be the best team. But honestly, if I had a favorite, I wold probably say more like the Packers or maybe looking at the 49ers, the way they play, had a first-round bye, I think they’re at home the whole time during the playoffs. And maybe also look at the team that just knocked off the Super Bowl champs, the Titans is someone that could continue to go on in the playoffs.’’
Q: How do you feel about things with the Lions, with coach Matt Patricia coming back for a third year and Bob Quinn back as general manager?
A: “No one works harder than Matt to try to get things turned around. And we ran into some really unfortunate luck this season. You know, our iron man (quarterback Matthew Stafford) ended up being injured and that really set us back. Lost some tough games. Lost a lot of close games. So, yeah, I’m not surprised to see Coach Patricia back. I know he’s grinding away and (trying) to figure out some answers to get things turned around.’’
Q: Has CTE research changed your feelings about the game at all and if so, how?
A: “I think they’re doing everything they can to make the game safer, top down. My sons play football. Has it changed my feelings? I guess I’d have to say yes to some degree. It’s changed my feeling in just the awareness. It heightens your awareness and educated everyone. But I also have to say there’s just (a) great, monumental effort in trying to make the game safer. The game is safer. So for parents of young players that’s comforting, for former players like myself, it’s comforting. And it’s still a great game. The whole world’s still going to tune in and watch the Super Bowl.’’
Editor's note: Q&A has been edited for clarity, brevity.
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