Bronson Arroyo

Patrick Gorski/USA Today Sports

Tomase: Bronson Arroyo talks Tom Brady, not being a (expletive), and playing until you're 40

John Tomase
February 02, 2018 - 4:13 pm

Bronson Arroyo was never Tom Brady, but that doesn't mean he can't appreciate what has allowed the Patriots quarterback to excel into his 40s.

Arroyo, after all, just retired after his 16th big league season. Like Brady, he was born in 1977. And like Brady, he kept on chugging after the calendar hit 40.

Following a two-year hiatus, Arroyo returned to the Cincinnati Reds last year, going 3-6 with a 7.33 ERA. The lanky right-hander was never overwhelming, but he relied on craftiness to win nearly 150 games, make an All-Star team, and earn Cy Young votes as recently as 2010. He's the more typical example of the older athlete, one who hangs on in a reduced role. What Brady's doing, by comparison, is without NFL precedent.

In town for the Hot Stove/Cool Music event to benefit Paul and Theo Epstein's Foundation to be Named Later, Arroyo discussed what it takes to keep on playing when the calendar says you should be retired.

"The majority of pro athletes could never pull it off at age 40," he said. "For a guy like myself, I didn't hurt too much. I'd guess Tom is in the same boat that I was. I took care of myself early on, haven't had any crazy injuries, a bit lucky along the way. Also, play your game without having to be max effort. He doesn't have to throw a ton of deep passes. I didn't have to throw real hard. You find a way to be successful pulling back on the reins a little bit."

The biggest benefit for Arroyo was comfort. Brady has talked about knowing the answers, but Arroyo viewed that mental edge a little differently. He noted that from high school to college to rookie ball to the majors, at each level the cycle of proving yourself begins anew. But at some point it stops applying.

"Once you're over that hump -- and he's obviously been over that hump for a long time -- you just continue day after day," he said. "The things that a young guy has to think about are now completely out of your mind. It's so far off in the back of your brain, it makes no difference. You don't care what fans think. You don't even care what the quarterback coach thinks. You're out there. You understand how to win. You're just there, present tense. All of these distractions can be pushed off to the side."

For Brady, that means keeping his cool in the pocket and making throws that other quarterbacks wouldn't consider, like lobbing a pass back across the field to Danny Amendola on a broken play, confident the floater won't be intercepted.

"I'd stand on the mound and you're so confident," Arroyo said. "I didn't care if it was a 3-1 count with the bases loaded and a lefty up, I'd throw a slow backdoor breaking ball. When you're young you wouldn't be able to pull that off, because you think, 'What if I walk a run in throwing a backdoor breaking ball on 3-1? Will the manager think I'm a (wuss)?' Whatever it is, there's all these challenges, that after you stamp yourself as solid, all that stuff goes away. It just frees you up to be yourself. Tom is way past that point, obviously. He can just play his game and win, lose or draw, no one is going to question his place on the field."

Thanks to his time in Boston -- he won a World Series ring in 2004 -- Arroyo still considers himself a Boston sports fan. That's why he'll be rooting for Brady and the Pats this Sunday. When the opening kick sails into the sky, Brady won't be 40 anymore. Arroyo knows he'll feel 25.

"In the moment, when your adrenaline is going, you still feel like you're a guy who can pull off anything and make it happen," he said. "The days in between, the recovery, are tougher. You definitely start feeling it in your knees and your back and these small subtleties. People talk about his dedication to taking care of his body. Without that, there's just no way to pull it off at that age. All those factors are what keeps a guy like that going. If my shoulder didn't have tears in it, I feel like I could've pitched for another three or four years, no problem, based on the rest of my body.

"What he's doing, it's more fun to me to win when people are trying to find a crack in the armor, when they're trying to see you show your age, and you still pull it off."

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