ESPN and the Boston sports media have been aflame this week with the news that Tom Brady would not be attending OTAs this week with the team, instead choosing to wait until mandatory minicamp to report to Foxboro. The reigning league MVP is working out on his own while spending time with his family and working with Best Buddies. This is an uncharacteristic move for Brady, and although it’s not quite as bad as ESPN and many Boston radio hosts would like you to believe, it is not a positive step heading into the 2018 season.
Now let’s get some things straight. First, these team activities are optional, and Brady is not required to be there. He is not the only player absent either, as Rob Gronkowski and a number of other players are not in attendance. Some prefer to workout near their homes that may not be in the New England area. Second, Brady is not going to come to camp in any worse shape because he is not at OTAs. He is still working out and preparing his mind and body, and will still likely be in fantastic shape heading into 2018.
The problem is that this is extremely uncharacteristic for Brady. He is usually around for all team activities throughout the offseason, as he has always embodied the attitude of “first one in, last one out”. It’s likely that the main reason for Brady’s absence is to spend more time with his family, as training camp and the season itself severely limit his ability to see his family. However, after all of the issues that were reported on last season between Brady, Bill Belichick, and Robert Kraft, as well as the Super Bowl loss, the timing seems too suspicious for this to be just a family matter. Brady seems to have less desire to be with the team, which is not s great sign.
In addition, Brady’s absence encourages younger players to question Belichick and the Patriot Way. Brady has not and will not be vocal about his decision to not appear at OTAs, nor would he be likely to say bad things about his coach publicly or privately. However, his absence is impossible not to notice for the other players, and the conflicting narratives that have been swirling for the past few months do not help the situation. If the best player on the team is questioning the coach, then everyone else may begin to be more comfortable doing the same.
This does not mean that the team has turned on Belichick and that everyone is going to be defying everything he says. He is still one of the most respected coaches in the game and has had a system in place for 18 years that will not be torn apart by a few players skipping OTAs. The majority of players will go in and get their work done as if it was any normal day.
In terms of the actual play of the team, Brady’s absence from OTAs means little. A team is not formed in May, it’s formed in August. The biggest takeaway is that the coach and quarterback seem to have some underlying issues from last season that have not been addressed, and it does not appear like either is overly willing to come to terms. This has the potential to lead to a widening division as we get deeper into 2018.
Until next time – B$