FOXBOROUGH — Patriots coach Bill Belichick isn’t interested in discussing the NFL investigation that revealed his former quarterback Tom Brady had discussions with Dolphins minority owner Bruce Beal Jr. during the final year of his tenure in New England.
“I’m not really worried about that,” Belichick said Wednesday morning. “I’m just trying to get training camp in.”
According to the league’s findings released Tuesday, Brady and Beal had “numerous and detailed” conversations that began as early as August 2019 about Brady potentially joining the Dolphins. Brady was under contract with the Patriots at the time, making the discussions a violation of the NFL’s tampering policy.
So, did Belichick know his longtime starting quarterback was in contact with a division foe?
“I’m focused on training camp,” he said. “That’s all in the past.”
As part of its six-month investigation, the league also found two additional tampering violations: When the Dolphins had impermissible communications with Brady and his agent Don Yee while Brady was under contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and when the Dolphins had impermissible communications with Yee about another client, coach Sean Payton, while Payton was head coach of the New Orleans Saints.
The NFL suspended Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and fined him $1.5 million for the violations. Brady, Yee, and Payton did not receive any punishments.
Third-year linebacker Anfernee Jennings is happy to be back in action after missing all of last season on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury.
“I’m here,” he said. “I’m ready to go.”
Jennings would not get into the details about what caused him to remain sidelined, but he said his No. 1 focus this offseason was to stay healthy.
“Not being able to play football for the first time in 17 years or something like that, it was hard,” he said. “But I’m blessed. I got the opportunity to be back out here and I’m making the most of it.”
Jennings, drafted in the third round out of Alabama in 2020, credited the veteran players for helping him during his time away from the field. He also spent a lot of time with fellow linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who missed the season with a torn ACL.
Jennings appeared in 14 games as a rookie in 2020, starting four. He recorded 20 tackles, including one quarterback hit, and was on the field for 28.7 percent of the defense’s snaps.
There is a clear opening for Jennings to earn more playing time, especially following the release of veteran Kyle Van Noy.
“The big thing with Anfernee is he’s out there,” Belichick said. “He’s working. Of course, if you’re working, you’re improving.
“It’s good to have him out there and he’s made progress every day. He’ll get some good opportunities coming up in the near future along with some other guys in that position and we’ll see how it turns out.”
After practice, offensive assistant Joe Judge’s daughter ran over and jumped into his arms. The embrace was just one of the several familial gatherings taking place across the field, where hugs and smiles were aplenty.
Safety Kyle Dugger, who spent time with his baby boy Zairo, is certainly appreciative of those moments.
“It’s a breath of fresh air,” he said. “Every day is not a great day, just speaking for myself. To come see him, it puts things in perspective. It gives me a positive thing to restart with after practice.”
The Patriots have several first-time fathers on the roster, with Dugger, center David Andrews, tight end Hunter Henry, safety Adrian Phillips, linebacker Mack Wilson, and special teams ace Justin Bethel all recently welcoming a child.
“We’re constantly just kind of sharing what things are looking like on our side,” Dugger said. “You know, kind of wondering, is he dealing with the same thing I’m dealing with? You know, my baby’s going crazy, is yours calm? We just always have that to chat about. It’s cool to be able to go through life together.”
Staying in touch
Former Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower is not under contract, but he’s staying in touch with the players. Jennings said Hightower reached out the day before players reported to say, “Let’s go!” … Belichick expressed excitement about the Army-Navy game scheduled to take place at Gillette Stadium in December 2023. Belichick, whose father, Steve, was a coach and scout at the Naval Academy, called the matchup “a classic.” Said Belichick, “There’s no other game like that. Watching it on TV is great, but being there in person is really special. This is a great venue for it. I think for Navy, it’ll be a great opportunity to travel, obviously, but see the things that are important to the Navy — Newport, the Navy Yard in Boston, things like that.”