FOXBOROUGH — Ida May Molitor is in Tom Brady’s corner. And the Patriots quarterback sure seemed to appreciate her support Thursday.
On a day when volunteerism and not Deflategate was the major theme, the 93-year-old Molitor told Brady to “keep it up” as he bent down to greet her as she sat in her wheelchair shortly after she was named a 2016 Myra Kraft Community MVP Award winner.
Molitor, one of 26 honorees, was recognized for her work at the Norton Community Theatre and received a smile from Brady after her encouraging words. He held her hand for a short bit as they chatted.
It was more than likely Molitor was referring to Brady’s on-field exploits rather than his ongoing legal drama with the NFL — Deflategate is 501 days and counting now — but her words still were clearly appreciated.
Team owner Robert Kraft, whose team donated $200,000 to the award winners, called them “the real heroes,” and declined to speak about the amicus brief the team filed to support Brady last week as he bids to overturn his four-game suspension.
“I’m going to try and keep all of our discussions today on a high plane in a spirit of what this day is about,” Kraft said.
When pressed about whether he thought it would all work out in the Patriots favor, the owner put a non-Deflategate twist on his answer.
“Things working out to me means we make the playoffs and then hopefully take the next step to do what we all would like to see happen here,’’ he said.
Joining Molitor in her support of Brady was Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater. When asked about the several briefs filed on Brady’s behalf, Slater made his point but kept it simple.
“What I will say, as I’ve said several times in the past, is that we support Tom,’’ said Slater, the team’s union representative. “We stand by him. He’s been nothing but a great teammate and a great leader for this football team . . . We don’t have the full knowledge and understanding of what’s going on, so all I’ll say is we support Tom.’’
When NFL owners voted recently to move the touchback to the 25-yard line, seemingly to discourage kickoff returns, it didn’t sit well with Slater, a perennial Pro Bowl special teamer.
“The kickoff is a big part of the history of the NFL and the history of football and for us to be sitting here talking about maybe doing away with the kickoff, it’s very disappointing,” said Slater, a receiver who found his niche early on as a core special teamer. “The kicking game has meant a lot to the game of football and to a lot of players individually and it’s enabled guys to have careers.’’
“I can think about watching my dad [Jackie Slater] with the Rams and thinking of returners like Ron Brown and people of that nature that made a career out of doing this,’’ he said. “You think about [ex-Bill] Steve Tasker and his impact on the game of football, [ex-Cowboy] Bill Bates, the list goes on. The kicking game has meant a lot to the game of football and to a lot of players individually and it’s enabled guys to have careers. You think about [former Patriot] Larry Izzo, you think of myself. Without the kicking game we don’t have a career. I’m very disappointed in some of the things I hear in regards to getting rid of the kickoff. I surely hope that’s not the case. I hope that’s not the directing direction that we’re moving in but we’ll see.’
Strike a pose
Tight end Rob Gronkowski joined Brady and Kraft for a group photo with the award winners and also obliged a few selfie requests . . . Second-year defensive lineman Malcom Brown, who arrived in Foxborough last year as a mature, married father of two, was asked if his family responsibilities helped him with his football life. “I focus on my job because it pays the bills,” he said. “My family looks up to me because I’m providing for them.’’ . . . The NFL finalized the dates and times for the exhibition season. The Patriots host the Saints Aug. 11 at 7:30 p.m., and the Bears Aug. 18 at 8 p.m., and play at the Panthers Aug. 26 at 7:30 p.m. and at the Giants Sept. 1 at 7 p.m.
Jim McBride can be reached at email@example.com