Tom Brady posted a few photos to Instagram Saturday showing him throwing in private with Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry.
The photos elicited two immediate reactions.
One, shared by most Patriots fans: Good job by Brady to get in some extra work with Harry, the team’s first-round pick. The Patriots are counting on Harry to be an immediate contributor, and hope he can one day be a star. The more work Brady can get with Harry, the better.
Two, apparently not shared by many Patriots fans: Can’t Brady just get in this work at the Patriots’ offseason practices in Foxborough?
For the second straight offseason, Brady is staying away from the voluntary practices. That in and of itself isn’t big news. It’s rare for a starting quarterback to not attend these voluntary practices, but everyone understands that Brady wants more of a work/life balance in the offseason. He feels he can do a better job of training himself on his own, and that’s fine. Everyone knows he’ll be in tip-top shape once camp begins in late July.
But Brady isn’t just skipping voluntary workouts. He seems to be going out of his way to not practice with his team.
It would be one thing if Brady were traveling the world with his family and tending to business matters. He appears to be away this week; on Tuesday, he posted photos of himself working out in helmet and shoulder pads on a beach somewhere. So don’t expect him at this week’s round of Patriots OTAs.
That I understand. Brady is different from you and me and the other 52 guys in the locker room.
But he has been in Brookline for a decent chunk of the spring, per his own social media posts. He has worked out at fields near his home, and also at Boston College. Just not at Gillette Stadium. (He is expected to attend the team’s mandatory minicamp June 4-6.)
Last week we saw just how adamant Brady is about skipping offseason workouts. He was in town, but instead of joining his teammates in Foxborough, he had Harry drive up to Brookline to work out with him.
Doesn’t that seem . . . overly complicated?
(I should mention that Barstool Sports wrote that Saturday’s photos with Edelman and Harry were taken at the Brady vacation compound in Montana. I can’t officially debunk that, but A. It sure looked like Brookline, not Montana; B. When Brady went out there with Edelman and Danny Amendola a few years ago, it was in July, not May; C. It would take a lot of effort to fly Edelman and Harry to Montana for a long weekend, as both are participating in Patriots OTAs; and D. Edelman posted video from a home cookout in the Back Bay Sunday. And even if the photos were taken in Montana, that proves my point further: Brady is really going out of his way to get in work with Harry without appearing in Foxborough.)
I wrote last month after the draft that with Harry in the fold and Rob Gronkowski retired, Brady should attend the final phase of offseason workouts. The first five weeks barely include any real football, but the last four weeks are basically passing camp: 11-on-11, noncontact drills. If anyone gets anything out of OTAs, it’s quarterbacks and receivers.
It’s not that OTAs are critical, as Brady and the Patriots proved by winning the Super Bowl last year. No one has any doubts about Brady keeping himself in shape.
But these four weeks do offer a good opportunity for Brady to build a base with Harry and all of his new receivers before training camp begins. There’s also the symbolism of having your leader and star quarterback participating in workouts like everyone else, setting the tone for the season.
And let’s not forget that Brady wasn’t exactly MVP vintage last year after skipping OTAs. The Patriots had another slow start to the season, Brady regressed in most of his stats, and the offense mostly was shut down in the Super Bowl.
Brady’s absence this year can’t just be about wanting to spend more time with his family. You get to sleep in your own bed during OTAs. Every weekend is a three-day weekend.
Brady might have a great reason for staying away. Perhaps he just wants Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham, and Danny Etling to get all of the reps in practice, and to establish themselves with the young players in the locker room.
Most likely, Brady’s absence has to do with the time commitment. Perhaps Bill Belichick told Brady to just stay away if he were only going to show up sporadically throughout the offseason. Or maybe Brady would like to attend the practices but not the workouts, and with Belichick, it’s either all or nothing. Offseason workdays can last up to 10 hours in the team facility, which I’m sure Brady feels is not the most productive use of his time.
Or maybe this is more tabloid fodder that we’re missing because the Patriots just won the Super Bowl. Like most players who skip OTAs, is Brady making a statement that he’s not happy with his contract?
Whatever it is, Brady is well within his rights to stay away from the voluntary workouts, and we all know he is going to stay in shape on his own.
But now Brady is making it a point to skip Patriots workouts. Inviting Harry to come throw with him in Brookline seems a lot more complicated than simply attending a few OTAs with his teammates.