FOXBOROUGH — The face of the franchise flashed his face for just a second Sunday afternoon.
Tom Brady made a brief appearance in the Patriots locker room during media availability before ducking into the trainer’s room.
The 20-year veteran wasn’t pulling a quarterback sneak, the free agent to be was just looking for a little face-time with his teammates before an imminent team meeting.
Brady is the biggest of a big bunch of core Patriots whose football future is in limbo as they decide what their next move is on the heels of a stunningly quick end to the season in Saturday’s wild-card loss to the Titans.
Earlier in the day, coach Bill Belichick made it clear it was too early to discuss the future after a loss that safety Devin McCourty said felt like a “crash landing.’’
Like Brady, McCourty is another key free agent to be. Brady said Saturday it’s “pretty unlikely” he’ll retire and McCourty said he “definitely” sees himself continuing his career.
“We’re less than 12 hours here from the end of the game — I’m sure there are a lot of questions about the future,’’ Belichick said. “Nobody has thought about the future. Everybody’s been focused and working on Miami and then Tennessee and that’s where all the focus should have been and where it was. Whatever’s in the future, we’ll deal with it at some later point in time. We’re certainly not going to deal with it now.’’
While there’s no denying Brady’s situation will draw the most attention, Belichick said all members of the football staff command attention.
“Everybody’s situation on the team is different. There are not two that are exactly the same, but future is the future for all of them, just like it is for Tom and anybody else you want to bring up,’’ said the coach. “Certainly, Tom’s an iconic figure in this organization and nobody respects Tom more than I do.’’
In addition to the free agents, two of Belichick’s top assistants are being courted by teams with head coaching vacancies.
According to a league source, the Giants have received permission to interview offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and special teams coordinator/receivers coach Joe Judge.
Additionally, the Panthers and Browns have been given the OK to speak with McDaniels.
“I respect all of the other players and all of the other coaches in this organization, too,’’ said Belichick. “I think that everybody that is part of it is an important part of it and I want to give the proper attention and communication and detail and thought into my input into those decisions. But, any decisions made — it’s not an individual decision. There are other people involved and so there has to be some type of communication, understanding, agreement — whatever you want to call it — and that’s not a one-way street . . . one person can’t decide what everybody else is going to do when players aren’t under contract.’’
Belichick addressed several other topics during his final media meeting before the new league season begins.
■ On his workload:
Belichick had said earlier this season he may have to work more with the defense than in recent seasons:
“So, I try to manage my team and do the most effective job I can to help our football team,’’ he said. “That’s what I try to do. Could it be better? Yeah, I’m sure it could be, like everything else, but I feel that way every year. Each situation is different, each year is different, and I can assure you that I’ll do my best to help our football team in any capacity that I can as long as I’m here.’’
■ On his coaching staff’s performance:
“I put everybody, really, in the same category,’’ he said. “Our coaching staff, our players work extremely hard all the way back to the spring, training camp, through the season. I thought the entire team competed [and] gave their best. Sometimes it was good enough, sometimes it wasn’t. We try to keep improving, all of us, starting with me. There are plays or decisions or things we’d like to have back, to do over again, but we prepared and did our best in the situation and we just came up a little bit short.’’
■ On the development of the rookie class:
“I think all of our rookies made good, solid progress,’’ he said. “They’re a lot better than they were when they got here . . . I’d say they all fall into that same category — learned a lot on the field, learned a lot off the field, learned a lot about preparation and, in the opportunities that they had, were a lot better than they were when they started off doing, even in training camp and in the preseason games. So, I think there was a lot of growth and a long way to go as well.’’