Tom Brady has only played for one NFL team in his 14-year NFL career. In that time, he explained, he's been lucky enough to be in a locker room where mutual respect among teammates has held the utmost importance.
When it comes to bullying or hazing that toes the line of appropriateness, Brady told WEEI's Dennis and Callahan that he hasn't seen it with the Patriots. That the Miami Dolphins are now dealing with the fallout from the Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito situation highlights the importance of keeping a locker room in order and concentrated on the task at hand.
“I’ve been a part of one locker room — or two, really, being in Michigan and being in the Patriot locker room,” Brady said. “We’ve got a great group of guys, we have great respect for one another. It starts with coach [Bill] Belichick and Mr. [Robert] Kraft and Jonathan [Kraft] and the leadership that they bring.
“We don’t want to do anything to misrepresent what’s going on in our locker room, we want to be good role models, we want to win football games. And I think that’s what it comes down to. We show up every day trying to do our job and really not let anything else get in the way of that. Because if there’s issues in your locker room, if there’s issues that are outside of the realm of your own opponent that you’re dealing with, it just takes away from what you’re trying to accomplish. Coach Belichick has always done a great job of keeping the players focused on our opponent, and that’s where our energy needs to go.
“It’s an unfortunate thing. There’s been a lot of awareness brought to the situation, based on what’s happened down in Miami. But that’s their issue to deal with. It’s certainly not an issue that any of us Patriots want to deal with. We’re not really concerned with that to tell you the truth. We’re concerned with how we’re going to do our best to prepare to prepare for the biggest challenge of our year this week.”
Brady explained that he learned the value of locker room leadership when he was a younger player, and now that he's the longest-tenured Patriot, he has tried to maintain the same focal points with his teammates. "Do your job," is the familiar refrain.
"When you’re around Tedy Bruschi, and when you’re around Rodney Harrison and Willie McGinest — those are the guys I’ve been lucky enough to be around — Junior Seau and Troy Brown and Kevin Faulk," Brady said. "Those are my teammates, those type of guys. You know those guys well. They were focused on showing up and doing their job.
“We’ve had a pretty good record of success because of the character and quality of the individual in the locker room. That’s been most important to Mr. Kraft, coach Belichick, bringing guys in and say, ‘What kind of person is this? How will they fit into the locker room? Are they a Patriot kind of player, which is really putting the team first and going out there and helping us win games, playing your role, doing whatever the coach asks you to do to win?' "
Brady admitted that the Patriots take part in some rookie hazing. The Slip 'N' Slide is broken out during training camp, and veterans cut new players' hair in pretty heinous styles every summer. But those sorts of harmless traditions seem to help bring a team together, and appear to help rookies feel like part of the group, Brady said.
“There’s always a very respectful attitude in our locker room,” he said. “You expect the rookies to be able to contribute on the field, and you want them to be able to express themselves so that they’re not intimidated by older players, because you need them to be able to go out and produce. And that’s the most important thing. You only have 53 roster spots. There’s always turnover in the league. You’re always going to have rookies. You’re always going to have second-year players and third-year players. You’re going to have new players, free agents that come in and have to learn what to do. So, you just want an environment where everyone can show up and be themselves and play with confidence so they can help the team win.
“I know we always cut the guys’ hair. It’s a fun thing. It's a camaraderie thing. It’s kind of a group sacrifice, we’re-all-in-it-together type of thing, and it’s done in a playful way. Hopefully it’s never done out of disrespect, and it’s done as more to bring the team together and not drive the team apart.”
As long as there is a strong veteran presence, focused on the right things, Brady said a locker room stands a chance of maintaining a unified front throughout the course of a long season. He saw it as a younger player, and he hopes he's contributing to a similar atmosphere in Foxboro now.
“The veteran players set the tone, the younger players follow," Brady said. "That’s what creates really a strong cohesive locker room where you love the guys that you play with, you’re willing to commit yourself and sacrifice your own well-being for what’s in the best interest of the team. And that’s how you go out and win games.”