Donald Trump says he's 'great friends' with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick at New Hampshire rally

Donald Trump says he's 'great friends' with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick at New Hampshire rally

The relationship between Tom Brady and Donald Trump (which these days is really only acknowledged by one party) has come up yet again, as the GOP nominee referred to both Brady and Patriots coach Bill Belichick as "great friends" Saturday at a rally in New Hampshire. 

“I have so many great friends in New England, including Tom Brady and Coach Belichick,” Trump said at the rally, per the Boston Globe. “How good is Tom? Remember last year, he had the red hats?”

Calling it the red hat -- singular -- would be more accurate, but that was enough to tie Brady and Trump closely together throughout what’s been a controversial campaign. Last year, Brady displayed a “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker, later saying saying, “I hope so. That would be great,” when asked about the possibility of Trump becoming president. 

Recent days have seen Brady hold off on discussing Trump altogether, as he declined comment when asked during Wednesday’s press conference what he thought of Trump’s “locker room talk” that had emerged from a 2005 taping of “Access Hollywood.” 

Trump and Brady go back to 2002, when Trump flew Brady out to Indiana to judge the 2002 Miss USA pageant shortly after the Patriots won Super Bowl XXXVI. Brady has acknowledged their friendship several times over the years, something that was clearly reciprocated when Trump was outspoken against the NFL during the Deflategate saga. 

While Brady has continuously praised Trump, he said in his weekly WEEI appearance last December that he’d rather not discuss the election, after which Trump said he had asked Brady not to endorse him for the sake of not complicating things with his public image. 

“Can I just stay out of this debate? Donald is a good friend of mine,” Brady said on WEEI. “I have known him for a long time. I support all my friends. That is what I have to say. He’s a good friend of mine. He’s always been so supportive of me. For the last 15 years, since I judged a beauty pageant for him, which was one of the very first things that I did that I thought was really cool that came along with winning the Super Bowl. 

“He’s always invited me to play golf and I’ve always enjoyed his company. I support all my friends in everything they do. I think it’s pretty remarkable what he’s achieved in his life. You’re going from business, kind of an incredible businessman and then a TV star, and then getting into politics. It’s three different career paths. I think that is pretty remarkable.”

Report: Brady expected to play Saturday night vs. Texans, but not Gronk

patriots-tom-brady-050917x.jpg

Report: Brady expected to play Saturday night vs. Texans, but not Gronk

Tom Brady and other Patriots starters are expected to make their preseason debuts Saturday in the second preseason game vs. the Texans in Houston, but Rob Gronkowski won't play, Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reports.

Gronkowski, recovering from back surgery performed late last season, hasn't played in a preseason game since 2012. 

MORE PATRIOTS

Brady and new acquisitions Brandin Cooks at wide receiver and Mike Gillislee at running back, along with wide receiver Julian Edelman and other starters, did not play in the Patriots' preseason opener against the Jaguars last week in Foxboro. The Patriots and Texans have been conducting joint practices at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia and Howe reports the plan all week has been to have the starters participate in the game Saturday night.

Of course, Bill Belichick reserves the right to change those plans. 

The Pats will return to the site of their last victory, NRG Stadium in Houston, where New England won Super Bowl 51 over the Falcons in February, to play the Texans. 

Freeney among available options if Patriots looking for pass-rush help

eefreeney0731_1920x1080_1014169155611.jpg

Freeney among available options if Patriots looking for pass-rush help

For years, the Patriots have schemed to keep Dwight Freeney away from Tom Brady. Might they be interested in making him Brady's teammate?

With the news coming down on Friday that rookie third-round pick Derek Rivers may have suffered a season-ending knee injury, it was just the latest hit to an edge group that was already hurting for numbers.

MORE PATRIOTS

The Patriots lost Rob Ninkovich to retirement early in training camp. They lost rookie defensive end Deatrich Wise for a to-be-determined period of time to a head injury suffered during last week's preseason game with the Jaguars. They lost Shea McClellin to an apparent injury earlier this month that has kept him out for almost two weeks.

So what's next? Here are some of the options . . .

IMMEDIATE HELP FROM OUTSIDE THE ORGANIZATION

Bill Belichick and his staff could look outside the organization for help right away via free agency or trade. Freeney, who recorded seven quarterback hurries and a sack in Super Bowl LI, is available as a free agent. Former Dolphins, Bills and Texans defensive end Mario Williams -- who Belichick and director of player personnel Nick Caserio have happily referred to as "Big M" over the years -- is also without a team at the moment. Both of those players, 37 and 32 years old, respectively, could serve as stop-gap options. ESPN's Mike Reiss noted on Friday that perhaps Ninkovich could come out of retirement to help the club. 

Then there's the possibility of the trade. The Patriots are annually among the league's most aggressive teams in terms of looking for deals to help their roster, and this year figures to be no different. They have plenty in the way of draft capital if they decide to continue their recent trend of parting ways with picks for proven players in return. There are also valuable pieces on their roster who could end up elsewhere if the return is right. Of those, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and corner Malcolm Butler -- both in contract years -- would figure to be among their most valuable potential trade chips.

TAKE A WAIT-AND-SEE APPROACH

With only one cutdown deadline this year -- teams will have their rosters trimmed from 90 players to 53 following the last week of the preseason -- chaos figures to reign as teams scour the waiver wire for both active-roster and practice-squad help. Clubs could steadily make their releases in the days leading up to the deadline, but the expectation is that there will still be a tsunami of cuts that take place in a very short span. The Patriots are already preparing for the well over 1,000 players who will eventually become available, taking an all-hands-on-deck approach in the scouting and personnel departments. Perhaps as things get hectic right around the deadline, capable edge help will become available. If it does, don't be surprsied to see the Patriots pounce. 

GO WITH WHAT THEY HAVE

The Patriots could choose to simply roll with what's on the roster for 2017. Their front-seven is loaded with versatile defensive linemen and linebackers who can play a variety of positions. Linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Harvey Langi have seen time on the edge in recent practices. Trey Flowers should be a staple on the edge when he's not being used as an interior rusher. Lawrence Guy is more of an interior force and seems to be ideally used as a five-technique, but he played all along the defensive line in Baltimore and could have some positional versatility in New England. Kony Ealy has started to show some things as a pass-rusher of late. And undrafted rookie defensive lineman Adam Butler -- who saw time everywhere from nose tackle to stand-up edge-rusher during training camp -- is an intriguing young prospect. 

The Patriots situation on the edge is far from ideal at the moment, and they could try to remedy their issues quickly with some outside help. But if they choose to stand pat, they do have options.