By Tom E. Curran
Last year, there was all manner of hand-wringing about Tom Brady's offseason regimen which included barely an appearance in Foxboro. "The parking space!" "The contract!" "Giselle!" "Hollywood!" "Buildinga2-million square foot mansionwallpapered withrecycled Keno slips!""Soft!"Even owner Robert Kraft said he'd have preferred his quarterback be in Foxboro than everywhere else his quarterback was. Brady finally blew into town when it fit his schedule. He carried a no bullcrap agenda. He reamed rookies who ran wrong routes. He dropped F-bombs with impunity. Then, when the season started, he led the Patriots to a 14-2 record, threw 36 touchdowns and four picks on an offense populated with virtualunknowns. Then he was named NFL MVP. Unanimously. Oh, they lost to the Jets in the playoffs? If anyone wants to say with a straight face that happened because Brady was in Cannes doing his nails on a veranda in May, they forfeit the right to have their opinion valued. What he did with his time then didn't matter. And what he's done this offseason - when he's seemed softer than a butterfly's sigh - won't matter too much either. What is worth remarking upon, though, is the swinging Richard manner in which Bradysweeps into town this week and grabs the reins of the offseason workouts. As if now the 12 to 15 guys who've been working out in Foxboro since early March and catching passes from Brian Hoyer can really get some work in now with Brady in town. He's the franchise quarterback, the best player in the league and a mega-celebrity. I get it. And a lot more players are taking part now because of this concentrated gathering. But it is an insult to the players who have been working en masse since March to pass along the notion that the work began Wednesday at Alumni Stadium. Maybe it's an insult initiated and then perpetuated by the media. I know that our joint went "all hands on deck" when we heard Brady was in town. But it will be interesting to see if Brady promotes this presumption by not being at least a little deferential when he speaks Friday at Harvard Stadium at his charity flag football event. Brady is a great worker. He is a great teammate. But it will be a sad development if no mention is made of the work Mayo and Co have put in to build the 2011 Patriots. It will be a sign thatthe self-awareness that makes Brady special is finally slipping.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran
Six days – four quarters of football – remain in Tom Brady’s four-game suspension.
The fact is the Patriots are 3-0 and have gotten a long – and enjoyable – look at their quarterback depth behind Brady. Brady, meanwhile, has gotten a chance to shave one-quarter off the season-long wear-and-tear he takes.
But highlighting silver linings and pointing out there’s not much sand left in the suspension hourglass is no real consolation. Said one team source Thursday night, “It’s never going to go away.”
What’s Brady been up to? Mixing family time and working out. He’s routinely spent four hours a day training, I’m told, presumably with his body coach Alex Guerrero at TB12 Sports Performance at Patriot Place. Also, aside from his Sunday session with Wes Welker, Brady’s been throwing to young college players at undisclosed locations, eschewing the opportunity to bring in some of the “name” former players who’ve reached out and offered their services.
Spotted in Italy with wife Gisele Bundchen last week, Brady’s also been back home in San Mateo visiting with his family.
Speaking to two people close to him, I was told he succeeded in making peace with the time off and avoiding the creep of too much bitterness. I was also told he’s unbelievably motivated to return at a high level and wants his transition back to be seamless in terms of performance and conditioning. That last part is, of course, to be expected. But it will be interesting to see how Brady does perform out of the gates after a month’s forced exile.
NINKOVICH RETURNS, TOO
The lesser of the two suspended prodigal sons set to return next week – Rob Ninkovich – is no doubt going to benefit physically from the quarter-season vacation as well. And the defensive ends who’ve performed well in his absence – Jabaal Sheard and especially Chris Long – will do well to have Ninkovich back in the mix. Mention should also be made of Trey Flowers who has shown up in opponent’s backfields on a weekly basis. It depends on what your personal cup of tea might be, but through three games, Long seems to me a much better defensive fit for this team than Chandler Jones. Jones was the more explosive pass-rusher but Long’s ability in the running game, and his play-in, play-out impact in applying pressure on the tackle in front of him makes it seem so far as if he’s an upgrade.
NEW DEALS AHEAD?
Still no word on which Patriot may be in line for a new deal since the team restructured Devin McCourty and freed up some cap space.
Donta Hightower, Malcolm Butler and Jamie Collins have been seen as the most likely targets for extensions and a redo of Hightower at this point would whittle down his $7M cap number and possibly allow another extension to be executed for either Collins or Butler, as our Phil Perry pointed out. Jabaal Sheard, meanwhile, is the Patriot who flies under the radar when extension talk starts. He may be every bit as important to the success of the Patriots defense as the other three.
The Bills are 0-2, the natives are beyond restless in Buffalo and the Cardinals are in Western New York on Sunday. The Bills are expected to play without wide receiver Sammy Watkins and are a team staring into the esophagus of 0-3 with a visit to the Patriots coming next week. Have a gander at the Bills Mailbag in the Buffalo News. Seems like years since Rex was all giddy about the paint job on his new truck. It was less than 19 months ago.
Phil Perry joins SNC to explain to you why it is still possible that both Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett could be ready for Week 4 against the Bills.