Little by little, it adds up. A day of missing a team workout program is becoming a more prolonged absence. The time away is being spent with a foe of the team. Another star contemplates retirement, and won’t come near the team in the meantime, as long as it’s not mandatory.
And within the rigid, tightly monitored system that Bill Belichick lords over, the cracks appear.
The drama, as it always seems around the Patriots, resides in subtlety. The latest passive-aggression is a report out of ESPN that Tom Brady will not be a “regular participant” in the team’s offseason program, even after he returns from his trip to Qatar. The trip, for his charity, was his reason for missing the start of the optional program, an absence that will now extend past one day.
It’s not just that Brady is staying away from the team, but whom he’s spending his time with. According to the report, he’ll be training with Alex Guerrero, the controversial trainer behind TB12, the cult workout program that has divided perhaps the sport’s best player and coach. Belichick distanced himself and his team from Guerrero last season, when he stripped Guerrero of essentially being an honorary team trainer, banning him from Patriots jets and permitting Guerrero to work out just Brady, but no other Patriot, at Gillette Stadium, according to a Boston Globe report.
And now Brady appears to be pushing back. As may be tight end Rob Gronkowski, himself a fan of Guerrero’s methods, who is also not present at the start of the Patriots’ workouts. Gronkowski is staying away as he contemplates his future, a surprising move for a 28-year-old in the prime of his career. But he’s dealt with injuries, and the Patriots way is wearing on him. Part of the Patriots way is the offseason program; sure, the program is optional, but in name only.
“There are some teams where it’s not a big deal if guys miss part of the offseason program,” Ross Tucker, now with NBCSN and a Belichick Patriot in 2005, wrote on Twitter. “New England is not one of them.”
It’s not the first time that Brady will miss at least a chunk of the offseason program, but it is the first time in eight years.
“We have the voluntary offseason program that starts on Monday,” Belichick told reporters last week. “It will be heavily attended, but I know there are a couple players that I’ve talked to that have other commitments, but that’s the way it always is, too. So, not really anything new there.”
Except that the team’s two best players are not around as the team convenes.
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