It has been an interesting offseason in Foxboro, Massachusetts, to say the least.
If a Super Bowl loss was not enough of a bitter pill to swallow, the New England Patriots have seen several key players depart via free-agency. They have also had to endure a non-stop barrage of questions regarding the relationships of their coach, training staff, owner and superstar players.
On Wednesday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that quarterback Tom Brady has still not committed to playing in 2018. While it was stated that people close the Patriots quarterback believe he will come back, the report also included the caveat that they did not ‘know’ if Brady’s return was certain.
“My money would be on him playing football for the foreseeable future, but what goes on away from the football field, I don’t know,” a source told ESPN. “I don’t know.”
“I believe he’s going to be there,” another source told ESPN. “However, having said that, we’re dealing with a human being. Things can change. But I do believe he will be playing.”
The Patriots are no strangers to dealing with uncertainty surrounding their star players. Tight end Rob Gronkowski has also not yet committed to playing in 2018. Both he and Brady were absent from Gillette Stadium this week for Phase 1 of the offseason workout program (which primarily focuses on strength and conditioning.) Reports surfaced earlier this week which indicated that Gronkowski’s absence might be linked to his desire for a salary increase heading into 2018. Brady’s absence was in large part to his attendance at a Best Buddies event in Qatar over the weekend. Both Brady and Gronkowski are known to work with trainer Alex Guerrero for strength and conditioning.
Still the One?
It is hard to imagine that Brady will not be under center for the Patriots’ season opener in September. He is the reigning NFL MVP, which is an honor that he earned at age 40. In Super Bowl LII, the quarterback had one of the best performances of his career, albeit in a losing effort. However, few (if any) would argue that Brady was the reason for the team’s defeat at the hand of the Philadelphia Eagles. He set multiple Super Bowl records in the game [statistics via Mark Daniels, Providence Journal] – most passing yards (505), games played (eight), most passes in his Super Bowl career (235), passing yards in a career (2,576) and career touchdown passes (18) Being the fierce competitor that he is, Brady would likely despise the thought of walking away from the game with the bad taste of a Super Bowl loss still plaguing his palate.
Despite the fact that he is seemingly at the top of his game, Brady understandably wants to spend more time with his family, as well. It’s no secret that there are people around him who would rather see him retire. It had always been thought he’d return. In fact, Brady reiterated that his goal was to play until he was 45-years-old, as recently as last offseason. However, the seed of doubt was planted in the minds of Patriots Nation when he released the final installment of his documentary “Tom vs. Time” this past March. Brady cryptically ended the series by open-endedly questioning his motive to continue playing.
Meanwhile, in Foxboro…
It also should be noted that the Patriots traded away quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo last season. The move seemed to be a sign that the team was committing to Brady – at least for at least a few more seasons. While Brady always reserves the right to change his mind (and rightfully so), it would be largely out of character for him to leave the organization (particularly the Kraft family) in a such a difficult position this close to the start of the season. At present, Brian Hoyer is the only other quarterback on the Patriots roster.
Despite Brady’s status, the Patriots will likely explore the option of selecting a quarterback in the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft. The Pats hold five picks in the first three rounds, including two in the first and two in the second. Several signal-callers have been connected to the Patriots plans such as Lamar Jackson, Kyle Lauletta, Mike White and even Baker Mayfield. In what has been described as a deep draft for quarterbacks, it would make sense that the team would be keeping its options open.
In any case, the question still remains…Will the Patriots be drafting for the future…or the present? The truth is that only Brady knows for sure. However, if his integrity and history with the team provide any indication, the smart money would be placed on Tom Brady taking the Patriots first offensive snap in 2018.
–Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and National Columnist for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the New England Patriots and the NFL. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC