Quarterback Tom Brady was given his first opportunity to comment on ESPN’s report of friction within the New England Patriots organization Saturday during his weekly appearance with Jim Gray on Westwood One Sports Radio.
ESPN’s report speculated Patriots head coach Bill Belichick could leave New England after being “mandated” by owner Robert Kraft to trade backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Among other details, ESPN also reported Brady had grown tired of Belichick’s hard coaching.
Brady dispelled some of ESPN’s report in his radio appearance.
Here’s the transcript of Gray’s questions and Brady’s answers on the subject.
Q: How would you describe the working environment as you prepare for the playoffs between yourself, Coach Belichick and your teammates?
TB: “I see it as I’ve seen it for the last 18 years. That we’re all there to do a job, and that’s to go out to do our best to help the team win. So, that’s been very consistent here. That’s been a big reason why our team has been so successful, and I don’t see that any different heading into this week.”
Q: Is there a different kind of tension because of these reports?
TB: “I don’t think so. I think, in so many ways, adversity that our team has faced over the years only makes us stronger. Everything is a great opportunity, and we have a great opportunity as a team, and we’ve worked very hard to get ourselves to this spot to be 13-3, to have the 1 seed, to have the bye is a very hard thing to do. So, to let anything get in the way of that and all the hard work that people have really put into it and what we’ve achieved, to take away from that, it would be very unfortunate if we let this opportunity get away from us.”
Q: Can this become a fractured group?
TB: “I don’t think so. Only if we let it. I think, for so long, we’ve proven that we ignore the noise, we do our job, we speak for ourselves, and focus on what we need to do to help the team win.”
Q: How big of a distraction will this be?
TB: “Along with winning and great success comes a lot of things. I think for a long time we’ve done a great job of winning games and it forces people to be creative with what they talk about and the things they write and the things they may speculate on. Because diagnosing football plays doesn’t get the attention that some of these other things might. So, speculating on relationships or what my feelings are towards my team or my organization, or players or coaches, I can only speak for myself. And really, my relationships with everybody that I deal with, I feel are so positive. To think any differently of that is complete nonsense. So I love the fact where we’re at as a team. I want my focus and energy to be where it needs to be, which is on the biggest game of the year. That’s what I know I’ll personally accomplish, and I know that’s going to be a big goal for our team this week, too.”
Q: How do you feel while absorbing information from reports about yourself?
TB: “Yeah, that’s a great question. It’s very interesting to read about yourself and to read about how others may see you or how they reflect on something that may have happened to me or what I’m involved in and then speculate on my own personal feelings, knowing that those feelings may be completely different than what’s written. I’m someone who lives through my own experiences just like everybody else. I have my own thoughts and feelings on those experiences, and as I’ve said before, I’m a very positive person, so when I read things that are disparaging about somebody or someone or something, those are the things that probably bother me, because I think those are completely untrue. They’re very different than the core of the person that I am, because I don’t let a lot of negative things really enter into my mind.”
Q: So, I’d like to ask you a specific question about this article. The outstanding issue here to me seems that you have an owner who treats you like a fifth son and is loyal to you, a genius of a coach who’s won five Super Bowls with you who would like to get rid of a player a year too early rather than a year too late, and it seems like the owner has chosen you, and the coach wants to go along with the same method and routine that’s made him successful. How do you handle that?
TB: “I think you can ask — I’m obviously not going to answer for them. I think you can speak to them or however they want to answer that is fine with them and how they characterize our relationship. I characterize my relationship with Mr. Kraft as very much the same way. He’s a great person, man. He’s been like a second father to me in so many ways. I have a great relationship with Coach Belichick. We’ve worked together for 18 years. There’s no coach I’d rather play for, and I’ve loved my experience here. I certainly couldn’t be the player I am today without playing for such a great coach. I see these as all positive things. A lot of people — that obviously doesn’t sell many newspapers, but to me, I have so much gratitude toward my time here, and I’ve loved my experience. I continue to love my experience. We’ve had a great season thus far, and hopefully we can write a great ending to this particular chapter, this season by going out and playing great in the playoffs.”
Q: Do you expect to finish your career in a Patriots uniform?
TB: Well, what was my answer a few weeks ago?
Q: Michael Jordan played for the Washington Wizards, Joe Montana played for the Kansas City Chiefs, and you never have a lot of happy endings in sports. It’s not a fairy tale, but my hope is I will finish and always want to be a Patriot.
TB: Well, in that aspect, I haven’t changed at all. I know careers change. They change places. Great players change, coaches change, ownership changes. That’s just the way it is. I think there’s a humility that you understand that you’re not bigger than any of this. And I believe I’m certainly not. I love this team, I love this organization, and hopefully we can go out and make everybody proud by finishing this season the right way.
The biggest takeaway from Brady’s comments is he doesn’t believe the working environment on the Patriots has changed in 18 years. It also is notable that he acknowledged that adversity makes the Patriots stronger. They’ve won two Super Bowls since the Deflategate controversy first broke.
Finally, the QB had glowing remarks on his head coach despite the reported friction between the two over Belichick limiting the team access of Brady’s trainer, Alex Guerrero. Guerrero’s name popped up frequently in ESPN’s story.