The consequences of Tom Brady’s decision to skip the New England Patriots’ voluntary organized team activities is a true paradox.
It matters. It’s notable. It’s strange. It’s counter to the example Brady has set in his 18-year career. But it also ultimately doesn’t matter.
No matter when Brady decides to show up (he’ll reportedly be there for mandatory minicamp next month), he’ll almost certainly still be the Brady we’ve come to expect since 2001. The Patriots probably will go 12-4 or better again in 2018, and Brady likely will be an MVP candidate again. Like always.
But skipping voluntary sessions in New England is a big deal. The Patriots have had perfect attendance in the past. Defensive tackle Alan Branch was the only regular absence in recent seasons, and many scoffed at his decision to stay home. It was viewed as a rejection to conform to the Patriot Way.
Back in 2015, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick benched Malcolm Butler for the first two weeks of OTAs after the cornerback arrived to the first session late. The team views these voluntary sessions as a big deal — yes, “voluntary” sessions.
And while Brady’s Patriots teammates might casually dismiss the quarterback’s absence considering all he’s done for the team and league over the past 18 years, that’s not the way the Patriots usually function. Belichick typically doesn’t treat any player differently. His “bracing” coaching style reportedly became a point of contention between Brady and Belichick during the 2017 season.
While Brady probably doesn’t need to participate in 10 voluntary OTA sessions to make himself better, that’s not the tone Belichick previously has wanted to set.
Patriots fans face a dilemma in the wake of Brady’s absence. Defending his decision to miss OTAs is arguing against what has made New England so successful since 2001, when they were announced as a team at Super Bowl XXXVI rather than individually.
That’s not to say Brady’s absence is selfish or undeserved. He wants to make this offseason about his family. Brady has three young children he wants to spend time with, and he said earlier in the offseason he’s negotiated playing at least two more years with his wife, Gisele Bundchen.
But a lot of Patriots players have wives and children. And Patriots OTAs start at 10:55 a.m. ET and run for less than two hours. That’s followed by a 1:15 p.m. team meeting, so Brady could attend OTAs and get back home to Brookline, Mass., by mid-afternoon.
But, as previously stated, Brady’s absence really doesn’t affect anything. New England has Brian Hoyer as a backup quarterback and picked Danny Etling in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Brady isn’t losing his job any time soon, and it’s unlikely he will be resented by his teammates anytime soon based on his absence. Brady has always been known as a tremendous teammate.
The Patriots still should be very good in 2018, too. They’re the current favorites to win Super Bowl LIII, and Brady’s absence won’t change that. But even the most ardent Patriots and Brady supporters have to admit this latest development a little strange.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images