Tom Brady was out of sight last season. He was by no means out of mind.
The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin explained Saturday on WEEI’s “The Ken and Curtis Show” that Brady remained a topic of conversation in the Patriots’ locker room throughout the 2020 NFL campaign, the quarterback’s first with the Buccaneers after leaving New England to sign with Tampa Bay in free agency.
In fact, according to Volin, Brady was the conversation in Foxboro.
“Last year was also a Brady hangover year for the Patriots,” Volin said. “You might say, ‘No-duh,’ but we weren’t allowed in the locker room last year. We only got Zoom. So you really only got a fraction of the flavor for what was going on with the team. I have talked to a couple of guys this offseason: All they did behind closed doors amongst each other last year was talk Tom Brady. Tom Brady was the conversation in the Patriots locker room.
“And not in a bad way. Guys weren’t angry at him at all. I think Brady still has a lot of fans and a lot of supporters and friends in the Patriots. Guys were just constantly talking about him and following him and comparing and talking about old stories and why did Brady leave and his relationship with (Josh) McDaniels and his relationship with (Bill) Belichick. All they did last year was talk Tom Brady.”
This is understandable. Brady spent 20 seasons in New England, winning six Super Bowl titles with the Patriots. Those who played with him — and in many cases won championships with him — surely were anxious to see how he would perform upon leaving to join another organization.
So, how did Patriots head coach Bill Belichick feel about all of the Brady chatter?
“The guys I talked to said they don’t know,” Volin said. “Which is classic Bill. Bill is a poker player through and through. You never know what he’s thinking. He’s not gonna join in on those conversations. Bill’s not hanging out in the locker room like Sean Payton or some of those other coaches. So Bill, you never got a read on him. But the players who are still very pro Brady, all they did was talk Brady last year.”
One can’t help but wonder whether this affected Cam Newton at all.
Probably not, seeing as the veteran quarterback seemed to win over plenty of his new teammates last season upon signing with the Patriots. Plus, he’s a household name in his own right. The struggles he endured on the field all but certainly stemmed from his physical shortcomings at this stage of his career — and perhaps a lack of talent around him — rather than the pressure of replacing Brady.
But it’ll be interesting to see whether Brady’s name continues to surface inside New England’s locker room this season, on the heels of him winning a title with Tampa Bay.
Newton is back, having drawn praise for his leadership in 2020, and Belichick already said the three-time Pro Bowl selection remains atop the QB depth chart despite the Patriots selecting Alabama quarterback Mac Jones with the 15th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Of course, we know Brady will be a major subject of conversation — both publicly and behind closed doors — ahead of his Week 4 return to Gillette Stadium. The Patriots just need to make sure he doesn’t own too much real estate in their heads the rest of the season.