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Brady deserves a pass on offseason program

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  March 19, 2010 01:51 PM

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There was a story recently about a campaign being launched by the Archdiocese of Boston to try to get those of Catholic faith to go to confession more often. Perhaps, Tom Brady should take heed. It might do him some good to participate in the repentant rite since he has committed a mortal sin in the eyes of some Patriots followers.

"Forgive me Father for I have sinned," Brady can beg. "I'm not participating in the start of the Patriots offseason conditioning program."

Even a priest would have to chuckle at such a confession. It should be laughable because it's ridiculous.

Know this: Brady plans to be in Foxborough at some point during the offseason conditioning program, and it could be as soon as next week. But even if he never shows up, Brady, he of the three Super Bowl titles, two Super Bowl Most Valuable Player awards and the greatest passing season in NFL history, is the last guy on the Patriots whose commitment level should be questioned.

Isn't this the same guy who showed up to work in a snowstorm last season less than 24 hours after the birth of his second child, Benjamin? The same guy who played last season with a broken finger on his throwing hand, a debilitating rib injury, and a sore throwing shoulder and never complained?

His dedication and preparation have been above reproach since he entered the league as a skinny sixth-round pick from Michigan in 2000. That's hasn't changed, even if his life circumstances (fatherhood) and where he conducts his offseason workouts (Los Angeles) have.

Still, that doesn't stop some from claiming that Brady is letting down his team and his teammates by working out in Southern California instead of Fort Foxborough. They harp on the lack of locker room leadership last season for the Patriots as all the more reason TB12's presence is important for the start of the conditioning program.

They point to quotes like this one from nose tackle Vince Wilfork -- "We’re going to have to start in the offseason training. Everybody has to be accountable." -- as proof that Brady is shirking his responsibilities.

No way.

Locker room unrest was a problem last season -- for the Patriots defense. It's something Wilfork and linebacker Jerod Mayo can fix, not Brady. A quarterback, no matter how good, can't be expected to be the leader of a defense. That was never the case for Brady's Patriots career, during which the defensive leaders were Bobby Hamilton, Willie McGinest, Tedy Bruschi, and Rodney Harrison.

It's understandable that people are still upset over the Patriots disappointing 10-6 season and ignominious playoff defeat to the Baltimore Ravens, and they would have a point if this were power-lifting, but it's not. It's the NFL. They're not handing out trophies for offseason conditioning, just parking spots at Patriot Place.

Brady has decided his place is with his family in Los Angeles, where he is working out with his personal trainer and other NFL players. But somehow he is the one with misplaced priorities?

Brady wouldn't be in SoCal if it weren't copacetic with coach Bill Belichick. Yes, Belichick wants players who know football is important to them. But the only thing more important to Belichick than football is fatherhood.

Talk to people in the Patriots organization, and they'll tell you how much Belichick, who has three children, Amanda, Stephen and Brian, works at making time to be a father, not unsurprising considering the influence his own late father, Steve, had on him. Belichick's youngest, Brian, is a constant presence around the Patriots and attends home and road games.

It's not unusual to see Belichick and Brian tossing the football around on the practice field during training camp long after the players have left the field. Belichick understands the important of being a visible parent -- and when one of your children lives 3,000 miles away from where you work, which is the case with Brady, the offseason is the only time you can do that for an extended stretch.

Taking time out to be a parent doesn't mean you've lost your edge. If that's the case, then Belichick lost his a long time ago.

It's not a coincidence that the first time Brady wasn't a Patriots' offseason award winner was 2008. That was the off-season following the birth of his first son, Jack, who lives in the Los Angeles-area with his mother, actress Bridget Moynahan.

It was after that off-season that Brady announced he was giving up his preferred parking spot, saying he "chose not to compete" for it. Brady's 2008 season came to an abrupt end when Bernard Pollard plowed into his knee 15 offensive snaps into it, but that had nothing to do with how he spent his offseason.

If it did, then why did Jerod Mayo, who was one of the team's nine offseason award winners from last season, suffer a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee in the first quarter of last season's opener?

Participation in the offseason program doesn't guarantee greater production on the field. The NFL is about more than taking attendance in March. Among the Patriots' winners from last offseason were Benjamin Watson and Nick Kaczur.

Brady will be 33 in August. He is entering his 11th season. He is not the wide-eyed wonderboy from 2001. He is now a grown-up off the field and a grizzled veteran who has earned the right to miss voluntary activities.

He shouldn't be ashamed of spending of time with his family in the months before the season; we should be ashamed for criticizing him for it.
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The word

Christopher L. Gasper riffs on the news

Dearth

...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.

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