Tom Brady’s absence from the Patriots’ organized team activities this week has been glaring. He is skipping voluntary OTAs for the first time in eight years, and is the only quarterback in the NFL not practicing with his team right now.
But team owner Robert Kraft doesn’t seem too worried about his quarterback being ready to play for the 2018 season.
“I’ve been in communication with Tom. I think he’s very excited about the upcoming season,” Kraft said Wednesday morning at the Whitley Hotel, site of the NFL owners’ quarterly meetings. “These are voluntary workouts. I heard he’s in great shape.”
According to Kraft, Brady will be present at the Patriots’ mandatory minicamp June 5-7, but it doesn’t sound like Brady will practice with the Patriots until then. They have four OTAs each week between now and the middle of June.
“I can only say this – I know he’s very excited about being at minicamp and having a very special season this year,” Kraft said.
Kraft said Brady’s absence has more to do with his family and off-field commitments than with any lingering feud with coach Bill Belichick. Brady has spoken at a conference in Los Angeles, traveled to Brazil with his family, and partied at the Met Gala within the last month.
“I was thinking back to when he joined us, where he’s blessed to have three children now and he’s built a number of businesses and has certain responsibilities,” Kraft said. “I think it’s very hard for him to fulfill those during the season and the commitment that he has to football.”
Kraft said he doesn’t view the Brady-Belichick relationship as damaged. The two feuded last year over the restricted access Belichick put on Alex Guerrero, Brady’s body coach and business partner. Brady also let it be known in his “Tom vs. Time” documentaries that he doesn’t feel appreciated by the Patriots’ coaching staff.
Before Tuesday’s practice, Belichick declined to speak about any player that wasn’t in attendance.
“My point of view, nothing’s changed, everything is good, and I think (Brady’s) very excited about coming back. And I know we’re excited to have him,” Kraft said.
Brady reportedly has been going to the TB12 center at Patriot Place for treatment, just a few football fields away from where his teammates are working out. Kraft said he was unaware, but it didn’t bother him. Backup quarterback Brian Hoyer has been taking most of the reps at practice, and seventh-round pick Danny Etling will get more work, as well.
“I don’t have a personal tracker,” Kraft quipped. “The good news out of this, I learned this over time, is … we’re in a business of quality depth management. A lot of other players are able to get reps that they wouldn’t get, and go down the learning curve. During the course of a season, a number of things happen where you can’t plan, and it’s good to have as much preparation as you can.”
Kraft was also asked about whether the Patriots are restructuring Rob Gronkowski’s contract. The star tight end has also skipped offseason workouts as he angles for a new contract. Kraft hinted that, like Brady, Gronk will be at mandatory minicamp, but probably won’t show up before then.
Per the collective bargaining agreement, players can be fined a maximum of $82,425 for skipping the three-day minicamp.
“I’m pretty sure he’ll be there as well. We all love Gronk,” Kraft said.