“He’s coming back. He’s coming back.”
Those were the words Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman said while sitting court side next to soon-to-be free agent quarterback Tom Brady, at the Syracuse-UNC basketball game earlier this month. While it’s still uncertain what Brady will decide — and according to his former offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, Brady texted him that “nobody knows anything,” — many are anticipating his decision once he officially becomes a free agent on March 18.
That includes Brady’s current teammates, who have been making efforts to get him to stay in New England. Edelman embarked on a “Stay! Tom 2020” campaign trail and even gifted the Celtics’ with their own t-shirts. Defensive end Chase Winovich recited Shakespeare in an Instagram post, pleading for Brady not to leave. He’s also been thinking about him in general, specifically how long he has worn the same shoulder pads.
However, most of his teammates are just not in the loop about what he’s thinking. This was evident at the end of the season when a handful of them reflected on Brady’s potential departure after the Patriots lost to the Titans.
Here’s what they said from the locker room:
Devin McCourty, DB: “I don’t know his future. That’s really on him, but I will say, from my second year being able to be a captain and sitting in those meetings and just hearing how he looks at the game, not just from a quarterback position but overall the game and hearing his input each week when we got ready to go on Friday mornings taught me a lot as a leader.
“It’s hard to imagine Tom not playing football; it’s hard to imagine him not playing here. But, like you just said, the business of football is what it is, but no matter what, in my 10 years here to be able to learn from him and go against him, and from time to time intercept him at practice, has made me a way better player. I’ve appreciated everything he’s done for me and trying to help me out along the way.”
Phillip Dorsett II, WR: “It’s a blessing. A lot of people can’t sit here and say that they’ve caught touchdown passes from Tom Brady. I’m one of them. There’s a lot of people that come through this league and I know there’s a lot of people that would love to have chance to play with him. I was one of them, so it’s been a blessing.”
Stephon Gilmore, CB: “I don’t know. That is his decision to make. One thing I’ll remember is his work ethic. Him coming to work every day and pushing himself no matter how great he is, he’ll still push himself. It rubs off on everybody, it rubs off on me. So I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
Matthew Slater, WR/Special Team: “As a Patriot I’d say I don’t want to go down that road…As his friend and as his teammate, I’d say no.
“[Brady] does things the right way and has all the success in the world, but still remains himself. I think that says a lot about who he is as a man and, like I said, ultimately I care more about that than him being a six-time champion. I am proud to call him a friend and thankful for everything he has taught me as a football player, but also as a man.”
Ted Karras, OL: “Yes, I am also a free agent for the first time so I can only speak for myself. There are a lot of unknowns as this is a business, but I am so thankful for these last four years that have been incredible and the absolute pleasure of a lifetime to be looking back and give thanks. Whatever happens, happens. It is a big business, so we will see in March.”
Ben Watson, TE: “That’s a personal decision for him. He’s played a lot of football, a lot of great football. He’s had two Hall of Fame careers. I’d love to have had half of a Hall of Fame career. He’s had two. He’s still playing great football. So I think that’s a decision he’ll have to make. I don’t know if he’s made it or not, but I know he still wants to play. Wherever he plays. If he plays. Whatever he does. He’s still going to be a guy I’m going to be cheering on forever.”
Jonathan Jones, DB: “I don’t know. It’s his free agency, his choice, his decision. He’ll do what is best for him.”
Most recently, linebacker Kyle Van Noy said he still has not talked to Brady and does not know his decision.
“Me personally, I haven’t talked to Tom, no,” he said to NFL.com. “There’s levels….No, Tom’s great. I’m sure if I reached out to him, he’d chit-chat any day. … Me and Tom have a good relationship. I hope nothing but the best for him and just want him to make the best decision for his family.”
On the other hand, Brady’s former teammates are speculating what he’ll decide. Former cornerback Aqib Talib thinks Brady is for sure leaving.
“I think Tom is gone,” Talib said on the NFL All Access on the NFL Network. “I think it’s a done deal. Bill is going to be Bill. Them calls are going to be short and to the point. We got a report that said it didn’t go well. I had a call that didn’t go well with Bill before, so I can imagine what happened on that call.”
Retired Patriots tight end Christian Fauria agreed, expressing there’s almost a 100 percent chance he’s gone.
“I am putting that a 99.6 percent Tom Brady never wears a Patriots jersey again,” he said in February on WEEI’s Ordway, Merloni and Fauria show. “The next time he shows up at Gillette Stadium it’ll be either a guest playing for another team or getting a red jacket….He is gone-sky. He is not going to return…I feel good about this one. I mean think about it, I actually believe Mike Giardi – I actually believe there is a house, I believe that Tom Brady is no different than Phillip Rivers, they’re living the same life.
“If I knew I wasn’t coming back to the Patriots, I think the Patriots knew they weren’t signing him before the season started. [They are] one hundred percent done…They know Brady is not coming back [and] I don’t believe they want Brady for $13 million, I don’t think they want him period. And I think Brady knows it.”
Former linebacker Rob Ninkovich thinks that if Brady leaves, so do his other teammates, such as McCourty and Van Noy, who are also free agents:
“I would think if Tom comes back, one of those other players comes back,” he said to the Boston Herald. “But if Tom doesn’t come back, I don’t know if those guys are going to want to stick around. Because what’s the outlook for the team? Is it a rebuilding phase? What happens moving forward?”
Only time will tell what Brady will decide. For now, Patriots fans, his teammates, and even his rivals, will just have to wait and see.