BOSTON – Tom Brady attempted to defuse speculation that tension is pulling apart the New England Patriots from the top.
A report by ESPN claimed Patriots owner Robert Kraft forced coach Bill Belichick to trade backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in October. Further splintering allegedly came of Belichick’s mandate that Brady’s personal trainer, who had an office at Gillette Stadium, lose his all-access pass to the team, including charter flights.
Belichick said he had “no idea” where the ESPN report came from, but several national NFL reporters intimated the leak might have originated with Belichick.
Brady said he didn’t expect the Patriots to fracture based on the recent reports.
“I don’t think so. Only if we let it,” Brady told Westwood One. “I think for so long we’ve proven that we ignore the noise, we do our job, we speak for ourselves, and we focus on what we need to do to help the team win.”
The Patriots had two days off while awaiting their draw for Saturday’s AFC divisional playoff game (Tennessee). New England has home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs. The winning tradition borne of a focus only on getting to and winning the Super Bowl, Brady said, continues to drive New England.
“I see it as I’ve seen it for the last 18 years: that we’re all there to do a job, and that’s to go out to do our best and help the team win,” Brady said. “That’s been very consistent here. That’s been a big reason why our team has been so successful, and I don’t see that any different going into this week.”
Brady called Belichick a “genius of a coach” and noted the team almost always errs on the side of getting rid of a player “a year or two early instead of late.”
Garoppolo, who at 26 is 24 years younger than Brady, was scheduled to become a free agent in March. He was shipped to the San Francisco 49ers and went 6-0 to end the season.
At age 40, Brady led the Patriots to another AFC East title and was No. 1 in the NFL in passing yards.
Brady reiterated that he always wants to play for the Patriots, and expects to play a few more seasons.
“Well, in that aspect I haven’t changed at all, so I know careers change,” Brady said. “They change places. Great players change, coaches change, ownership changes, that’s just the way it is. So, you know, I think there’s a humility that you understand that you’re not bigger than any of this, and I believe I’m certainly not. And, you know, I love this team, I love this organization, and hopefully we can go out and make everybody proud by finishing the season the right way.”
–Special to Digital Sports Desk by Field Level Media