WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. - Getting a read on how Tom Brady is dealing with the stress of a four-game suspension -- and his ongoing legal battle to erase it -- is virtually impossible when talking with Patriots players and coaches. They have the answers down pat.
Take Matthew Slater today, for example.
Me: "Are you surprised Brady was able to have such a great day in practice with all that’s on his plate?"
Slater: “Not at all.”
Me: "So standard operating procedure?"
Slater with a smile: “It’s Tom Brady.”
So if the Pats are keeping it in house, let’s take it outside the house.
Two former Brady targets, Randy Moss and Troy Brown (both residents of West Virginia), were in attendance at the final joint practice between the Pats and Saints. As a distant relative of the family, Moss was more open than most.
“One thing you all have to realize is Tom is human," said Moss. “I’m not going to sit here and tell you it doesn’t affect him. I think not only does it affect him, it affects everybody in his circle. That’s something, as a professional, you just have to live with it and move on from it.”
Brown thinks Brady has been able to do that, at least from what he observed Thursday.
“He does a great job of being focused on his mission, and that’s to get better day after day; you know how it is around here,” said Brown with a smirk. “That’s what he was focused on, getting better and getting the guys around him better and focus on the things that are important. So it doesn’t surprise me that Tom is able to channel all of his attention to the details. Nothing surprises me with Tom.”
Brown said he doesn’t discuss Deflategate and the fallout with Brady. Moss falls in that camp as well.
“We talk every month, but that’s something we don’t talk about,” said Moss. “I told, Tom first and foremost, I’m going to stand by him regardless of what happens and I don’t call him to talk to him about anything negative. Friends are suppose to stay positive and move you in the right direction and that’s what I’m there for.”
Brady clearly enjoyed having his ex-teammates around, and at one point he playfully tossed the ball to Moss a couple of times. The sure-fire Hall of Famer is now running a football academy in Charlotte, focusing on teaching kids not only how to play the game, but how to prepare physically and mentally.
Moss, who last played in the NFL in 2012 for the 49ers, misses the game and, he says, is only now understanding just what he accomplished as a player.
“I always wondered myself how I would reflect on my career," he said. "You know what’s funny? I look on the Internet, look at myself, and wonder how was I was able to run and do the things that I was able to do. I never really got caught up in things when it was dealing with me, like overwhelming, but some of the things that I see myself do, knowing that I’m older, I was like, 'Wow, how did you do that stuff?'
“I think you have to have a certain swag to play this game, and like I said, me going back and looking at my highlights, man, is just something. For 14 years, I think I did something right.”
Would Moss, looking as good as he does, ever consider giving the game one more shot?
“I would say never but . . . " He paused. "Ummmmm, ahhhhh, ahhhhh . . . let’s leave it at that.”
And with that, Moss disappeared. But not before he once again left a mark, this one in favor of the best quarterback he ever played with.