BLOOMINGTON, Minnesota -- It's been an odd year for Patriots staffers. Some have had their names mentioned on air or online more frequently than ever before because of a narrowed focus on the training habits of the team's best player.
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Tom Brady released a book detailing his method for achieving peak performance back in September. Three months later, it was reported by the Boston Globe that Brady's business partner Alex Guerrero, the co-creator of Brady's method, had his Patriots privileges curbed by Bill Belichick. Recently, on Facebook, a series of mini-documentaries have been released highlighting Brady's unique off-the-field maintenance program.
That season-long storyline has at times shined a light on Patriots non-coaching, non-scouting personnel. Trainers, doctors, strength and conditioning coaches . . . how do they feel about Guerrero's influence on the club? How do they cope with differing viewpoints as it relates to player health and wellness -- especially since many players not named Brady have sought care from Guerrero?
Patriots strength and conditioning coach Moses Cabrera was made available to reporters for the first time this season during Monday's "Opening Night" festivities in St. Paul this week. When asked if there have been any issues as far as buy-in to the team's strength and conditioning program, he said no.
"Everybody's a worker," he explained. "We all respect each other. It all works together. We all have one goal. Many roads lead to Rome. We get there."
Cabrera has held his title with the Patriots for each of the last two seasons after five seasons as the assistant. Before joining the team, he worked his way up the college ranks as a member of the strength-and-conditioning staffs at the University of Colorado, Fresno State, Oral Roberts and the University of Nebraska. Though many roads may lead to Rome, for him, there is a route that he loves, one he's traveled for the better part of the last three decades.
"Have I added some different things? I always have a quest to improve," he said lounging in a seat in the stands of the Xcel Energy Center. "How can I be better, how can I be more efficient, how can I get the most bang for the buck, how can I use their time wisely and get everything accomplished?
"But my principles have always been my principles. That's never changed. I learned that when I was 12. The way I was taught at age 12 is still the way that I teach now. It's been proven. And it works. You figure out some new things and learn some new things along the way. Absolutely. No question. But I think if you just take the time and study the guys that you're working with, study the positions, study what the game is like, will you change some things? Sure. But your principles gotta stay the same."
Taking up residence inside the Vikings facilities this week, Cabrera said the team's program as far as lifting and conditioning will remain the same as it did all season during game weeks: three days of training interspersed by days off to recover. Weights are weights, whether they're in Foxboro or Minneapolis, and from a young age Cabrera, from Deming, New Mexico, has believed in them.
"At 12 I learned how to Olympic lift," he said. "The way my coach taught me how to lift, where the bar's placed, how you to the bar off the ground, how to squat -- knees out, hips down, chest vertical. I still teach that way.
"I think that's the way you should do it. Weight on the balls of your feet, not your heels. You just think about it. Think about the physics. If you feel the strongest in your heels and you're playing me, and we're gonna push on each other, and you decide you're going to go back on your heels and I'm going to be on the balls of my feet, [then what]? That's just the way I think. That's how I want my athletes to do it. That's how I teach. That's how I was taught."
Not everyone on the roster squats heavy weight, but the Patriots seem to be doing something right when it comes to the prevention of soft-tissue injuries.
The results of New England's approach -- which relies on the training, nutrition and coaching staffs working in conjunction with Cabrera and assistant strength coach James Hardy -- have been encouraging for the Patriots over the last two seasons. At the end of 2016, Belichick touted the work of the entire group for helping players largely avoid the avoidable. This year the soft-tissue results have also been positive. Matthew Slater had a nagging hamstring issue during training camp and at different points during the regular season. Dont'a Hightower, who has had a history of shoulder issues, was lost for the year due to a torn pec. Otherwise, the Patriots feel they have done well to avoid soft-tissue issues. Their most catastrophic ailments were of the harder-to-prevent ilk -- things like torn ACLs (Julian Edelman, Cyrus Jones, Derek Rivers, Nate Ebner).
"Can I prevent everything? I wish," Cabrera said. "I want to. That's the quest. If I didn't feel like perfection is [possible] then what am I doing?"
Belichick has said on many occasions just how happy he's been with Cabrera's work, including during Super Bowl week.
"Moses does a great job for us. He does a great job of working with all the players," Belichick said Tuesday. "As you know we have guys on our team that have very little experience in the NFL, very little experience in training, training the way we want to train. There have been guys who have trained in other places, here or somewhere else for quite a number of years as National Football League players so you have guys that are 180 pounds and 350 pounds and all in between. Skill players, linemen and so forth. It's quite a spectrum.
"I think that's probably the key part of [Cabrera's] job is to balance all of those things. All the needs of the individual players. We have an overall program that we adhere to for everyone, but at the same time we modify for everyone as well because all of our players and individuals have specific individual needs. He has a background and an ability to modify things to help each individual player. He's done a great job."
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Cabrera doesn't bask in praise from his boss. He would have liked to have skipped the "Opening Night" ceremonies had he been allowed.
What he likes to work in the background, helping his athletes perform at their best and stay as healthy as possible. He takes pride in what they'll do on Sunday -- and his name may pop up on air if the Patriots offensive line can withstand the waves of rushers they'll face -- but only because that's how he feels year-round. Regardless of how unique their personal conditioning program may be.
"I think what people don't understand is I love these guys," he said. "Because when you get to work with them every day, you get to know them really well, you develop a relationship. I'm always happy for them. Always proud of them. When they hurt, I hurt. When they accomplish something, I feel good about it.
"I spend a lot of time with them. I see them in a different light than a lot of other people do. I see them for who they are and I appreciate them. I'm always happy for them. Doesn't matter when it is. We always want the team to have success. No question there, but I'm always happy for them."