Bulked-up Brady? Here's the skinny on Brady's offseason regimen

Bulked-up Brady? Here's the skinny on Brady's offseason regimen

This morning, in reporting news we already knew (Tom Brady wouldn’t be at OTAs for the second season in a row), Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tacked on a snippet of new info. That Brady “may bulk up” for 2019.

For anybody on the Brady Body Beat — and who isn’t at this point? — this is decidedly unpliable news and demands further investigation.

This is the skinny. Over the course of the nearly eight-month season (late July to early February) every player loses size. Brady usually loses about five pounds. Last year, he finished the season at about 223 pounds.

This year, the aim is to come in closer to around 232. The TB12 diet and approach will stay the same; the resistance workouts will just employ heavier bands.

There’s no singular reason for the switch. Switching up the routine and goals to keep them fresh seems the primary goal. The second is just wanting to be a little more filled out.

As for the OTAs, Brady not being there at the start pretty much seals the deal that he won’t be there for any save the mandatory minicamp in early June. As Jerod Mayo told us last year, Bill Belichick prefers players to either be all in or all out for OTAs, not saying, “I’ll be there for Tuesday and Wednesday of this session but will miss Thursday and can’t make the next one but should be at Phase 3….”

There’s a lot less hue and cry over Brady’s not being there this year because A) the Patriots ended up with another Lombardi anyway, B) the subplot of Brady seeking purpose — which the final episode of Tom vs. Time invited — isn’t present and C) the Belichick-Brady relationship seems to have come through the agitations of 2017 and early 2018 stronger than it’s been in a while.

That doesn’t remove the fact Brady is skipping workouts that for years the team has described as the first critical step in building success for the coming year. Statements we’ve dutifully reported.

But it’s hard to look at his absence as a BFD when, in the end it turned out not be a BFD at all.

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Sunday Notes: Deebo Samuel's judgment was debatable in goodbye to ‘Billy’ Belichick

Sunday Notes: Deebo Samuel's judgment was debatable in goodbye to ‘Billy’ Belichick

Interesting approach from South Carolina receiver Deebo Samuel. He visited the Patriots this week. When he got to the parking lot he whipped out his phone and, with the facility as his backdrop, said, “We outta here. Hey Billy. I’ll see you in a month, my man.”

The video was posted on Instagram and aired on NFL Network when Samuel was there as a guest. As the video aired, one of the hosts, former NFL player Brian Baldinger, looked at Samuel with a look of stupefied amazement.

Being overly familiar with the CEO and posting your confidence on social media isn’t a strategy you’d see recommended by experts for young job seekers. But the NFL isn’t a normal industry and sometimes Bill Belichick surprises with what he finds amusing. He doesn’t hate big personalities. He does hate distracting personalities. It’s a fine line.

What Belichick definitely doesn’t love is having what he talks about behind closed doors brought into the open. Samuel did reveal a bit. Again, this probably wouldn’t be viewed as a mortal sin but might elicit a fatigued, “What are we doing here…?” response.

Samuel’s impression of Belichick?

“I thought he was like a real, real serious coach like, ‘Don’t smile or a lot.’ But when I met him he was a little laughing, gave me a little smile,” said the receiver. “We had a good conversation there.”

What did they talk about, asked Baldinger.

“They really wasn’t hard questions,” said Samuel. “He was just asking about what type of plays I did. He was asking about kick returning, where I would be on the offensive side but it was really just a conversation, see what happens in the draft, whatever happens.”

Not exactly giving away any state secrets, as Belichick would say. Still, if Samuel does land here I’d expect his social media presence might taper off a bit.

Will he land here? That’s the question.

At 5-11, 215 pounds, Samuel is a sturdy, fast, ultra-competitive, works over the middle and returns kicks. He’s got great versatility. He isn’t as sudden as Julian Edelman and he’s so rocked up he looks like he could use some significant pliability time.

There are, as Belichick pointed out earlier this week, a lot of teams seeking slots. Parris Campbell, Marquise Brown, Andy Isabella and Hunter Renfrow are among the players mentioned first at the position.

The Patriots have had a variety of receivers in with different body types during the private-visit stage. Baylor’s Jalen Hurd (6-4, 227), Ole Miss’ A.J. Brown (6-0, 226), Notre Dame’s Miles Boykin (6-4, 220), Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry (6-2, 228) and Georgia’s Mecole Hardman (5-10, 187).

Visits are not necessarily an indication of outsized interest. Often, they are scheduled to answer lingering questions. Hurd, for example, had knee surgery in December. It would be wise to double-check his progress. But the Patriots are obviously going to draft a wideout. And while Brown and Samuel are bigger and more highly-touted slots, Hardman seems the most enticing to me because of his suddenness and elusiveness. He’s 40 pounds lighter than Brown, 30 pounds lighter than Samuel, he should be quicker. But he’s also faster (4.33 40) and – as a converted defensive back – still has room to grow as a receiver.

In the Patriots offense, understanding the concept and spacing, getting open, catching it and making the first guy miss are the attributes that made Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, James White, Dion Lewis and Deion Branch the most trusted inside receivers Tom Brady’s thrown to. It really isn’t about running past people on the outside. It’s about uncovering on the inside where the high-percentage completions are there for the taking. If the right guy is running the route.

*****

Ready for a streamlined Donta Hightower? Check this out. Hightower and Shaq Mason were shown post-workout  Friday evening on a Twitter post. Former Patriots Marquice Cole weighed in on Hightower’s lack of weight. Hightower weighed in on Quice’s comment. Hightower was visibly less bulky in 2018 and now seems even leaner. It’s a departure from the 270-pound version of Hightower we saw during the first six seasons of his career. If Hightower’s aim was to become more durable, his 2018 season provided evidence it worked. He played and started 15 games – that was the most he’d started since 2013 when he played in all 16.

*****

Earlier this week, former NFL official and current NBC officiating analyst Terry McAulay pointed out that making pass interference reviewable means offensive linemen better stay legal when blocking on RPOs. Contact initiated by a blocker more than a yard past the line of scrimmage is pass interference.  

Now that coaches have a chance to scrutinize replays to see if anyone was blocking past 36 inches, there may be as many reviews for offensive pass interference.

Additionally, as Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk pointed out when passing on McAulay’s observation, this begs the question of whether replay officials are on the hook to look for OPI on touchdowns since every scoring play is reviewed.

“Will touchdowns get overturned to offensive pass interference because of a block two yards downfield that didn’t appear to have any impact on the play?” wondered Smith. “It’s important that the league think through all these possibilities and, if necessary, revise the rule at the May league meeting. One revision could be to make offensive pass interference reviewable only for contact that begins after the ball is in the air.”

Now let me add another layer. Illegal picks. If pass interference was reviewable, you can bet your sweet bippy Bill Belichick would have been throwing when the Chiefs ran a devastating and illegal pick in the final minutes of the AFC Championship Game.

Take another look at Sammy Watkins making a 38-yard reception down to the Patriots 2-yard line with 2:55 remaining and the Patriots ahead 24-21. Wide receiver Chris Conley obliterated Patriots corner J.C. Jackson about 4 yards downfield, leaving Watkins along and Belichick blowing a gasket on the sidelines.

That’s reviewable now. And if the owners do try to tinker with the rule, as Smith suggests, the outcry from coaches, GMs and media on the behalf of defensive players should be long and really loud.

*****

You like Nashville? Sure ya do. Will you like it in August? We will find out. Titans coach Mike Vrabel all but confirmed this week that the Patriots and Titans will be holding joint practices prior to the second game of the preseason in Nashville.

Over the years, the Patriots have gotten some really good work in during these shared practices. They twice went to The Greenbrier in West Virginia, first to work with the Saints and two years ago to practice with the Texans. With Houston on the early-season schedule, the Patriots held back a fair amount and the reviews weren’t quite as positive.

Last season, the Patriots decided to forego joint sessions and – perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not – the team was remarkably healthy during the 2018 season. Those joint practices can take a chunk out of a team. The Patriots also cancelled the last two practices of their final four-day session of OTAs in mid-June – and spent one of those four days visiting Fenway.

So it will be interesting to see how the Patriots approach the 2019 workouts given the health and results of last season.

*****

Only three of the Patriots nine drafted players saw any action in 2018 – Sony Michel, Ja’Whaun Bentley and Keion Crossen. And Bentley wound up on IR with a torn bicep after just three games. So there are a lot of unknowns among that crew, which Belichick alluded to this week.  

“Many of our 2018 draft choices had partial seasons or minimal in some cases,” Belichick said at his Wednesday predraft press conference. “We’re excited to see how those guys will do this year, obviously. It’s a hardworking group. Those guys are here on a very consistent basis and hopefully we’ll be able to get a much longer look at the 2018 draft class than we were able to get last year.”

Offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn, who tore his Achilles, is the most prominent player of the group. Second-round pick Duke Dawson, who was available late in the season after being injured but never saw the field, could also have a prominent role based simply on the amount the team was putting on his plate during training camp.

Linebacker Christian Sam, wide receiver Braxton Berrios, quarterback Danny Etling and tight end Ryan Izzo are the others who didn’t see any game action or were on IR and unavailable.

How will their presence impact the Patriots’ 2019 draft decisions? Well, for one thing, the Patriots don’t need 12 more rookies in camp and that’s how many draft picks they have so that fact underscores even more that the Patriots figure to be active traders when the draft begins.

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Bill Belichick talks NFL Draft trade strategy, avoiding 'misinformation'

Bill Belichick talks NFL Draft trade strategy, avoiding 'misinformation'

FOXBORO – We all know the Patriots make a lot of deals during the draft. But it took drilling down into all the draft deals the team’s executed under Bill Belichick to get a real appreciation for how unbelievably important they’ve been to the success of the franchise.

Consider the players landed thanks, in part, to draft deals: Matt Light, Randy Moss, Dont'a Hightower, Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, Ty Warren, Chandler Jones, Jamie Collins, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Patrick Chung, Eugene Wilson, Trent Brown. If you’re picking in a crappy slot – which the Patriots annually are – you better be inventive in acquiring extra picks so you can move around. And you better know what your neighbors are up to.

I asked Belichick on Wednesday during the predraft press conference about the importance of being familiar with the needs of the teams drafting around the Patriots.

“We track it the best we can,” he acknowledged. “I think there’s a lot of misinformation that’s out there now. There’s sometimes other accurate information that you can obtain through one source or another. I think sometimes it’s relevant.”

Pause there because it’s telling. To Belichick and the Patriots in general, good information is gold. It doesn’t matter where it comes from. In the course of his football life, Belichick’s relied on people as varied as the brilliant and reclusive Joel Buchsbaum, a man whose life’s passion was watching and scouting college players, to national media members who are clearinghouses for information gathered from Belichick’s peers, to the pipeline of college coaches who either once worked with Belichick or have grown up in the game revering him.

As taciturn as Belichick might be at a podium, he’ll be downright chatty with people who can make him smarter. It’s part of his skillset. And – for a man of 66 – it’s impressive because, while he might be regarded as the football person closest to knowing it all, he is forever willing to learn.

Back to live action.

Belichick said that when targeting a particular player, it’s not just the team on the clock you need to be wary of. It’s anyone who needs your guy.

“A lot of times it’s not the team right in front of you; it’s a team somewhere else,” said Belichick. “A team that could be … at a location behind you, that may be looking at a certain position or a certain player that could affect your draft strategy, as well.

“The team in front of you might not have any need for or even want a type of player you’re considering but that doesn’t really mean anything because anybody could move up into that spot and take that player,” Belichick added. “It’s all relevant.”

The intel is vital because when a team is on the clock, it’s imperative to know what they are seeking. If the team selecting wants to trade out for whatever reason, who might be coming up. And what is that team looking for.

“In the first round, I mean, we’re not going from … 32 to eight, whatever it is. That’s not realistic,” said Belichick. “There could be a team at, whatever – 40, that’s really more of a problem for us than the team at 31. We usually have a decent amount of time between our picks to identify, "OK, here are the players that we’re considering. Here are the teams that are around us." If one of those teams is actively trying to trade out then that means somebody is going to trade in and who could they be coming up for, how would that affect us, do we want to get ahead of that team, do we care?”

The Patriots made a pre-emptive deal in 2003 to get Ty Warren. New England was at 14. The Bears were at 13 and trying to deal down. The Pats didn’t want someone else to jump up and grab Warren. New England moved up one spot by dealing with the Bears. Chicago got a sixth-round pick for the favor of moving back one spot.

The Patriots have often been the team moving up as well. They did it for Gronk in 2010, Light in 2001 and for both Hightower and Jones in 2012.  

“There’s multiple examples of it and moving back is obviously just the reverse of that if you feel like you can take the same player at a lower point in the draft and acquire another asset somewhere, there’s merit to doing that (which the Patriots did in 2010 with Devin McCourty),” said Belichick. “You don’t want to lose the player that you want but maybe that’s a player that or maybe there’s multiple players there and in that particular circumstance that big of a differential. If you can gain an asset, gain value by doing that, then there’s a strategy that makes that a consideration.”

Some of what Belichick is relating is common sense. But the predraft legwork required so that the Patriots have a handle on what everyone else wants is anything but elementary.

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