Patriots

Belichick explains why Brady's diet, training regimen isn't for everyone

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Belichick explains why Brady's diet, training regimen isn't for everyone

FOXBORO -- As Tom Brady approaches his 40th birthday Thursday, much continues to be made of how exactly he's able to maintain his level of play and avoid the pitfalls of aging that befall most other quarterbacks. 

It's the diet. At least that's part of it. Limit the sugar. Limit the alcohol. Live in the vegetable aisle. (But keep the nightshades at arm's length.) Drink enough water to fill a dunk tank. 

And while some of Brady's teammates seem to have bought into the plan to some extent -- Rob Gronkowski is the latest to test it out -- it's not for everyone. Patriots coach Bill Belichick said as much during a press conference on Wednesday in a long and well-reasoned answer that highlighted the player-by-player approach the team takes to nutrition.

Belichick was asked, "Would you recommend [Brady's] diet and workout plan to other players on your team?"

"Well, we tailor everything we do to each individual, so we train players that are 185 pounds, we train players that are 350 pounds," Belichick said. "We train players that have a lot of different things they do on the football field. Some are very specific, like specialists, like quarterbacks, kickers, snappers, things like that. Some players have a very extensive role – special teams, offense or defense, first, second, third downs – so we have different training programs.

"And again, each individual is different – their age, their physical makeup, their build and their strength and explosion and power and so forth. You know, we have a certain general way of training everybody, but it really becomes pretty specific depending on the individual and what we ask them to do. So, we don’t want to train a player to do something that we’re not going to ask them to do. Unless it’s just part of the general training, we want to train players to do things that fall in line with what we would see them and ask them to perform on the field.

"So, depending on what the player is, then probably his age, his experience, his physical makeup, other medical issues, if there are any, his role and so forth all is part of what we look at for each individual player. So, what’s right for one person isn’t necessarily right for the next person. Not saying it’s wrong, but maybe there’s something better we can do for the other person."

It's a fascinating conversation. Just take the example of Gronkowski trying to take on Brady's plan. Gronkowski is a 265-pound tight end who needs to be able to absorb high-impact collisions without getting injured. He also needs to be sturdy enough on the line of scrimmage to move a 300-pound defensive lineman in the running game. At his best, he has the power to stiff-arm a cornerback or safety into the turf without breaking stride. 

Brady's job is decidedly different, yet Gronkowski is giving his quarterback's meal plan and training regimen a shot. Gronkowski's version may contain a few of his own alterations that will allow him to maintain his strength to perform his job to the best of his ability, but he seems to have bought in.

"I look at him and he turns 40 tomorrow," Gronkowski said, "and he runs around like he’s younger than me."

When prodded, Belichick went deeper on how the Patriots take how they train players -- and how they try to prevent player injuries -- on an individual basis as well. They look at player body types and seek out imbalances. Is there, after testing, a noticeable difference in a player's left leg strength versus right leg strength? What about his left leg flexibility versus his right leg flexibility? 

If there is, what does it mean? And how can they catch an injury before it happens? 

"We do that type of testing," Belichick said. "If we see that there’s an imbalance, then we would try to straighten that out rather than sit in the training room until the guy comes in, and then, 'OK, here’s the problem, now we’ll try to fix it.' We try to get those things taken care of before they become a problem." 

The Patriots are six days in to training camp and are already dealing with some bumps and bruises. Matthew Slater left Wednesday's practice, and Chris Hogan departed with ice on his knee. Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola haven't practiced in team drills since Day 1, and undrafted rookie Cody Hollister has been out since the weekend with an upper-body issue . . . And that's just the receiving corps. 

Though building plans for each individual player on the 90-man roster at this time of year is time-consuming, it's the method they've chosen. Last year's results, when the Patriots largely avoided long-term soft-tissue injuries, is as convincing an argument as any for how they do things. They believe in it, and they believe it's helping them to avoid the nagging issues -- and potentially the catastrophic ones -- that can hit a team in July and August.

"When you have a lot of new players on your team like we do," Belichick said, "then that process of finding out what it is . . . Again, doing the testing, seeing where the potential problems or imbalances may be, and I think our strength and training staff do a good job of that and try to address them. [Then] make the players aware of them so they’re working on them, and then, for the most part, we’ve been able to avoid things in that area."

Patriots QB Tom Brady is highest-ranked NFL player on ESPN's 'World Fame 100' list

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USA TODAY Sports

Patriots QB Tom Brady is highest-ranked NFL player on ESPN's 'World Fame 100' list

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is among the most recognizable and popular athletes in sports, but where does he rank when compared to other famous athletes?

ESPN's recently unveiled its 2019 "World Fame 100" ranking that uses social media followers, endorsement dollars and search score to compile a list of the world's most popular athletes.

Brady is the highest ranked NFL player on the list at No. 31, good for a seven-spot increase from 2018.

You might be a bit surprised that a legendary player like Brady, who just won his sixth Super Bowl championship last month, wouldn't even crack the top 25. One thing holding him back is the popularity of football outside of the United States. The sport doesn't have the same global appeal as basketball or soccer do.

One area Brady doesn't rank among the highest is social media following. He doesn't have an official Twitter account, just Instagram and Facebook pages. Many athletes have verified Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Just four of the 30 athletes ranked ahead of Brady have a smaller social media following.

The No. 1 ranked athlete on the list is Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. Soccer players make up five of the top 15 spots.

Other Boston athletes joining Brady on ESPN's list include his Patriots teammate Rob Gronkowski (No. 97) and Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving (No. 47).

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Names to know: Slot receiver options for Patriots if they wait for 2019 NFL draft

Names to know: Slot receiver options for Patriots if they wait for 2019 NFL draft

There's still time for the Patriots to sign a free-agent wideout. There's still time for them to acquire a pass-catcher via trade.

But what if they decide the best way to continue to build depth at the position around Julian Edelman is to dip into the draft?

The Patriots have of course had their share of cracks at rookie receivers, using 16 picks to take wideouts with Bill Belichick at the helm. Most recently, they've used draft choices on Braxton Berrios (sixth round, 2018), Malcolm Mitchell (fourth round, 2016), Devin Lucien (seventh round, 2016), Jeremy Gallon (seventh round, 2014), Aaron Dobson (second round, 2013) and Josh Boyce (fourth round, 2013). 

Dobson, Chad Jackson (2006), Bethel Johnson (2003) and Deion Branch (2002) are the second-round choices Belichick has been willing to spend at the position. The Patriots haven't taken a receiver in the first round since Terry Glenn in 1996. 

Is the situation at that spot such that Belichick would be willing to use the No. 32 pick in this year's draft on a receiver? If he wants to wait until the second round -- where the Patriots have picks No. 56 and No. 64 -- who may be there waiting for the call? 

WHAT ABOUT FREE AGENCY?

Here are a few of the names worth keeping an eye on come next month, as the Patriots have expressed interest in free-agent wideouts since the new league began but have not been able to land a dependable starting-caliber player in that time. With this list, we'll focus in on players who could potentially contribute inside since it appears that's something for which the Patriots -- given their interest in Adam Humphries and Golden Tate -- are looking.

DAY 1 OPTIONS

AJ Brown, Ole Miss 
Brown, according to some experts, could be in the mix as the top receiver taken in this year's class. But if it's his teammate DK Metcalf who goes first, and if true "X" options like N'Keal Harry go early, Brown could end up sliding. At 6-feet, 226 pounds, he'd certainly qualify as a big slot, but he can uncover with his size as well as his route-running. He's not afraid to mix it up as a blocker, which the Patriots would appreciate, and he's aggressive enough to run through contact with the ball in his hands. NFL.com's Lance Zierlein compares him to JuJu Smith-Schuster. 

Parris Campbell, Ohio State 
Campbell isn't thought of as a first-round receiver by most, but his athletic traits could attract someone near the end of Day 1. He lit up the combine at 6-feet, 205 pounds, running a 4.31-second 40 (96th percentile among receivers, according to MockDraftable.com), jumping 135 inches in the broad jump (98th percentile) and clocking a 4.03-second 20-yard shuttle (90th percentile). He may project more as a "Z" than a true slot since he's shown an ability to burn off the corner as a jet-sweep specialist. He's also a threat in the screen game, where he can use his speed to slice through defenses. He may not be the draft's most polished route-runner, but he has physical gifts that can't be taught. On special teams, he could fill a role for the Patriots both as their kick and punt returner. 

Deebo Samuel, South Carolina 
Samuel is another inside receiver who's built to withstand the punishment pass-catchers absorb over the middle of the field (5-11, 214 pounds) but has the athleticism (4.48-second 40) to break games open. He's an explosive returner (four kicks brought back for touchdowns) and has produced against some of the best competition college football has to offer. He put up 10 catches for 210 yards and three scores against Clemson last season. 

DAY 2 OPTIONS

Mecole Hardman, Georgia 
The Patriots love to draft Bulldogs, and there are a couple of receivers from Georgia in this year's class who may catch their eye. Riley Ridley is more of an outside threat who'll use his body to shield defenders and pluck passes out of the air with dependable hands. Hardman, meanwhile, is an undersized burner. The 5-10, 187-pounder ran a 4.33-second 40 at the combine and has drawn comparisons to Seattle's Tyler Lockett (51 percent of snaps in the slot for the Seahawks in 2018). Hardman has only spent two seasons as a receiver so he won't be a short-to-intermediate route-running whiz. But maybe with some coaching, and if he gets a good reference from coach Kirby Smart, he'll provide the Patriots with an explosive presence from the slot. He might be available to the Patriots in the third round if they wait to pounce at the position.

Andy Isabella, UMass 
We dove deep into Isabella's skill set here, but he's worth mentioning again as a potential option. The fact that he was a down-the-field player at UMass (4.31-second 40) who's projected as a slot -- he's admitted he's working on interior routes leading up to the draft -- means he could have some versatility within offensive formations. That's something the Patriots typically like to see. Isabella could be dangerous as an end-around option, and he has solid short-area quickness (4.15-second 20-yard shuttle) to redirect in the middle of the field for Tom Brady.

WHAT ABOUT A TRADE?

Terry McClaurin, Ohio State
The Patriots haven't plucked players from the Urban Meyer tree in some time, but McClaurin would make sense as the next. He profiles as one of the best all-around athletes in the class at the position (4.35-second 40, 37.5-inch vertical), and his top MockDraftable.com comparisons include Chad Jackson, Bethel Johnson and Cordarrelle Patterson. McLaurin got some experience working in the slot at Ohio State and showed reliable hands. He's also a potential core special-teamer who has the size, speed and competitiveness to excel on fourth down.

DAY 3 OPTIONS

Greg Dortch, Wake Forest
At 5-foot-7, 173 pounds, Dortch isn't going to give the Patriots some of the inside-out versatility that they like. He worked out of the slot almost exclusively at Wake Forest. And his frame won't make him an imposing player in the run game as a blocker. But he's tough. He suffered a punctured small intestine while scoring against Louisville, stayed in the game, scored twice more, and then later that day had to be rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery. He returned two punts for scores last year and averaged 11.0 yards per return with one muff.

Hunter Renfrow, Clemson
Renfrow has been projected as a Patriots fit since he was working the short-to-intermediate area for Clemson in the College Football Playoffs years ago. Surprise, surprise: He tested as a quick change-of-direction target at the combine (6.8-second three-cone, 4.19-second 20-yard shuttle) who could be the next Danny Amendola as a slightly-built slot. If the Patriots want to wait until Day 3 to nab a slot option with experience performing under pressure, Renfrow could be their guy.

Cody Thompson, Toledo 
We had Thompson going off to the Patriots in a seven-round mock draft earlier this offseason. Here's what we said at the time: "Quarterback-turned-receiver. MAC product. Possesses special teams value. Seventh-round pick. Sound familiar? Thompson isn't going to be the next Julian Edelman, but he does have some intriguing qualities to work with. Because he doesn't have breakaway speed (4.57 40), he might be a slot receiver even though his frame (6-1, 205) makes him look like an "X." Furthering his case for the slot would be his agility numbers -- 6.87 three-cone, 4.03 short shuttle -- and his willingness to block. Thompson has experience as a returner and has blocked three punts in his college career, meaning there might be a spot for him on the roster even if he doesn't contribute offensively."

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