Patriots

Curran: Brady has it both ways with his Monday comments

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Curran: Brady has it both ways with his Monday comments

Tom Brady knew the questions Jim Gray would pose during their hour-long chat at the Milken Institute on Monday.

This would be the first “live” Brady of this offseason of discontent. The last access – the final episode of the "Tom vs. Time" documentary – was filtered through the editing and production of filmmaker Gotham Chopra.

The impression at the end of that piece was clear. Brady, according to his wife, Gisele Bundchen, was running an appreciation/fun deficit at work. Brady was philosophical in the final scene, asking aloud why, exactly, he sacrifices all he does. 

And that impression melded with what I’d been told: the 2017 season left wounds.

So, on Monday, Brady could either drive a stake through the heart of the notion he’s felt unappreciated by the organization or he could breathe life into it.

He chose to do both.

When Gray asked if he felt appropriate gratitude for his accomplishments, Brady proclaimed, "I plead..the Fifth!"

Continuing a moment later, Brady said, "Man, that is a tough question. I think everybody, in general, wants to be appreciated more in their professional life, but there's a lot of people that appreciate me way more than I ever thought was possible as part of my life. You have different influences in your life and the people I work with, they're trying to get the best out of me. So they're trying to treat me in the way they feel is going to get the best out of me, and I've got to get the best out of myself.”

A translation? “The answer may incriminate me. The answer isn’t easy to utter. Many people don’t feel fully appreciated at work and I am one of them. But they believe they get the best results at my place of employment when they make you feel wholly replaceable no matter what you’ve done. So I’m going to live with that.”

If that wasn’t the upshot, why then did Brady joke about not answering and why did he consider it a tough question?

Asked by Gray if he’s happy, Brady replied, "I have my moments."

Hit pause there.

If Brady said nothing more on the topics of happiness and appreciation, Monday would have been a bleak day. Nothing resolved. Brady heading back reluctantly to the salt mines sometime this spring.

But he chose not to. He instead chose to elaborate and convincingly leave the impression that, even if he’s weary of Bill Belichick’s bedside manner, he’ll suck it up because it’s for the best. Belichick is what he is.

“We’ve had a great relationship, a very respectful relationship for a long time. I feel like he’s the best coach in the history of the NFL,” said Brady. “He has a management style [with] players, and he would say, ‘Look, I’m not the easiest coach to play for.’ I agree.  He’s not the easiest coach to play for, but he’s the best for me. I think what he’s proven is that whatever talent he has, he maximizes his talent. What more could you ask of a coach than that? That’s what I want as a player...He’s been an incredible coach, he’s been an incredible mentor to me. He’s taught me so much football. To be a 22-year-old kid and come and learn from him, I wouldn’t be sitting here without his coaching. I wouldn’t have the success without how incredibly talented he was, along with a lot of the other coaches, a lot of the other players, a lot of the other people in the organization. Because it takes everybody to do it.”
 
So Brady is standing down, it seems. But not without a couple of final rabbit punches. And those weren’t limited to his appreciation level.

His comments on Malcolm Butler’s Super Bowl absence were pretty pointed and detailed.

“I wish he would have played, but the coach decided not to play him, and we still had a chance to win,” Brady said.

Explaining he didn’t realize Butler was out of the game, Brady said, “For a team, this side of the room is the offense and this side is the defense. We don’t interfere with them much. I didn’t know. Malcolm kept coming over to me during the game and was like ‘Come on, TB, let’s go!’ And I kept going, ‘What defense are we in where Malcolm’s not on the field?’ Is it short-yardage, goal line? “And then after the game, I found out. So I just didn’t know. And I asked Malcolm, and Malcolm said, ‘I don’t know. Coach has just decided something different.’ I said, ‘OK.’ So I don’t know what was a part of that decision-making, but I know we were trying to win the game. I don’t think we were trying to do anything but win.”

And his answer that the “guy who owns the team” is better suited to give an answer on Butler to Patriots fans than he is was also a little eye-widening.

But the upshot is that – even with the team reportedly spending the draft process sniffing around Baker Mayfield, even with Brady still apart from the team during workouts, even with the agitations and irritations of playing for Belichick – Brady went on record as saying he wants to play until his mid-40s and that he’s locked in through the end of ’19.

If, in the end, that’s all that matters to you, then who’s to tell you you’re wrong?

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Could Patrick Mahomes' injury derail Chiefs-Patriots collision course?

Could Patrick Mahomes' injury derail Chiefs-Patriots collision course?

Even after the Kansas City Chiefs lost two straight, it felt like destiny.

Motivated by last season's home loss to New England in the AFC Championship Game, Patrick Mahomes would lead his team back to the same spot for a Patriots grudge match with a Super Bowl berth on the line.

Then Mahomes attempted a quarterback sneak against the Denver Broncos on Thursday night and dislocated his right knee.

Mahomes has an MRI scheduled for Friday, but ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Thursday night that Mahomes is expected to miss three weeks in the "best case."

NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported a similar timetable Friday morning, noting there's "real optimism" in Kansas City that Mahomes won't miss significant time.

That's a silver lining for the Chiefs, who improved to 5-2 on Thursday night and still own the AFC's second-best record behind the 6-0 Patriots.

But Mahomes' injury couldn't have come at a worse time.

Kansas City's next two games are against the 5-1 Green Bay Packers on "Sunday Night Football" and the 4-2 Minnesota Vikings. A Week 10 road matchup with the Tennessee Titans should be winnable, but following that are a road game against the AFC West rival Los Angeles Chargers and a home date with the 3-2 Oakland Raiders, who have a real chance to overtake the Chiefs for the division lead in that span.

That all leads to Kansas City's Week 14 showdown in New England.

Based on early reports, it seems feasible Mahomes could play in that matchup. But unless backup QB Matt Moore and the inconsistent Chiefs defense step up over the next several weeks, the Patriots could welcome a team fighting for a Wild Card berth rather than battling New England for the AFC's top seed.

If Mahomes returns in three weeks and the Chiefs win at least one of their games without him, a deep playoff run and rematch with the Patriots is still possible. But it's far from the inevitability it was earlier this month.

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Future Patriot? It's time for the Broncos to make Emmanuel Sanders available

Future Patriot? It's time for the Broncos to make Emmanuel Sanders available

What a difference a few hours makes.

Going into their Thursday night matchup with the Chiefs, the Broncos didn't have to be sellers at the trade deadline later this month. They were 2-4, about to play at home, in prime time, against a banged-up division rival fresh off of back-to-back losses.

Denver wasn't necessarily a front-runner for a playoff spot, but a win over Kansas City would bring them closer to .500 and respectability. If they could get to 3-4, it might've been harder for them to deal off pieces, acquire draft capital and re-launch a re-build.

But now, after a loss in which Fox Sports color commentator Troy Aikman called the Broncos offense "about as bad an offense as I've seen," they're 2-5.

Time to start selling.

One would think that would be John Elway's approach, at least. And if it is, the Patriots could end up the beneficiaries.

Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders has long made the most sense as a Patriots midseason acquisition. He's in the final year of his contract, playing for a team that isn't competing for a postseason spot, and he's a player in whom Bill Belichick has had interest before. Back in 2013, the Patriots signed Sanders to a restricted free agent offer sheet that the Steelers then matched to keep the talented wideout.

Six years later, perhaps Sanders could finally end up in New England. With an ability to play both inside and out, Sanders, 32, would provide a lift for a Patriots offense in need of interior receiving help. He'd help alleviate some of the work thrust upon Julian Edelman in the middle of the field, and he'd provide Tom Brady with a receiver who can shake free from one-on-one coverage in critical moments.

From the sounds of it, Sanders isn't exactly thrilled with the way things are going in Denver.

"I don't even have the answers," he said late Thursday night. "Obviously, I do know. But I ain't gonna say it. It is what it is . . .

"You know. You know the answers. You watched the same game I watched."

Sanders did not, however, take the route other star players have veered down lately, making a public trade request from the home locker room at Mile High. 

"Is the season done? No, it's not done, obviously," he said. "We can get on a roll but it doesn't look like it right now after this loss, obvious. That's what everybody's going to be thinking. But at the end of the day, you gotta remain positive. It's the NFL. It's not easy to win. When you do lose, you gotta find a silver lining somewhere. We gotta do that."

Might the silver lining be for Sanders that he could be sent elsewhere? Somewhere where Joe Flacco, who took eight sacks and fumbled three times Thursday, is not his starting quarterback?

It could conceivably cost the Patriots a third-round pick to acquire Sanders, even as only a rental for the remainder of 2019. That's what it cost the Eagles to acquire Golden Tate from the Lions at the deadline last year. Detroit took a 2019 third-rounder and sent away a 30-year-old player they wouldn't be able to re-sign.

The highest compensatory pick Sanders could land the Broncos, Miguel Benzan of Boston Sports Journal informed us, would be a fifth-rounder because he has 10 accrued seasons in the NFL. Perhaps the Patriots wouldn't even have to part with a third-rounder, then, to land Sanders.

The Patriots have plenty of draft capital they could trade. They should have three third-rounders in 2020 if they receive third-round comp picks for losing highly-paid free agents Trey Flowers and Trent Brown. 

Sanders injured his knee last week against the Titans, but he played on short rest against the Chiefs and finished the game with five catches for 60 yards. On the season, Sanders has 25 catches for 307 yards and two touchdowns despite having missed two games. 

Even with first-round rookie N'Keal Harry on track to return later this season, he would provide more of an outside-the-numbers presence, while Sanders could be an impact player from the slot or outside.

Meanwhile, Josh Gordon is currently dealing with a knee injury. Phillip Dorsett was limited in Thursday's practice limited because of a hamstring, and Edelman was limited with a chest issue. Adding Sanders would appear to be a no-brainer for a Patriots team that's a little light on capable veteran receiver help. 

And after the Broncos fell to 2-5 Thursday night, the possibility of Belichick bringing Sanders aboard seems a little more realistic.

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