Patriots

Curran: Oprah interview underscores Brady's wavering devotion to football

Curran: Oprah interview underscores Brady's wavering devotion to football

The money quote from the first episode of Tom vs. Time caused massive swooning in the right-hand corner of the country.

“If you’re going to compete against me, you better be willing to give up your life,” warned Tom Brady. “Because I’m willing to give up mine.”

New England had to collectively lean against the headboard and smoke a cigarette after that.

“The guy’s got everything anyone could want and he’ll put it all on the back burner for football? And, by extension, for me, since I prefer to consume the football his team plays? Hold me . . . ”

Nobody knew then the unspoken sentences after that sentiment would have sounded like this . . . 

"But I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be willing to give up my life.

"Hell, I have three kids. They aren’t just little balls of flesh with eyes and mouths anymore, they are needy miniature humans. My wife is pretty much all set with me getting dropped out a two-story window every week and coming home in a crap mood when some 23-year-old who thinks he’s arrived runs the wrong route at practice for the 233rd time since August.

"I get paid half the dough of players half as good as me.  My boss has been wearing my ass out for almost two decades and when I try to get everyone to understand that, ‘Hey, there might be a different approach to training that’s worked great for me . . . ’ I’m Benedict Arnold. And sorry for being 40 and thinking about the rest of my life after football, advancing the ‘brand’ and not playing Fortnite. So giving up my life . . . I don’t know. Maybe next year I just try to give up a big portion of my life instead of the whole thing and see how that works out."

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That version of Tom Brady was right there. Right under the surface. The guy attached to another adult male by giant rubber bands so he could drag him around the backyard of a $5 million (or whatever) mansion while wearing a helmet and shoulder pads may actually have realized, “This seems odd.”

Judging from Brady’s 45-minute interview with Orpah Winfrey that aired Sunday, and a slew of other occasions this offseason, Tom Brady’s just not that into it the way he was.

I think you’d call the “give up my life” quote a case of whistling past the graveyard. Brady knew when he chest-puffed about sacrifice that there was an expiration date on that, but he didn’t want to acknowledge it.

Why? Horrible for the brand. Better to appear as if every cell in the organism was swimming  toward the same goal of domination without a single one of them saying, “Are you sure we’re going the right way?”

You could also call that quote a bait-and-switch. Brady’s entitled to be a complete human -- encouraged, even. But the 180 from the first episode of TvT to this offseason is nothing anyone could have anticipated based on the propaganda served. We’ve gotten a steady diet of mixed messages from Brady and those around him and responses that -- in their delivery -- invite more speculation than they douse.

With Oprah, Brady again tentatively pointed out that real life has increasingly encroached on football.

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Asked about retirement, he answered, “I think about it more now than I used to. I think I’m seeing there’s definitely an end coming sooner, rather than later. As long as I’m still loving it. As long as I’m loving the training and the preparation and willing to make the commitment.

“But it’s also, I think what I alluded to a lot in the docuseries, there’s other things happening in my life, too,” Brady added. “I do have kids that I love, and I don’t want to be a dad that’s not there, driving my kids to their games . . . my kids have brought a great perspective in my life. Kids just want the attention. You better be there. And be available to them.”

Gotham Chopra, who produced TvT, was the first to declare Brady as being year-to-year. Then, soon after, Brady’s agent Don Yee told ESPN’s Adam Schefter, "Tom's intentions have not changed. He's consistently said he'll play beyond this contract and into his mid-40s, or until he feels he isn't playing at a championship level. I understand the constant speculation, but this is one point he's been firm about."

Oprah, who despite the Harry Caray glasses just doesn’t seem that much fun anymore, did ask Brady if there is “something going on” with Bill Belichick.

Brady answered, “Umm . . . no. I mean, I love him. I love that he is an incredible coach, mentor for me. He’s pushed me in a lot of ways. Like everything, we don’t agree on absolutely everything, but that’s relationships.”

The “ummmm . . . ” and averted eyes spoke a lot louder than the “no.”

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If you asked your kid, “Son, didn’t you see this pile of dog crap on the rug?” and he answered, “Ummmm . . . no . . . ” while looking away, you’d tell him to clean up the dog crap he tried to pretend he hadn’t seen.

There’s no sense turning this into another “Ah HA!” moment about there being friction. You all get it by now. I'm instead pointing it out because it’s another example of the dissembling Brady’s done this offseason, where he indicates one thing and then walks it back in the next breath.

If there is one spin-it-forward takeaway from this it might be this: Given his devotion to understatement, saying the end is coming "sooner rather than later" makes me wonder if my long-held belief Brady would retire after 2019 has to be reconsidered as being a year too aggressive. 

How was the interview overall? Fine, I guess. The two standout parts for me were actually from Oprah. The first came when she admitted being amazed that there was more depth to Brady than the person she’s seen playing football.

“Gee,” she noted, outing herself as one of a dwindling number of “gee” users. “Watching you play football, I wouldn’t have thought of you as a spiritual person or that spirituality was a kind of thing you were seeking or conscious about.”

Holy crap. It would be fun to be a speck in the Oprah universe, say a plumber fixing a drain and then mentioning aloud how much you like jazz.  

“You’re my plumber,” Oprah would say, “But you also think about things other than faucets and drains. Gee.”

The second came when Brady gave some fortune-cookie wisdom passed on to him by Gisele, saying, “We’re spiritual beings having a human experience.”

Oprah shot forward like she was hit with a cattle prod, clutched her chest and blurted, “YES! That’s one of my favorite phrases!”

Gee, she was real excited.

This post has gone on too long so I’ll chew on the other items a little later. I would have done it yesterday when the interview came out but as someone once said, “I do have kids that I love, and I don’t want to be a dad that’s not there, driving my kids to their games . . . my kids have brought a great perspective in my life. Kids just want the attention. You better be there. And be available to them.”

So I golfed. 

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Will Patriots switch to poster-board communication to send in signals?

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USA Today Sports Photo

Will Patriots switch to poster-board communication to send in signals?

PITTSBURGH -- Late in the first half last weekend in Miami, something unusual happened on the Patriots sidelines. It wasn't the play-call or the clock-management in that situation. It was the method of communication used by the Patriots that was strange. 

Strange for them, at least. 

Teams have used pictures on poster boards to help them relay information to players for years at the college level. Oregon seemed to be one of the first, under Bill Belichick pal Chip Kelly, to popularize sideline signage as a means for calling plays. 

Last weekend, the Patriots delved into the poster-board practice. 

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With a minute left in the second quarter against the Dolphins and the Patriots preparing to punt, a Patriots football operations coordinator held a large white poster board -- maybe three feet by three feet -- over his head. 

On it was the number "84" in large red font and an image of the Road Runner cartoon. 

That happened to be the lone punt upon which New England's No. 84, Cordarrelle Patterson, served as a gunner that day. Patterson worked in that capacity the last two years for the Vikings and Raiders, but other than some work on the punt team this offseason the Patriots haven't found much time for him there between his reps as a kick-returner, receiver and running back. (On his one gunner snap against the Dolphins, Patterson forced a Danny Amendola fumble that was nearly recovered by Patriots special-teamer Albert McClellan.)

Questions remain: Why the need for the poster? Why then? And what did the Road Runner image mean?

Patriots players were characteristically tight-lipped about the use of the posters on the sideline, though some were willing to acknowledge that it was about making sure everyone on the field was on the same page as to what was being called, especially in an environment where it might be difficult to relay signals. 

If all 11 players on the field could turn and look to the sideline and know what they needed before a given snap -- rather than try to communicate verbally via an on-the-field play-caller dealing with the coach-to-player communication system -- there might've been a benefit there.

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Because of the involvement of the No. 84, Patterson's relative inexperience on the Patriots punt unit may have been the spark that led to the sign being pulled out on Sunday. It's hard to say, though. There were several posters that the Patriots football operations coordinator had to choose from so perhaps there were others with different jersey numbers and different cartoon characters ready to be deployed. The No. 84, Road Runner sign was the only one spotted. 

In this piece by ESPN from 2010, the reason Kelly started to implement play-calling boards was because he felt as though the hand signals used to quickly relay signals for Oregon's high-speed offensive attack had been decoded. The posters -- which featured ESPN personalities as well as a hodgepodge of other images -- allowed Kelly to tell his players the formation, play and snap-count with just a quick glimpse to the sideline. 

Will the Patriots break out the posters again on Sunday against the Steelers, or was that a one-time thing that Belichick wanted to have ready for his team's trip to Miami? Unclear. 

What is clear is that whether it's with a player (like Patterson) or a play-calling wrinkle (like the poster boards), the Patriots aren't afraid to try something different if it has the potential to benefit them on game days. 

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Top five Patriots vs. Steelers games of the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Top five Patriots vs. Steelers games of the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era

The New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers will renew their rivalry Sunday at Heinz Field for a Week 15 showdown with playoff implications.

These teams have forged a fierce rivalry since Tom Brady and Bill Belichick started the NFL's greatest dynasty during the 2001 season. The rivalry mostly has been one-sided as the Patriots have won the majority of the meetings, including all three playoff matchups in the AFC Championship Game.

There have been many memorable games played between Brady and the Steelers, but which ones stand above the rest?

Click here to view the top five Patriots vs. Steelers games of the Brady/Belichick era

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