Danny Amendola

That time Tom Brady hurled a ping pong paddle at Danny Amendola's head

That time Tom Brady hurled a ping pong paddle at Danny Amendola's head

This may surprise you, but Tom Brady is a pretty competitive fellow.

Ultra-competitive athletes were the topic du jour Sunday night as ESPN aired its final episodes of "The Last Dance," which focused on Michael Jordan and the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls.

So, after weeks of stories about Jordan's maniacal obsession with winning, Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer shared a gem about Brady's similar "win at all costs" mentality.

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The story involves the legendary quarterback and then-Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola, who according to Breer was a "fantastic" ping pong player and squared off with Brady on the table shortly after signing with New England in 2013.

Amendola wound up winning, and winning pretty handily. As the story goes, Amendola hammered home the last point, and barely could turn around before he heard this whistling go by his ear. Brady’s paddle had come in hot and just missed him. Amendola, I’d heard, looked up expecting to see Brady laughing. Instead, he was getting the death stare.

Amendola, Breer wrote, learned a "good lesson" about Brady after that experience: If you defeat the GOAT in anything, prepare to face the consequences.

Of course, Amendola probably should have known this considering Brady's relentless desire to win everything (even beer-chugging competitions) and the temper tantrums he throws when he doesn't.

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That competitive streak has paid off for Brady, who led the Patriots to six Super Bowl titles before signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason.

Amendola was in New England for two of those championships and was a trusted Brady target during the Patriots' playoff runs -- after Brady got over the ping pong incident.

Danny Amendola's latest Instagram got a rise out of Devin McCourty, Rob Ninkovich

Danny Amendola's latest Instagram got a rise out of Devin McCourty, Rob Ninkovich

How do you keep your hands sharp when you can't play catch with your quarterback?

You get a fancy robot to throw you passes instead.

Detroit Lions wide receiver Danny Amendola posted a video to Instagram on Monday of himself catching footballs from a slick-looking machine in his backyard in Austin, Texas.

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Yard work with Monarc Seeker

A post shared by Danny Amendola (@dannyamendola) on

That self-operated, football-firing robot is a "Monarc Seeker," a 21st-century version of the classic Jugs machine that has been called "the first robotic quarterback."

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That's not the worst quarantine setup for Amendola as he attempts to train amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But the former New England Patriots wideout didn't escape some ribbing for ex-teammate Devin McCourty, who pointed out that Amendola may want to stay more on his toes next time.

"LOL u hesitated on the celebration...had to make sure there wasn’t another one coming," McCourty wrote in the comment section.

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McCourty's comment was tame compared to that of ex-Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich, who chimed in with a low-key burn of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.

"Can that thing throw a spiral or is it on the Matt Stafford profile?" Ninkovich commented, before hastily adding, "joking obviously."

Ruthless.

Amendola put up solid numbers for the Lions last season and has played well since leaving New England in 2018, but he's still close with several members of the Patriots -- we're surprised Julian Edelman hasn't commented yet, to be honest -- after five seasons in Foxboro.

Our question for Amendola: Is there a basketball equivalent of this football-throwing robot, and can someone send it to Jayson Tatum?

Is Danny Amendola returning to the Lions a signal?

Is Danny Amendola returning to the Lions a signal?

Danny Amendola’s going back to the Lions.

That doesn’t really tip the NFL’s balance of power. But it is a tipoff.

Either Amendola and Tom Brady weren’t the free agent package deal they were reported to be or — and this is the more likely scenario — the sure thing was the smart thing for the 34-year-old wide receiver.

Amendola’s decision to return to Detroit raised some eyebrows in Foxboro where it was taken as a sign that players may not be able to wait on Brady’s free agent decision.  

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Does it matter to Brady whether or not he’s able to round up a collection of players he’s familiar and comfortable with? To some degree, it has to.

So much of the Patriots’ 2019 offensive struggles were related to the learning curve the majority of Brady’s receivers faced.

He did little to mask his frustration that the team marched into camp with N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, Maurice Harris, Bruce Ellington, Matt LaCosse, Dontrelle Inman and Braxton Berrios as the complements to Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett.  

And it went about as Brady expected as the combination of inexperience, unfamiliarity and ineptitude left Brady flinging the ball into the cheerleaders at an alarming rate.

If Brady and the Patriots can’t reach an agreement before free agency, he’s lighting out for the territories. Which means unfamiliarity with personnel, scheme, city, coaching staff, owner, GM, scouting department, etc. wherever he goes.

It was easy to project Amendola as a comfortable wingman for Brady. Even at 34, he’s still incredibly reliable. In four of the past five seasons, he’s caught 65, 61, 59 and 62 passes. His outlier season was injury-marred 2016 and he atoned for the 23-catch regular season by ripping it up in the playoffs. He also delivered the Patriots to Super Bowl 52 with his fourth-quarter performance in the AFC Championship Game.

Amendola coming off the board underscores the fact that — wherever he goes — Brady’s starting fresh.

That may not faze him in the least. Especially if — during the recruiting process — he’s enthusiastically embraced and told he’ll be owner-operator of an offense rather than assistant manager.

In how many cities might that happen? Probably a few.

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Take Nashville, for instance. Brady’s never thrown a pass to Adam Humphries, Jonnu Smith, A.J. Brown or Corey Davis. There will be a learning curve. But there will also be a better offensive line, a more potent running game (especially if the Titans retain Derrick Henry) and one would think 37-year-old offensive coordinator Arthur Smith can see his way clear to letting Brady have a big say.

It’s worth noting that, when the Patriots practiced with the Titans in August, Brady eviscerated their defense with Berrios and Meyers as his main targets that week. That probably left as much of an impression about what Brady is capable of as the Patriots playoff loss last month.

But moving on — even to a franchise that rolls out the reddest of carpets for him — means radical change. The easiest thing in the world for Brady to do would be to shrug his shoulders and come back to the Patriots.

Does he want to come back to a familiar situation where he’s been increasingly uncomfortable?

Or does he want to deal with the unfamiliarity and short-term discomfort because he believes it will feel differently in the end?