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Ask PFW: Brady fallout

Fans' questions answered in our weekly PFW mailbag.

First, I love the column and look forward to it every week! Second, now that we know Tom Brady is missing the first four games, how do you think they will break down the practice reps and play in the preseason games?  Third, does Brady count as a roster spot during the first four weeks of the season or can the Patriots use his spot for another player during that time? Thanks! 

Michael Sargent*

Thanks, Michael! We never tire of being praised for our work. Second, your question is a great one to start us off this week. The dynamic between Brady and backup Jimmy Garoppolo this summer, in terms of their shared reps on the practice field, will be intriguing, to say the least. Unlike last year, we have certainty about Brady's future, so, it would make sense if Garoppolo is given more time with the first team than he normally gets. He certainly needs them more than Brady does, especially considering he'll be at the helm for the first month of the regular season. I expect Brady to get a considerable share of reps as well in practice, but probably about the same amount as he would normally get in the preseason games.

When September arrives, Brady will not be counted toward the 53-man roster. New England will still carry 53 players, while Brady is placed on a reserve/suspended list. Once he's eligible to return, the club will have to remove someone from the active roster to accommodate Brady. 

Erik Scalavino*

Dear PFW, thanks for your outstanding reporting. Okay, Brady has accepted his punishment. Without covering the same old ground (that the situation was mishandled, that the league botched the issue at every turn, that a $25,000 equipment violation fine would have sufficed), I have a question about what a player is allowed and not allowed to do during a suspension. Can he practice? Can he stand on the sidelines during the game? Can he attend meetings at Gillette during the week? Work out in the weight room? Visit his business at Patriot Place? What will TB's team involvement be during the first four weeks? Finally, the question that everyone is afraid to ask... don't you think the league ought to just throw the suspension out and "agree to disagree?" 

Mark Aiken, Vermont*

No, Brady cannot practice with the team during his suspension. He can take part in everything leading up to Week 1, then must stay away from Gillette Stadium until Week 5. He cannot attend games or meetings or workouts here on the grounds. How he goes about staying in playing shape during that month is entirely his responsibility. I would imagine he'll recruit former teammates and friends who played the game to catch passes from him and simulate practice conditions as much as possible, but exactly how he does this is anyone's guess. Will he stay in New England, go to California where he often trains in the offseason, or somewhere else? No doubt, whenever he finally talks to the media, he'll be grilled about it, I'm sure.

Finally, do I think the NFL should erase Brady's suspension? Sure, and you're not the first person to suggest this, by the way. However, there's about as much chance of that as there is of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton forgoing the upcoming election and agreeing to a co-presidency.

Erik Scalavino*

Now that TB12 is no longer fighting for his appeal, the attention falls on Jimmy Garoppolo. Some media say that the Patriots remain a [Super Bowl] favorite and even without Brady, the Pats have a good chance to get a 2-2, maybe a 3-1 record. Nevertheless, Jimmy G is not TB12… So, my question is, do you think the team might try to help him with some plays designed to fit his skills, try to run the ball a little more frequently to release the pressure on him, or simply just give him the same passing snaps that NE usually does in order to give him time to gain confidence? 

Victor Galicia*

Well, Victor, it would be wonderful if the Patriots could provide Garoppolo with a solid rushing attack to help ease his burden. Problem is, I'm not convinced they have one. Don't get me wrong, I love what Dion Lewis brings to the table… when healthy. I just don't know when or if we'll ever see the same Lewis who was making defenders look foolish last season. ACL injuries are notoriously difficult from which to recover completely. It's not impossible, but it often takes more than a few months, which is where Lewis is right now.

Behind him, there isn't much that gives me much confidence. LeGarrette Blount? Inconsistent at best. Brandon Bolden? Primarily a special teamer. Perhaps one of the younger backs will emerge, but I'm not holding my breath right now.

This is a pass-first offense in a passing-dominated league. My guess is, OC Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick will continue to throw the ball with Garoppolo while calling plays that try to maximize his skills. Garoppolo, for instance, is more mobile than Brady. Maybe we'll see more designed rollouts to help Garoppolo avoid defensive pressure? Sure, there'll be wrinkles, but I don't imagine an offense with Garoppolo looking too much different than the one we're used to seeing with Brady. The question is, will the results be similar?

Erik Scalavino*

With Tom Brady ending his fight to overturn his four game suspension, do you think the Patriots need to make a personnel move? I think such a move is needed! Acquiring Jamaal Charles from the Chiefs would take pressure off Jimmy G and add a big dimension to our offense.

Mel Buford*

Even if Brady weren't suspended, I'd be concerned about New England's rushing attack. A trade for Charles brings up two concerns: first, the fact that Charles, like Lewis, is coming off an ACL injury, and second, what the Patriots would have to give up in exchange. I'd be more willing, at this point, to wait and see which backs get released or otherwise become expendable to their current teams (think Dallas' Darren McFadden, for example) during the preseason and maybe pursue one of them. 

Erik Scalavino*

I'm sure you're inundated with questions about Jimmy G.  Sorry, but you're not catching a break here.  I'm wondering what you think Jimmy's trade value might be if he comes out and plays exceptionally well the first four weeks of the season – say, 1,000 yards and 10 TDs.  I would think that this would make him a far better prospect than any QB coming out of college, given that the sky's the limit in terms of his potential, he would be ready to step in and start for another team right away, and he will have proven himself capable at the NFL level, albeit for only 4 games (but that's 4 more games than a rookie coming out of college).  So if this plays out, wouldn't it be reasonable to expect a bounty of picks in return, considering all that the Rams and Eagles gave up to draft Goff and Wentz? And yet somehow I doubt the Pats would get much more than a mid-1st and a 3rd round pick next year.  Do you agree or disagree with this sentiment – and why?  Also, do you think that Brock Osweiler's performance this year might in any way affect Jimmy G's trade value, given the obvious comparisons between both of them being 2nd round picks who studied behind future HOF QBs before getting their chance to start?  Thanks for the input!  Keep up the great work! 

Joel Lindgren*

What you apparently are failing to consider is that if Garoppolo plays marvelously in Brady's stead, why wouldn't the Patriots want to keep him around? Teams blessed with a bona fide franchise QB almost never find a suitable replacement immediately thereafter. San Francisco with Steve Young is a rare example. It's just so hard to find quality quarterbacks that when you have one – or in this hypothetical, two – your instinct should be to find a way to keep him. Especially if your other option is nearing the end of his career, like Brady is.

If Garoppolo comes out in September and lights up the league, I will have zero interest in shipping him off to another club. I'd let the rest of the season play itself out and revisit the matter in the offseason. 

Erik Scalavino*

Could Tom Brady file a slander suit against Roger Goodell?  Since there was no evidence against Tom, and Roger's comments have indicated that Tom is a cheater, Tom should be able to claim that this has damaged his future earning potential. It seems like this is big ego trip for Goodell, and he seems to want to show the world he can do whatever he wants. 

Duane Ross*

I have no formal legal training. As such, I am in no position to give legal advice (certainly not for free!), but I would imagine it would be a difficult case for Brady to make… especially considering that Brady's jersey sales have climbed to the top of the league during the Deflategate ordeal and he's added commercial sponsorships to his portfolio. You may be dead-on accurate in your assessment of Goodell, but I'm not sure anything he's said is grounds for a slander suit. Again, this question would be better put to an attorney who specializes in such cases, but my instincts tell me it wouldn't. 

Erik Scalavino*

Hi, I would love to have your opinion on the undrafted/ late round guys' chances to make the final roster. Thanks a lot. A fan from Paris. 

Florian Durieux*

There's a good chance that at least a couple of these rookies will stick, either on the 53 or (more likely) the practice  squad. Because ever year, Belichick ends up keeping undrafted or late-round players and having them contribute. Based solely on the limited practice reps we saw this spring (in no pads and in a non-evaluation setting), cornerback Jonathan Jones stood out in positive way. I'm also keeping my eye on Vanderbilt tight end Steven Scheu, particularly now that veteran Michael Williams is out for the season with a knee injury. That opens up a spot for a third or even fourth tight end. I liked what I saw from Scheu. And simply because there's very little else to like at running back at the moment, I would say D.J. Foster has a legitimate shot of competing for a full-time job. Keep your eyes out for those three guys when camp opens next week. 

Erik Scalavino*

There is no question that both Brady and Gronk are strong candidates for GOATs (Greatest of All Time) in their position. Yet, I won't crown them yet and here is one reason why. In that two-point conversion in Denver, the GOAT duo had to make a play. I don't care how many undersized CBs harassed Gronk, he had to come down with the ball. That's what the GOATs do when it matters. So, while I give them a pass on a non-catch in the Super Bowl loss to the Giants because of Gronk's injury, I do not give them a pass on that play. Do you?

Stan Cohan*

Do you live under a bridge, Stan? Because you're sounding very much like a troll here. But if not, there are two egregious problems with your argument. For one, judging a player's career based on one play – good or bad – is foolish in the extreme. Are you forgetting about the ridiculously clutch fourth-down throw-and-catch by the Brady-Gronk duo that extended that final drive? Or the even more clutch, athletic touchdown grab that Gronk made on another fourth down that put the Patriots in position to tie the AFC Championship Game? You conveniently glossed over those two plays, which only a "GOAT" could possibly be expected to make. Most mortal players would have no chance of completing either, let alone both, of those plays.

But more importantly, your premise is shot entirely out of the sky because… um, I hate to break it to you, Stan, but the ball wasn't thrown to Gronk on that two-point conversion attempt. He was wide open in the back of the end zone and Brady should have gone there, but for whatever reason, he didn't. A poor decision by the QB, for sure, but certainly not one that will make me think less of either him or Gronkowski – unquestionably two of the greatest players at any position in the history of pro football. 

Erik Scalavino *

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