After perhaps the most lackluster performance overall by the offense this summer, Tom Brady called an audible. He originally wasn't scheduled to speak to the media until Thursday, but while other teammates were conducting post-practice interviews, the quarterback ambled over and declared, "Fire away," drawing an eager crowd of reporters armed with microphones, video cameras, and other recording devices.
As things stand today, Brady is in the final year of his contract with the Patriots, which is unusual for him. Historically, he and the club have arrived at agreements on extensions much sooner than this, thus avoiding the inevitable question that Brady faced Wednesday.
"Have I earned [an extension]?" he repeated what the reporter asked. "I don't know, that's up for talk show debate. What do you guys think? Should we take a poll? Talk to Mr. Kraft, come on."
The six-time Super Bowl winner made that last remark with a smile and went on to emphasize that he and the team's owner have "a great relationship," as he does with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and head coach Bill Belichick.
"I've had such a great experience over a lot of years, and I appreciate this team and the opportunity it gave me [as a rookie] in 2000," added Brady, "and we've had just incredible success. So, hopefully we can keep it going."
Another reporter wondered aloud if Brady would be comfortable playing on year-to-year contracts, which brought another playful smile to Brady's face.
"We're all day-to-day, if you think about it," he responded. "None of us are really promised anything. So, I'm trying to do the best I can today and just let those [contract-related] things sort themselves out… so, we'll see how it goes."
A year ago at this time, Brady and the Patriots agreed to an amended contract that added $5 million in performance-based incentives to his 2018 compensation. However, the QB failed to meet the thresholds necessary to activate those incentives last season, and no extra years were added to the existing pact. It's certainly possible that the two sides can reach consensus on an extension before the regular season starts, or even sometime during the regular season.
In the meantime, Brady will turn 42 years old this coming Saturday. Last Friday, on the second day of this year's training camp, he was allowed a day of rest by the coaching staff, attending practice out of uniform and observing the goings-on from the sideline. However, he maintained that he's not having his workload managed.
"There's no schedule or anything like that," he continued. "I'm just trying to take it day-by-day and get out and practice. That's what football players do."
For most of the offseason, Brady practiced on his own, sometimes in New England, other times on the West Coast or wherever he and his family happened to be traveling at the time.
Quality time with his family has been a stated priority for Brady the past couple of years, but so, too, has staying in top football condition. He explained that he focused on bulking up his physique this past offseason to be able to withstand the rigorous beating he takes from the mostly much younger defenders around the league. At the same time, he believes he's not lost any of the pliability or "fluidity," as he described it, on which his TB12-branded training method is based.
Wednesday, Brady looked and sounded like a player who's found a healthy balance both on and off the field.
"The last couple of years, it's been really great for me to spend the offseasons with [my family]," he explained, "and give them the time and support and love they need. Because when I'm here doing my thing, my wife's got to hold down the fort, and she has put a lot on hold over the years to support my dreams. I feel like it's my responsibility as a husband to do the same for her. She's happy when I get back to football because she knows how happy I am. It was a great offseason, but now it's time for football, and I think everyone in our family is prepared for that.
"It's another year. It's a good time of year. This means football season's getting close. Pretty exciting. Every year has its different challenges… But I'm enjoying it. I have a great time. Football is – I love the sport. Hard for me to imagine doing anything else in life. To still be out here at 41, soon to be 42, it's a pretty great thing for me."
NFLN recognizes Gilmore
NFL Network continues to unveil its annual list of the Top 100 Players in the league, based on last season's performances. Players 30-21 were revealed Tuesday night, and Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore made the list for the first time in his career, debuting at 22.
Asked what the distinction means to him, Gilmore told reporters Wednesday, "It's a good accomplishment, but it's a new year. That's the type of person I am. I try to prove myself every year. Nobody cares about last year. If you don't do it this year, if you don't come out and work this year, you're not going to be a good player this year."
Passages: Nick Buoniconti, 1940-2019
Former Patriots linebacker Nick Buoniconti died Tuesday night at age 78. A native of Springfield, Mass., Buoniconti played college football at the University of Notre Dame before the then-Boston Patriots made him a 13th round draft choice in 1962. He went on to have a stellar professional career, both in New England and later with the Miami Dolphins, where he eventually won two Super Bowl titles, one of which was as a member of the Dolphins' 17-0 season in 1972.
Buoniconti achieved football immortality when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame with the Class of 2001.
"Today is a sad day for Patriots and Dolphins fans alike," Patriots owner Robert Kraft remarked in a written statement. "He was a Hall of Fame player on the field, but more importantly, a hall of fame person off it. As an undersized, over-achieving linebacker, he quickly became a fan favorite in Boston, and he remains one of the most iconic homegrown players in franchise history.
"I had the pleasure of meeting Nick many times and spent time with him when we honored him both when he returned as a Patriots Hall of Famer and as a member of our 50th Anniversary team. He was a leader in every respect, and his work with the Miami Project is perhaps the greatest tribute to his legacy as a man who refused to give up and used his platform to advocate for others. We extend our sincerest condolences to the Buoniconti family, the Dolphins organization, and all who mourn his loss."
Check out the best photos from Patriots Training Camp at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, July 31, 2019.
Buy: Ufomba Kamalu – The third-year defensive end has a solid day, particularly in one-on-one pass rush drills, where he appeared to win many of his battles Wednesday.
Sell: The O – It would be unfair to point out anyone in particular because, as noted above, New England's offense collectively struggled today. It was a lethargic performance on what was the hottest, most humid day of camp thus far.
Play of the Day: During 11-on-11 action, backup QB Brian Hoyer attempted to find TE Ben Watson deep downfield, but safety Terrence Brooks reached an arm in front of Watson as the ball arrived. It deflected up in the air and fell into the waiting arms of safety Duron Harmon, who often finds himself in the right place to collect such interceptions.