Tom Brady has certainly been a focal point of attention throughout this summer for less-than-desirable reasons. His highly-publicized legal battle with the league office has dominated NFL headlines since the beginning of the calendar year and intensified in recent weeks.
At training camp here in Foxborough, the thousands of fans who've shown up daily to watch the Patriots practices have been vocal and demonstrative in their support of No.12, who has yet to make any public comments since NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld the QB's four-game suspension and the matter was taken to federal court in New York.
However, Brady took the opportunity Sunday to unload some of his pent-up anger and frustration on the Patriots defense.
While observing backup Jimmy Garoppolo and the second offensive unit take on the D during a goal-line drill, Brady pumped his arm and yelled, "YEAH!" several times after the offense scored on a running play. When the Garoppolo-led O appeared to score again on the next play, Brady again let the defense know about it. In particular, he seemed to be jawing good-naturedly with defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, who appeared to be disputing whether the runner actually crossed the goal line.
Brady, with a wide smile the whole time, seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself, and in the process, got his teammates fired up on both sides of the ball.
"It makes us feel good, you know," cornerback Malcolm Butler declared. "He lets us know that he wants to come after us and get us better at the same time. It's a unit thing, all getting better at the same time."
"That's what's great about being on this team," observed tight end Rob Gronkowski. "If you're feeling down low, feeling tired, guess what, the guy next to you is bringing you back up. He's working hard. That's what gives you the motivation to push through. There's always one teammate, or a few, always grinding, making you get through it."
"I think it's a little bit of competitiveness back and forth," remarked left tackle Nate Solder, "which is good during a camp, and I think it's going to continue as we go ahead. We're early now, we've got a long ways to go."
Football is certainly a big business that the players take very seriously, but at the same time, they understand that it's a game that they play because they enjoy it. Brady's behavior Sunday reinforced that for some of his teammates. And they say they enjoy the good-natured trash talking, for the most part.
[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="344481"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]"Yeah, yeah. As long as I'm not getting [burnt] bad," Butler added with a laugh. "It can go back and forth, but it can't just keep coming. We've got to do something about that, yup."
"There's always a lot of chatter out here. It's all fun out here. We're all teammates, and we look at this as a competition," wide receiver Aaron Dobson stated. "I guess it helps some guys. It takes some guys out of their game, but it's all fun. Some guys talk, some guys don't."
"I wouldn't do that. I'm not a get-in-the-face type of guy," linebacker Jamie Collins maintained. "I don't get in anyone's face because I don't want anyone in my face. I'm not getting into anyone else's space. That's not what I do.
"We always have to come out here and have fun," he stressed. "Practice is tough for everybody. Yeah, [Brady] is always vocal. I like Tom. He's a good guy, but they can't mess with us, man."
When reminded, however, that the offense scored on those goal-line plays, Collins acknowledged, "Yeah, you know, [Michael] Jordan didn't win 'em all, either."
Check out our favorite photos from day four of Patriots Training Camp at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, August 2, 2015.
Easley does it
Training camp didn't get off to the most auspicious of starts for second-year defensive lineman Dominique Easley. New England's first-round pick in 2014 was on the PUP list for the first couple of days of practice (the non-pads ones) before suiting up in full on Saturday and Sunday.
Easley, who ended his rookie season on injured reserve and has dealt with injuries to both knees since his college days at Florida, has been taking part in drills and working his way back slowly into football shape.
"Just trying to get back into the routine," he said Sunday. "It's always good to get back out there."
His focus, he told reporters, has been on film work to try to improve while he was rehabbing during the offseason, and he believes he starting to see the results of his hard work.
"Yeah, I think I'm getting better as we go."
His jobs aren't a snap
Rookie Joe Cardona has not one, but two full-time responsibilities this summer. The Annapolis grad is currently stationed at the Naval Academy prep school in nearby Newport, Rhode Island while also serving the Patriots' only long snapper in training camp. As a member of the 2015 Patriots draft class, the job appears to be his, but he insists he isn't taking anything for granted.
"I have a long way to go and I'm trying to get better at it. Whatever it takes. I mean, the snapping's relatively the same, but the focus is on blocking technique at the line of scrimmage and downfield. I just have to show up and do what I'm told.
"I have a lot of people supporting me," Cardona continued. "Since graduation, I've had a lot of busy days, showing up for work every single day, whether it be here or down in Newport. It's just great to be here. Definitely used to longer hours. That's part of the environment I've been in the last five years [at the Naval Academy]. It's made the transition to here a little bit smoother."
One of the teammates with whom Cardona works most closely is placekicker Stephen Gostkowski, who recently signed a four-year, $17.2 million contract extension. Now in his 10th season, the former 2006 Patriots draft pick said he's thankful every day he shows up to Gillette.
"I never thought I'd be here today… but I think that might be part of the reason I am," he mused. "I'm just grateful to have a job in the NFL and with a great organization. You'll never hear me complain about having a job in the NFL. It's a dream come true. It's a blessing. You have to be good to keep your job, and I'm just trying to be good and show them I can be consistent. You can't always control the situations you're put, in but I'm just going to work hard to be the best I can whenever I get called upon."
Gostkowski last year became New England's all-time leading scorer with 1,179 points. He admitted that he'd like to end his career in Foxborough.
"It's just awesome to be on good, winning-cultured team, and it helps me go out there and have confidence to perform my job."
Buy: Tarell Brown – In his most active Patriots practice to date, Brown knocked away three passes during team periods and was given a few reps as a punt returner in the special teams periods.
Sell: Tyler Gaffney – The second-year running back was already in a struggle to get reps at the bottom of the depth chart, and on Sunday, he was not on the field at all during practice.
Play of the Day: Covering WR Brian Tyms on a go-route down the right sideline during 7-on-7, Brown appeared to be beaten while the ball was in the air, but used his speed to recover in time to catch up to Tyms and swat the ball to the ground just as Tyms was about to make the catch.