Every once in a while – admittedly not often around New England – where there are whispers among those beginning to doubt Tom Brady. When that happens, it's never good to be a defensive player.
Recently, there have been reports suggesting that Jimmy Garoppolo has been the best quarterback at Patriots camp, and that evidently didn't sit well with Brady. While there's no way of knowing if Brady was aware of the perceived slight, the quarterback played as if he was reminding everyone of his greatness.
Bill Belichick opted to break up his troops and have a Blue-White scrimmage on Friday, and Brady treated like his personal 7-on-7 drill against air. He was razor sharp from beginning to end, only slowing down on occasional plays when he was pressured, and his Blue team won decisively behind his near-flawless performance.
Working with a short-handed group of receivers that included Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Martellus Bennett, James Develin and Brandon Bolden, Brady carved through the White defense with ease. In fact he probably registered more points with his pinpoint strikes but Belichick occasionally moved the ball back or called a penalty to negate would-be positive gains.
Brady tossed touchdowns to Bolden (deep wheel route down right sideline), Hogan (quick out) and Matthew Slater on a bomb down the left side. He also connected with Mitchell, Bennett and Hogan for other big plays, and aside from the occasional play when he was pressured was close to perfect.
After practice, Brady broke his silence and met with the media for the first time since last season. All of the questions during the brief rundown dealt with his decision to drop his appeal and accept the four-game suspension that he will serve to open the season.
"It was just a personal decision," Brady of dropping the appeal. "I try to come out here and just focus on what I need to do to get better and help our team, and like I said, I'll be excited to be back when I'm back. I'll be cheering our team on and hope we go out and win every game."
Brady continued by saying he would try to remain as positive as possible while dealing with the situation and that the decision was personal. Now he says the focus is on training camp, preparing himself the best he can and trying to provide an example for his teammates.
As for how he will deal with the actual suspension when he's forced to remain away from the team for the first four weeks, Brady wouldn't get into specifics.
"I'll deal with that when it comes," he said. "I could have a plan and then change the plan, I really don't know. I'm really focusing on every day and trying to get better. One of my coaches said, 'Look, you've just got to get better every day,' and that's where my focus has been.
"These days are important for me, they're important for every guy on this team to get better and make the improvements. Collectively, it's a long season. We've got a good, competitive team. Like I said, I'm just going to be rooting for us to win every game that we're playing that I'm not in, and certainly when I'm in I hope we win every game, too."
On Friday, that focus was on full display as he was head and shoulders the best player on the field. Moving forward, he will continue to work toward getting himself as comfortable as possible with his teammates.
"We changed our offense; we've had a lot of, kind of new players on the team, and just have been trying to incorporate them, so I feel like we're building towards something," Brady added. "We've got a lot of meaningful preseason games coming up that we have to see some improvements in and we've got a lot of practices left. It's a long season so it's just going to be a lot of hard work, a lot of discipline and effort. Like I said, I'm going to go out and do the best I can do in whatever role that I'm asked."
The Patriots will host two teams – New Orleans and Chicago – for joint practices in the coming weeks with the Saints set to arrive on Aug. 9. Belichick was asked if he felt there were certain elements of his system he needed to have installed before hitting the practice fields alongside another team.
"No, we don't have to. If we get them in then those are things we can work on with that team, and so we have to coordinate it with New Orleans in this case," Belichick explained. "I think it'll be common for Sean [Payton] and I to have a conversation and say, 'Hey, are you guys ready for this,' and if the answer from either one of us is 'No, we're not, let's hold off on that' then we'll hold off on that and do something else.
"So, we'll just have to see how it matches up. I'll probably talk to Sean again sometime over the weekend and just set up the practice schedule. I think all of the basic things – third-down, red area, two minute – things like that I'm sure they have in. He's sure we have in. I think some of the other situational things we just have to decide if we want to deal with them or maybe we put them in so that we can deal with them against each other instead of doing it yourself. Sometimes some of the same guys you have on the hands team are on the onside-kick team. So, if you can do it against somebody else then you can actually get good work with both guys."
Regardless of the format, Rob Gronkowski said he's eager to get work against another team.
"You get a lot out of every practice, and then the joint practices just give you another look," Gronkowski said. "It gives you another feel versus another player, versus new linebackers, new safeties. It gives you the feel of what a real game will be like more so. It's great to get those joint practices. I'm definitely looking forward to them."
View a collection of the best images from Patriots Training Camp in Foxborough on Friday, August 5, 2016.
Buy: Chris Hogan –After missing a couple of practices with a shoulder injury Hogan was back on the field wearing a red, non-contact jersey. That didn't stop him from catching a number of passes from Tom Brady throughout the scrimmage. He grabbed a few over the middle, a couple near the sidelines and one deep down the seam. He looked quite comfortable working with Brady while operating out of the slot for the most part.
Sell: Jimmy Garoppolo –While it's certainly not time to panic over one intra-squad scrimmage, Garoppolo did not look comfortable at all. After connecting with Rob Gronkowski deep down the seam on the first play, Garoppolo struggled to complete anything beyond short dump-offs and checkdowns. His timing was off and he didn't seem to deal with pass rush well. Consequently the White offense failed to find the end zone all morning.
Play of the Day –With Brady already lighting it up, he added another dagger with a perfect deep ball to Matthew Slater for a touchdown. Slater slipped behind the defense down the left sideline and ran under Brady's perfect rainbow before rolling into the end zone untouched for the touchdown.
There was some good news on the attendance report on Friday as Mitchell, Bolden, Keshawn Martin and Nate Washington all returned. Mitchell had an active day catching the ball for the Blue team while Martin and Washington suited up but did not see any action. Jonathan Freeny and D.J. Foster were in pads but didn't participate while Donald Brown (hamstring), Bryce Williams, Jonathan Cooper (foot) and Bryan Stork (reported concussion) did not dress. Stork spent some time running sprints behind the end zone of the opposite field. The PUP list was the same with Julian Edelman (foot), Dion Lewis (knee), Tre' Jackson (knee), Sebastian Vollmer (ankle), Danny Amendola (knee, ankle) and Clay Harbor all remain out. Edelman, Vollmer and Harbor were all spotted on the field. Logan Ryan, Duron Harmon and Hogan all donned red, non-contact jerseys. … The Patriots will enjoy an off day on Saturday before returning to the practice fields on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. The practice will be open to the public, but as always check with Patriots.com for the latest updates on the schedule.