(Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo photos courtesy of New England Patriots)
By Ron Borges
Talk of Fame Network
Already it has begun.
One day into training camp in Foxboro, Mass.. and the media is tweeting out how Jimmy Garoppolo took every snap in 11-on-11 drills with the first team against the first defense and how he went 18 for 21 passing while soon-to-be suspended Tom Brady took none.
Then again, others chimed in, Brady was the first to run the 7-on-7 drills and was 21 of 29.
It’s going to be a long summer in Massachusetts.
With Brady having given up his Quixote-like quest to beat all-powerful NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on his home field (which is a courtroom, not a football field) after the Second Circuit Court of Appeals refused to waste any more of its time on who deflated what footballs and when, the Patriots will be without Brady the first four games of the season.
So now what?
He could have opted to press on, trying to convince the Supreme Court that a deflated football is a federal case, but Brady has always been good at knowing when to take the sack. He did it this time because he came to understand: A) He was always going to lose this case once it got into court because the collective bargaining agreement he and his fellow players agreed to handed Zeus-like powers to the commissioner when it came to integrity-of-the game issues; and B) he might end up serving that suspension at the end of the season or even during the playoffs, which would have been a far more severe penalty than he bargained for.
Where that leaves Brady, Garoppolo and head coach Bill Belichick is on the horns of a dilemma and a summer of distractions in which the media charts every training camp pass as if it’s Super Bowl Sunday.
Who is spending more time with the starting unit? Who plays with whom and against whom in exhibition games? Is Brady getting short shrift? Is Garoppolo getting enough reps with the starting unit? Or is he getting too many?
On and on it will go, one breathless “report’’ after another. How long before the whispering starts? “Sources say Tom is unhappy about not getting enough snaps with the starting unit?’’ “Sources say Garoppolo is unhappy that his preparation time is being cut for a guy who won’t be around in a month?’’ “Sources say blah,blah, blah.’’
None of these sources will have names, of course, but they will all be “highly placed” in the organization or “close to’’ one quarterback or the other. Most of the sources will be hot air on a hot summer day.
This is what has resulted from an 18-month long drama that should have taken 18 minutes to resolve. It’s what happens today in pro football, where everything is overinflated but the footballs.
Since two games into the 2001 season, this has been Tom Brady’s team. That remains true today. Does anyone think for a minute he won’t be back Oct. 9 to the dismay of the Cleveland Browns?
So when you look at it that way, nothing will really change this summer. But, in another sense, everything will because practice reps will now be reported as if the passes were thrown by Johnny Unitas in the 1958 sudden-death overtime championship game against the Giants.
Managing this could become a daunting task for Belichick because Brady is legendary for guarding practice reps and game appearances the way Donald Trump protects his wig maker. Belichick knows how ornery Brady can become if he feels he’s not getting the practice time he needs — but he’s already said he has to prepare Garoppolo to start the season. So what’s a coach to do?
That is a question that will be often asked, closely watched and breathlessly reported, snap by snap, all summer long.
It seems unlikely Brady will ever be out their directing a make-shift lineup of scrubs and duds under live fire late in an exhibition game. Because why risk the game’s premier quarterback in such relatively meaningless circumstances? Yet every snap he takes with the regulars is one less that young Garoppolo gets.
So now what?
All of pro football will be watching to find out.