Ever since the New England Patriots lost Super Bowl 52, drama has seemingly surrounded the team. There were questions, rumors and speculations about Malcolm Butler's benching during the title game, about Rob Gronkowski not committing to returning in 2018, and about Tom Brady's future. On top of that, numerous players left the team via free agency and wide receiver Julian Edelman received a four-game suspension.
There is no denying that free agency and Edelman's potential suspension will have an impact on the 2018 Patriots, but the rest of the “drama” has to be questioned: How much of it is legitimately cause for at least some level of concern is impossible to tell from outside the organization. While it would be foolish to believe that everything is A-okay 24/7 at One Patriot Place, many of the rumors appear to have reached their levels of hype simply because the Patriots are the premier franchise in the NFL.
ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss put it well in his most recent Sunday NFL quick-hit thoughts: “Because of the Patriots’ success, they often seem to be held to a higher standard,” Reiss wrote about the Baltimore Ravens receiving only a slap on their wrist for what was their third violation against workout rules in the last eight years. This sentiment can also be transferred to coverage of the Patriots in general: Other teams' drama seems to pale in comparison to the Patriots'.
However, this is not the case in 2018. Despite the rumor mill tirelessly working, everything appeared to be back to normal when the the team opened its mandatory minicamp last week. Brady and Gronkowski – after opting to skip voluntary offseason workouts – were their usual sharp selves, while the levels of intensity and determination looked no different than in years past. New England also had near-perfect attendance – something other franchises can only dream of.
A look around the NFL shows that at least four teams will have some of their star players not available for minicamp: Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, and Oakland Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack have all publicly declared their intentions to stay away from mandatory workouts until their respective contract situations get worked out.
Meanwhile, both Brady and Gronkowski reported to minicamp after spending the last months away from the team. Both could also have opted to sit out until any contractual demands were met, but they did not. Despite speculations about their future, happiness and contract situations this offseason, the two future Hall of Famers showed up and did what was expected of them when it was expected of them: their jobs.
Drama can take many forms, but the Patriots have to be happy that their's look different than the Falcons', Seahawks', Rams', and Raiders'.