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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is back in Foxborough, but things aren’t the same

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Brady has finally arrived at Gillette Stadium for mandatory minicamp, but is he still as committed to the Patriots as he’s always been in the past?

F1 Grand Prix of Monaco
It’s hard to tell where Tom Brady’s mind truly is as he finally returns to Foxborough.
Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images

It was a sight for sore eyes this week when No. 12 finally showed up at Gillette Stadium.

Tom Brady hadn’t been around in months. He decided to skip out on the voluntary workouts of the Patriots’ offseason programs. Now that the mandatory minicamp is here, he returned to the field and was slinging passes to Julian Edelman, Jordan Matthews, Kenny Britt and others. But if anything related to the Patriots during the offseason wasn’t a requirement, Brady had better things to do.

I recently indulged in a Dan Shaughnessy column from the Boston Globe.

(Yeah, I know. You’ll just have to forgive me. I know everybody hates Shaughnessy, but I’ve been reading his stuff for years. He gets on my nerves roughly 80 percent of the time, especially during football season when he writes the exact same “Tomato Can” column every week talking about how the Patriots are going to destroy their opponent. But every once in a great while, Dan makes a good point.)

In that column, Dan talks about how Brady may or not feel appreciated by the Patriots, and that these days, the team just doesn’t seem to be at the top of his priorities anymore, as proven by the fact that Brady skipped the voluntary workouts and went to the Monaco Grand Prix. And it’s an unusual thing, because Brady always attended the optional workouts in the past. Now suddenly, football isn’t always on his mind, even coming off of that brutal Super Bowl loss in February.

I don’t want to agree with Dan and say that he’s right, but unfortunately, things just don’t seem the same with Brady anymore. I have to admit that it was a little jarring when Brady was asked if he felt appreciated by the Patriots, and he responded with, “I plead the fifth.” I mean, in what world does that mean anything other than no?

If he doesn’t feel like he’s appreciated, it could be because Bill Belichick might have wanted to give the reigns of the team to the much younger Jimmy Garoppolo, but was ultimately overruled by Robert Kraft and was forced to trade him. It could be for a number of other reasons too. Whether or not any of it is true, Brady seems like a different guy now.

I also have to admit that it’s very strange that Brady didn’t show up to any of the voluntary workouts when it’s something he’s always done in the past, and it’s generally what all the other starting quarterbacks in the NFL do. I don’t want to read too much into it, but it’s hard not to. It really doesn’t seem like the Patriots are at the top of Brady’s priority list.

NFL: New England Patriots-Minicamp
2018 will be an interesting year for Brady and the Patriots.
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

We’re used to seeing Brady’s life being dominated by football, and he’s ALWAYS been a team-first guy. When he won his first Super Bowl MVP award at the age of 24, he immediately said it was now a team award. We’ve always known Brady as a guy who would always do anything to help the team. Whatever was in the best interest of the team, that was always Brady’s top priority.

Well, wouldn’t it be in the best interest of the team for Brady to be at those voluntary workouts? It’s always been that way in the past. Wouldn’t it be better for the receivers to practice catching passes from the guy that will actually be throwing to them during the regular season? Wouldn’t it be better for the running backs to take handoffs from the guy will actually be handing off to them during the regular season? And above all else, as a 41-year-old quarterback with 18 NFL years under his belt, and as the undeniable captain and leader of this team, wouldn’t it be in the best interest of the team just to have him there for those workouts? Even just merely for his presence alone?

That doesn’t seem to be his mindset anymore. Now, it seems like he’s thinking: If they don’t appreciate me, then I’m not going out of my way to be there for them. I’ll show up for the mandatory practices, but that’s it. I’m not saying that’s for sure what he’s thinking. I’m just saying it seems like something is off. Brady doesn’t seem to be the same guy that we’ve grown to love over the last almost two decades – the guy that would be the first one to show up to practice, and the last one to leave.

Dan mentions in his column that Brady seems to now be much more interested in his own personal ventures, such as his TB12 business and his training programs with his personal trainer Alex Guerrero. He said it seems like those are the things he’s now 100 percent committed to, not the Patriots. While it might be a controversial statement, I don’t think it’s completely off base.

Brady is still the fiercest of competitors, which is why when he’s on the field, he’s going to give it everything he’s got. That’s just who he is. But is Brady still a diehard Patriot? Does his heart still belong to this team? I’m not so sure.

The only thing I am sure of is that the 2018 season will be a very interesting one for the Pats. It’s not really a secret anymore that there supposedly is some kind of friction between Brady and Belichick, and I really don’t know what to expect this year.

All we can do is hope that everything works itself out. If it does, we might be looking at another Super Bowl parade in Boston next February. If it doesn’t, well … then it’s hard to tell how much time Brady has left in New England.

(I just got chills writing that sentence.)