New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s comments on Monday about the NFL’s recent scandals involving Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson (and Greg Hardy, and Ray McDonald) haven’t gotten much attention, because he really didn’t say much of anything at all.
Brady, as one of the NFL’s most decorated and visible stars, is an ambassador for the league. Fans and the media alike pay attention when he talks, even if he’s rarely any more forthcoming than his head coach, Bill Belichick. So when Brady was asked on Boston sports news radio station WEEI about the NFL’s recent spate of high-profile violence, it’s likely there were those who hoped that he would buck his usual practice and deliver a strong rebuke of those incidents.
Instead, Brady had this to say:
No one familiar with Brady, the Patriots or the NFL would expect the 15-year veteran to immediately become a champion of social change on an array of issues, but you could hardly be forgiven for being disappointed Brady would not take a stand on an issue as clear-cut as domestic abuse.
Brady has a well-earned reputation as a bland interviewee who cares about winning above all else, in the same mold as Michael Jordan and Derek Jeter. It’s entirely possible that this could explain his no-comment comments. There’s little question that Belichick would approve of an interview in which Brady declined to discuss any off-field issues (after all, that, more than whatever myth was perpetuated for most of the last 15 years, is the real “Patriot Way”). Maybe once football season starts, Brady simply doesn’t want to talk about anything other than football, ever.
But maybe there’s something a little less cut-and-dry to Brady’s comments than that. Since 2001, Belichick and Brady have proven themselves time and time again two of the league’s savviest and shrewdest operators. Belichick is not afraid to bend the rules when he thinks he can get away with it (see: 2007’s Spygate scandal) and he has no qualms about dropping longtime players as soon as their price tag begins to pass their usefulness (too many to list). Perhaps most crucially, however, the Patriots have proven themselves masters of acquiring players whose value has depreciated due to non-football reasons.
Randy Moss. Aqib Talib. Albert Haynesworth. These are a few of the players who fall into that category. Moss had numerous on-field incidents and was accused of battery against a woman in 2008. Talib allegedly battered a cab driver in 2009 and was indicted for assault with a deadly weapon in 2011. Haynesworth stomped on a player’s helmet-less head in 2006 and was accused of simple assault during a traffic altercation in 2011. While not all made a major impact for the Patriots, each had the potential to do so. (And this is leaving aside Aaron Hernandez, with whom the Patriots quickly cut ties last summer but had raised a few red flags during his time at Florida.)
None of this is to say that the Patriots will sign Ray Rice or Ray McDonald or Greg Hardy or Adrian Peterson somewhere down the line. But the evidence suggests that Belichick and Brady value winning above all else, and at some point in the future, one of these players might be able to help them do just that — at a discount. So perhaps that could be another explanation for why Brady had no interest in commenting on these recent incidents. Even if none of these men ever become a teammate of his, speaking out against them could close a lane that would maybe, just maybe, help the team win another Super Bowl. That’s simply not the Patriot Way.