TAMPA — Let me begin by saying, relax.
Chances are, Tom Brady’s disappearance is not a big deal. He knows the offense, he’s in fine shape physically and no quarterback alive has ever had as many practice reps as Brady. The team has given every indication that Brady will be in the lineup when the season opens in Dallas on Sept. 11.
I mean, the only possible reason to worry is this:
The Bucs are doomed without him.
So, yeah, there’s a pretty wide gap between Yin and Yikes. If Brady is Brady, the Bucs are Vegas favorites. If Brady is Blaine Gabbert, the Bucs are nobody’s favorite.
Would it have been more reassuring if the Bucs had mentioned this was the plan when Brady took days off last week? Um, yeah. Would it have made sense to reveal he was going to skip the second preseason game when the team originally announced he was going to skip the first? You would think.
Would it have been consumer friendly to advertise a money-back guarantee when the Bucs were coercing new season ticket holders into buying two years’ worth of passes after Brady’s return in the spring?
Look, there’s going to be all kinds of speculation between now and late August when Brady is due to rejoin the team. With a player of Brady’s stature, that type of hyper-conspiracy is inevitable. It had begun to swirl even before he pulled a Houdini on Thursday.
And there are a ton of reasons why Brady might take a mid-training camp break. It could be family issues. It could be business concerns. It could be, at age 45, he’s just tired of the grind.
Not everyone would get that type of courtesy from a team but, then again, no one else has ever accomplished what Brady has in the NFL.
So the only real question today is this:
Is there any chance this will bleed into the regular season?
The Bucs insist it will not. Todd Bowles said he had “a pretty high level of confidence” that Brady would be in the lineup for the season opener and general manager Jason Licht told WDAE that “we’re not worried about it; it’s not a big deal for us.”
Of course, Brady could have pre-empted the speculation by answering questions after skipping practice last week. At a bare minimum, he could have addressed it on social media Thursday.
For a guy who acts as if he’s tired of wild and unfounded rumors in his life, he seems to enjoy inviting them with his silence and occasionally cryptic messages.
The current gossip involves the level of Brady’s commitment to the game. The dots being connected include Brady flirting with the Dolphins at the end of 2021, retiring briefly at the start of 2022, cutting a future deal with Fox Sports, losing center Ryan Jensen to a knee injury at the end of July and now using his AARP card to skip the middle of August.
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Add all of that up and you can make an argument that Brady’s famously singular focus has waned a little. The Boston Globe suggested as much in a headline on Tuesday afternoon.
To this, I would say: Pfffft.
Brady is not putting a two-decade streak of unprecedented winning on the line if he does not have confidence he can still play at the highest level.
And it would be a horrible look for him to bail on the team at the last moment. Not after the maneuvering behind the scenes that resulted in Bruce Arians’ retirement, the recruitment of free agents, the spending by the Glazers and the commitment by season ticket holders.
Changing his mind about retiring in March is one thing. Reversing course again in August would not be so easily forgotten.
So, no, I would not worry too much about Brady turning into a slacker in his 23rd NFL season. Licht said Brady is “as focused as ever” and teammates did not seem overly concerned that their hopes for a Super Bowl were in danger of falling off a cliff.
Is it possible that there are major complications happening behind the scenes that we’re not aware of? Sure, that’s possible. And we’ll probably hear those type of whispers in the coming days.
But, for the moment, I would suggest it’s best to wind down and chill out.
As far as we know, that’s what Brady is doing.
John Romano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @romano_tbtimes.
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