The sort-of-expected-but-still-jarring absence of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady‘s from Phase 3 of the offseason program has prompted two very different reactions. The crowd who actually thinks “voluntary” workouts are voluntary resent the implicit pressure on Brady or any player for skipping the sessions, under the warped logic that because the workouts aren’t labeled “mandatory,” they’re somehow not important. Others realize what should be obvious: Given a starting quarterback’s role as part player, part coach, anytime the guy occupying the top of the depth chart at the most important position on the field isn’t there, it’s a HUGE deal.
To prove that people should be concerned about Tom Brady’s absence from OTAs, we give you the following quotes. From Tom Brady, in June 2013.
“The truth is, this lays the foundation for the start of training camp and if you have a good training camp, it usually means a good start to the season,” Brady said, via Patriots.com. “A good start to the season leads to good position entering the second half of the season. Everything ends up having some significance to it. You’re not just out here running plays and going through different things that aren’t going to mean anything.
“We’re out here trying to get a lot of things accomplished. I think we have done that, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. It’s really never-ending, especially when you play for Coach Belichick. Especially in practices when the offense goes against the defense, because if the offense makes a play then the defense sucked and if the defense makes a play then the offense sucked so someone is really going to get yelled at on every play.
“There’s always lowlights when we come in on the next day. Even if it was a great offensive play, he’s going to yell at someone on the defense. We’ve become a bit used to that now and that’s part of the learning process and also learning how to play for the Patriots and understand the criticism that you’re getting and hopefully use it constructively so you can improve as a player.”
With even fewer opportunities in the offseason and training camp than there used to be, each and every practice and rep takes on even greater importance. This year, Brady isn’t around to help lay the foundation for training camp that becomes the foundation for the start of the regular season that becomes the foundation for the middle of the regular season that becomes the foundation for the end of the regular season that becomes the foundation for the postseason.
It’s still not clear why he’s absent. Money could be an issue. Frustration over the still-unexplained benching of Malcolm Butler in Super Bowl LII could be an issue. Fatigue over being constantly yelled at by Belichick, as evidenced by Brady’s quotes from nearly five years ago, could be an issue.
Regardless, his absence won’t help the Patriots win in 2018, and it may help Belichick become more determined to find a quarterback who will be truly all in for 2019.