Tom Brady emerges from shadows of offseason; Brian Cushing stigma
The disgrace of two former New Jersey heroes and one from LSU headlined the week -- and yes, I believe any award or postseason honor, including rookie of the year, should be stripped if a player tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance, as apparently is the case with defensive rookie of the year
"Life changes,'' he said from California Saturday morning -- at a very dad-like time of 8 a.m. Pacific -- while watching his sons. "You've got to be able to change with it.''
Brady tries to disappear in the offseason, which is difficult given his own star power and that of his wife, model
Best Buddies is a Massachusetts-based nonprofit, now with 1,500 chapters nationwide, founded to encourage friendship and create employment opportunities for mentally handicapped people. The group helps to mainstream those with intellectual and developmental disabilities while helping them develop friendships that are often rare in their lives. Brady got involved from friendships with agent
"I first did the ride nine years ago,'' Brady said. "I rode 40 miles with my sisters, and it was a great family event. I really liked the premise -- trying to build friendships for those less fortunate than we are. That was the premise, the importance of friendship. I think of the value of my friends in my life, and that's something some of these [mentally challenged] people don't have, based on something that was out of their control when they were born. It's just unfair. And this group does so much for them that I just wanted to do my part.''
This year his part will be the football game at Harvard and riding the next day, hoping to encourage people to donate to the cause. Brady is halfway toward his goal of getting supporters to donate $100,000 to Best Buddies through
The Brady football headlines:
• He will be back in Foxboro this morning to resume work in the Patriots' offseason program. But he's not been a regular in the program thus far. Brady used to win awards for his attendance and fervor in the offseason program, but he said he has spent two weeks in the program since it began in mid-March. File this under the "life changes'' category. The son he had with
• He said he's healthy and able to work out harder this offseason than last, when he was recovering from knee surgery and a subsequent staph infection to the knee. "This is the best I've felt in a long, long time,'' he said. "Last year I was ready for the season, but this year I'm not doing rehab; I'm just getting ready as normal for the season.''
• He said he's been throwing "quite often'' on the West Coast to a rehabbing
• His solution to the Patriots' late-season slide, culminating in an embarrassing home playoff loss to Baltimore? "We've got to start listening more to coach [
• He's not down over the team not adding a significant running back or wide receiver (other than the aging
The Patriots are in a weird spot. They have a team 90 percent of the owners (and most fan bases) in the league would die for. They won three of the last nine Super Bowls and still have the coach and quarterback who were the most important pieces in all three of those seasons. They won 58 games in the past five seasons; only one team in the league, Indianapolis, won more consistently in the regular-season over the same span. To average 11.6 wins a year ... that's failure? Of course not. But the bar has been set mile-high in Foxboro. The question around New England and around the league is the same, particularly with the Jets and Dolphins nipping at the Patriots' heels: Are the Patriots on their way up again, or on the way down?
"Our fans think just because we're wearing the same jerseys, we're the same team. And we're not,'' Brady said. "Teams change in this league every year, and ours is no exception. Last year was pretty disappointing in a lot of ways, obviously. Losing to Baltimore the way we lost in the playoffs, losing leads late, losing on the road. Every year is so different, and the way we approach this year will be extremely important. We need to see the toughness. We need to see the commitment. Can we take the coaching?''
Brady will hear a lot of questions about his commitment, now that he's spending so much time in Los Angeles. Hs goal in the offseason used to be to win the prized parking spot given to the most dedicated player in the offseason program. Now his family goals take precedence, and because his older son (he shares custody), lives in Los Angeles, he feels he has to be in southern California more. He made it clear he's not going to give short-shrift to either of his sons, and if he has to work on his own for a good part of the offseason, away from his teammates, so be it.
"It's a balancing act,'' he said. "I don't want the next 10 years to go by and to say I wasn't there for my sons. I wish I could be there [in Foxboro daily in the offseason] the way I was when I was 24, but life is different now. Things actually are much more simple than they've ever been. I used to spend every weekend running around with friends. Now I've got two great kids, and I love spending time with them. [Benjamin] is usually up at 6 in the morning, so that's when the day starts now.''
He said he's going to go back and forth through the offseason and will attend all the mandatory camps and as much of the offseason program as time allows. But he was honest about the fact he's not going to know his new mates as well as he used to know everyone in the locker room once training camp begins in late July.
"I'm not going to have the same relationship with the guys as if I was there every day,'' he said. "I hope they can understand. I've seen it handled different ways by a lot of guys on the team in the past, including some of the real leaders. I've seen
Just then he said, "Hold on,'' and said to his son Jack, "Want to go on the swing?''
Time for one more topic: the Jets ... the never-ending fortification of the Jets.
"They're always a team that gives us problems, and they've sure made a lot of changes this offseason," he said. "When your archrivals do as much as they've done, you've got to pay attention. They went to the conference championship game, they've got a great defense, they can run the ball as well as anyone, and they've got a great young quarterback who can make a lot of plays. Our whole division's improved. To win the division, we'll really have to earn it this year.''
As Brady knows, winning the division isn't enough in New England. It's easy to forget that Brady threw for his second-highest yardage total (4,398) and touchdown passes (28, tied with two other seasons) last year. No matter how much Brady's around this spring, I doubt we'll look back next January and say, "Yup. Brady missing big chunks of the offseason program doomed the Patriots.'' It'll be the effectiveness of those around him that determines the Patriots season -- and how good the team 190 miles to the southwest plays.
"I think what happened was in Tennessee they probably got a little too carried away with the
"To me, anyone's got a chance to win the job right now. It's not just lip service.''
"On my family, I will go to the death and say he doesn't take steroids.''
"I've passed every drug test out there and still have. I'm not that kind of guy.''
You are that kind of guy now.
To all teams pondering adding
In Russell's last 31 quarters as an Oakland starting quarterback, this guy with the tremendous arm threw one touchdown pass. That's a phenomenal run of badness, even worse than putting up only 55 points in his last seven starts as a Raider.
One of the reasons I've never been an
We hosted our nephew
"Does every team in this league have to be some sort of cat?'' Adam wondered.
No, I said; the Eastern League has the Curve (Altoona), Senators (Harrisburg) and even Flying Squirrels (Richmond), but this is not the league with the Lake Monsters (Burlington, Vt.).
So on the 52-mile drive from Boston to Manchester, we passed into New Hampshire and noticed a sign mandating seat-belt use for all car passengers 18 and younger. "Live Free or Die.'' Adam thought that was a bit extreme. "It's like 'Live fast, die young.' ''
I wasn't aware New Hampshire required seat-belt use for youths, but not for adults. So I googled the whole thing back home and discovered how adamant citizenry had been in fighting seat-belt laws. Turns out New Hampshire is the only state that doesn't require residents to wear a seat belt, and it was the cause of some fiery local rhetoric last year when the legislature in the capital of Concord tried to pass such a law.
An editorial in the
Not taking one side or the other here, but I wonder how many drivers have lived free and died while not wearing a seat belt there.
"Next career ... analyst, studio, speaking, preaching, foundation? What do you think? Unretire ... only kidding, not a chance!''
1. I think when I lived in New Jersey a few years ago, there were always whispers about how star high school linebacker Brian Cushing got so big and so strong so fast. And no matter how Cushing spins it in the wake of being suspended for four weeks for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance (Cushing denied to friend and workout pal
Cushing admitting that he appealed the positive test in February makes it virtually certain that he derived benefit from whatever illegal substance he took during his rookie season. And if this suspension is the result of a positive test at any point during the 2009 season, I'm in favor of stripping him of the defensive rookie of the year award and giving it to second-place finisher
2. I think neither side should be expecting much -- and neither side is -- from the straight-up trade of Dallas linebacker
3. I think one of the sad things about
4. I think, by the way, that you won't get anywhere with me when you say men like Taylor and
The Pro Football Hall of Fame was created to honor the men who played the game for what they did in the game, not for what they did off the field or what they did when their careers ended -- good or bad. If we start removing people from the Hall after they've committed a crime, what crime is serious enough? DUI? Sexual assault? A double murder that a man is found not guilty of? (And believe me, I'm not trying to convince anyone Simpson is innocent of double murder -- just making the point that Simpson was not convicted of the crime, so in the eyes of the justice system, jaded eyes though they might be, he is not guilty.)
5. I think I got a kick out of watching the media make a big deal last week of the quote in this space on
6. I think the 49ers did right by rewarding a good player, leader and person,
That's the rub -- the Niners never would have let him walk anyway. If I'm him, I take the money now because you don't know what's around the corner, either in terms of health or in the financial structure of the league.
7. I think one of the reasons San Francisco did right by rewarding Willis is he's the perfect on-field representative of coach
Singletary was the Niners' assistant head coach and linebackers coach when Willis was drafted in 2008, then became the interim head coach when
8. I think the Saints, with the Vicodin lawsuit hanging over the franchise, did two good things in the last week. GM
9. I think I'm starting to get nervous. Next week is my column ranking the teams 1 to 32. I'm always so good at these things, like last year -- when I picked the Saints 24th entering the season and wrote: "This defense is not going to be good enough to win eight games.'' They had a nice little season, as you'll recall.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
d. This is what you're getting for your $17 million a year out of
e. The AL East is not trending the Red Sox's way. Boston has played Tampa Bay and the Yankees 10 times this year, all at Fenway Park, and won two. The Rays are 14-2 on the road. The Yankees are beat up and are 21-9. Not looking good for a competitive summer in New England.
f. Not to be all New England-centric this morning (guilty, as charged), but I've been neglectful in praising two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning
g. Never figured the Red Wings would land with such a thud. San Jose must be really good.
h. I must admit I'm rooting for a Pittsburgh-Boston Eastern Conference final now. It would be fun to see hot Bruins goalie
i. After witnessing
j. Thanks to all who supported the Greater Boston Food Bank and the Matt Light Foundation in advance of the Tuesday New England Locker Room Luncheon (featuring
k. Coffeenerdness: Had one of those Dark Roast Dunkin' Donuts iced coffees the other day. Not bad at all. Suitably dark.
l. I'm in the market for a good movie. Got any good ones?