Here's the deal: Unless you're a rookie, OTAs are overrated. CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora made just that point on Monday in light of the news that quarterback Tom Brady, who turns 41 in August and is entering his 19th season, is a no-show at the Patriots' organized team activities this week.
That doesn't mean this story isn't being pursued with the breathlessness of breaking news, but that's mostly due to a) this being the Patriots and just about everything they do is deemed newsworthy and b) we're in the slowest part of the offseason; the draft is over and training camps aren't for another six weeks.
Which is why coach Bill Belichick was asked about Brady on Tuesday morning. We'll let you guess how Belichick responded.
"Yeah, I'm not gonna talk about the people who aren't here," Belichick said in a statement that could have been from any point this century. "Guys who are here are improving, working hard and, uh, those are the guys we're going to focus on."
And while no one will remember that Brady skipped OTAs once the season begins, La Canfora notes that the future Hall of Fame quarterback probably ain't "doing cartwheels about an offseason in which his left tackle, starting running back and top wide receivers from 2017 are all gone." There's also the matter of his contract, which includes just $15 million on total compensation for 2018. That ranks 18th among all quarterbacks behind the likes of Sam Bradford, Blake Bortles, Tyrod Taylor, Case Keenum and Ryan Tannehill.
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There are also these quotes from Brady back in June 2013, unearthed by Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, about the importance of OTAs.
"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 at the time, 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."
Belichick, it turns out, agrees.
"It's always good to get back on the field and be working with everybody in Phase 3," the coach told reporters Tuesday. "We were able to do a little bit in Phase 2 against air, get some teaching and instruction, but this is much better. It'll progress faster and just do more with our team, starting yesterday and for the next couple weeks. It's always good to get to that point. We have a lot of new players on our team."
Five years later, and Brady seems to have had a change of heart. Maybe some of is because of the offseason goings on La Canfora alluded to above. Or perhaps it's as something as simple as Brady wanting to spend more time with his family.
"I have a wife [Gisele Bundchen] that aspires to be a lot of things, and she travels a lot. My oldest son lives here in New York, three kids, and you're just always trying to juggle and you want to be there for them, and you want to be there for the hockey games and the soccer games," Brady said in March. "But you also realize the level of commitment it takes to give as much as you can to the team that needs you."
"It's a big commitment," Brady said during a Facebook documentary that aired earlier this year. "I'm sitting here, laying here three days after the year getting my Achilles worked on, my thumb. And you go, 'What are we doing this for? Who are we doing this for? Why are we doing this?' You've got to have answers to those questions and they've got to be with a lot of conviction. When you lose your conviction, you should probably be doing something else."
For Brady, that fire still burns -- he's committed to playing in 2018 -- but he apparently doesn't find OTAs as important as he did several years ago.