Tom Brady and his friend, body coach, guru, and business partner Alex Guerrero co-own (along with a friend of Patriots owner Robert Kraft's, as well as a lawyer with ties to Patriots and Kraft) a limited liability corporation called TB12, which operates the TB12 Sports Therapy Center at 240 Patriot Place, just down the road from Gilette Stadium.
If Guerrero's name sounds familiar, that's because he is the guy that lied about being a doctor and was twice investigated by the Federal Trade Commission for making false claims about products he was advertising in infomercials. Guerrero's various wrongdoings -- mostly having to do with one supplement he claimed would cure "ailments such as cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's disease" and another he claimed was "the only preventative measure available to athletes to protect their brain" -- were the subject of an in-depth report by Boston Magazine back in early October.
In addition to those supplements, though, Guerrero also runs the training center, whose web site states that its "revolutionary approaches to wellness in the areas of nutrition and supplementation, as well as physical and mental fitness training, have helped athletes maximize their potential and maintain peak performance levels for more than a decade."
Now, the Boston Globe is reporting that one of the TB12 Sports Therapy Center's clients is the New England Patriots.
Since the center opened in 2013, the team has paid the company for Guerrero and his staff to provide treatment services and nutritional advice to multiple Patriots players.
The Globe did not determine how many players Guerrero and his staff have treated or how much money the Patriots have paid Brady and Guerrero’s company. The team and the two principals all declined to comment.
The NFL says it is aware of the arrangement and has taken no action, despite questions from some specialists in sports law and economics about whether teams should pay for services by for-profit companies owned by their active players and whether the relationship provides value to Brady that should be counted against the club’s salary cap.
That last point there is potentially sticky. The Globe report states that the Patriots pay the center's market rate of $200 per hour to treat players while other physical therapy companies pay large sums of money to sponsor teams like the Eagles and Bears. The Patriots' payment for services could potentially be viewed as providing Brady with "additional value" outside his contract, which is not allowed under the collective bargaining agreement. Quoting directly from the report:
If Brady profits from the arrangement, “then this would seem to be in violation of the salary cap, at least in spirit,’’ said Daniel Rascher, a sports economist at the University of San Francisco who has consulted for the NFL.
As for additional value, Rascher said, “It is a big deal for medical groups to be the official providers for professional teams. They pay handsomely for that privilege.’’
However, the NFL has not raised any concerns about the arrangement. The league provided the Globe with the following statement: “We are aware of the arrangement and have not determined that there is any violation of the CBA.’’ The NFLPA also told the Globe that the arrangement between the Patriots and TB12 has no salary cap implications.
The Globe report did state that this type of arrangement is a rarity in the NFL, though.
“It would be rare indeed for an NFL player to have some outside business where there would be a vendor relationship with any franchise,’’ said Roger Abrams, who teaches sports and labor law at the Northeastern University School of Law.
The NFL labor agreement requires a player’s contract to include a provision detailing any agreement in which he is compensated by a team for non-football services. A source familiar with Brady’s contract said it does not include such language.
Apart from the financial implications, there appear to be other sticking points as well.
The Globe reported that the team has:
- Continued its relationship with Guerrero despite complaints from the medical staff and head coach Bill Belichick ("A source with direct knowledge of one such complaint recalled Belichick's response: 'Tom wants him. What am I supposed to do?' ")
- Given Guerrero a private room at Gillette Stadium to treat players away from the medical staff and trainers
- And allowed Guerrero to continue treating players and during a 14-month investigation into allegations he was practicing physical therapy without a license
Guerrero's treatment of Brady in particular dates back to at least 2008, when Brady tore his ACL and missed the rest of the season. Since returning from that injury, Brady has not missed a single start, nor did he miss one before that after taking over for Drew Bledsoe back in 2001. He has been one of the most remarkably healthy (and productive) players in the NFL and is widely considered to be in excellent football shape. At age 38, he is having another MVP-caliber season while other quarterbacks in his age group are beginning to show their age in their declining play.
Whatever he and Guerrero are doing health and nutrition-wise is obviously working very well for him, no matter his bona fides as a medical professional and whether the Patriots' medical and training staff objects to his methods or not. Whether the arrangement is improper is a different question, but the NFL's (and NFLPA's) current position is that it is not.