FOXBOROUGH ? Minus the small matter of the plane flying over Gillette Stadium’s practice field dragging a banner that read “Cheaters look up! @Jetsfanmedia,” there was no better place for Tom Brady to be on Thursday morning.
The Twitter account says it is not affiliated with the New York Jets or the NFL. But those sentiments are likely similar in every fan base outside New England. But not here. Not on this day, the first of Patriots training camp that fans were allowed to watch.
The pilot of the plane was outnumbered by a good 10,000 who were there to support their beleaguered, embattled quarterback, many of whom brought signs of their own. There were cheers and chants, showering their quarterback in unadulterated love. If Brady had any question of how the fans would react after his four-game suspension was upheld earlier this week, that was quickly erased on Thursday.
So, it was like giving a cup of sugar to a bunch of over-caffeinated kids at a birthday party when the Patriots ran a trick play midway through the workout. On an option, Brady caught a touchdown pass from wide receiver Julian Edelman. For good measure, it was a one-handed catch. And it was just about more than the crowd could handle, as the thunderous joy only got louder.
?That was fun,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said of the play.
McDaniels said it wasn?t a premeditated play to excite the crowd, though.
?No, we always try to ? I think every team tries ? to run enough little gimmicks and gadgets and all that kind of stuff,” he said. “We did have fun. That was fun.”
Whether Brady appreciated the crowd?s support ? or was even aware of it ? though, remains unknown. TB12 left without speaking to the media. But his teammates noticed.
?The fans are great,” said Rob Gronkowski. “It?s always good to come here. They help you get through camp with all their chants, with all their support, their cheering. Whatever it is, a touchdown, whenever there?s a big play happens, it gets you excited. So it?s great to see all our fans out here and a packed house.”
But there remains the unknown. How long will Brady be out? Who will be the quarterback when the Pats open the NFL season Sept. 10 when they host the Steelers? What will happen in the federal lawsuit the NFL Players Association filed on Brady?s behalf? Can Jimmy Garoppolo step up and do the job if Brady can?t?
The lawsuit was transferred to New York ? probably the last place Pats fans want their quarterback?s future decided. And the judge on Thursday admonished both sides to “tone down the rhetoric.”
One person who does not need that kind of admonition? Bill Belichick.
?Today we?re doing what we always do,” Bill Belichick said before Thursday?s workout. “We?ll prepare for practice and we?ll go out there and practice and evaluate it and make corrections and move on to this afternoon and tomorrow. It?s training camp.”
The players have learned to echo that mantra.
?No, not right now,” Gronkowski said of any possibly distractions. “Just taking one day at a time. We had that practice today, we had a great day today, very successful day as a team. That?s all we?re doing right now is taking one day at a time.”
?We?re not really looking that far ahead,” he said. “I don?t think anyone is. It?s the first day of training camp. Got out here with the guys and it felt good to get out here with all of them.”
Even the news earlier this week ? reinforcing the notion that he could be the Opening Night QB ? didn?t cause much of a stir.
?You know, not much of a reaction to it, really,” he said. “Just stayed focused on what I can control and what I?m trying to learn right now and improve on.”
But perhaps the QB-to-be gave a glimpse of what he?s really thinking. When he was asked how he deals with the uncertainty, Garoppolo replied: “You know, just take it one day at a time. You can?t focus on everything at once because it will overwhelm you, so you just got to take it one day at a time, focus