30 days without Tom Brady

30 Days Without Tom Brady

As Tom Brady serves his four-game suspension in football exile, we're here to fill your daily Brady fix with the fun, the football and everything in between.

Elise Amendola/ AP Photo

Garoppolo and Brady's complicated relationship

Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo share the same agent and also the same competitive streak, which has created a unique dynamic since Garoppolo arrived as a second-round draft choice in 2014 -- the highest pick the club has used on a signal-caller in Bill Belichick's 17-year tenure.

So how did Brady help Garoppolo prepare for his first career regular-season start on Sunday night against the Arizona Cardinals? It's complicated.

Brady is a 14-time team captain whose leadership and willingness to put the team first has been instrumental in an unprecedented run of Patriots success. He's genuine when he says he's rooting for Garoppolo.

But Brady is also fiercely protective of his standing as the team's starting quarterback, a role that he hopes to keep filling into his mid-40s. So while Garoppolo has seemingly gone out of his way to point out how Brady has helped him, it's safe to assume Brady isn't passing along any secrets to his personal success.

This dynamic was highlighted by Michael Lombardi, who served as an assistant to the Patriots' coaching staff in 2014 and 2015, in a Friday interview on Boston sports radio WEEI.

"I think Tom Brady's whole mentality is to not worry about the competition, not acknowledge the competition, but he is aware of the competition. I think that's how he motivates himself," Lombardi said on the "Kirk & Callahan Show."

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

That approach has led some in New England to watch Brady's body language on the sideline during the preseason, and in practices, while asking if there might be a rift between the two quarterbacks.

Brady scoffed at the thought during a Westwood One interview Thursday with host Jim Gray.

"I want all the players on our team to do great," Brady said on the program. "Certainly, Jimmy, I know him really well. He's really done a great job preparing himself, and I'm excited to see how he makes the most of his opportunity."

In one of his final news conferences before the start of a four-game suspension, the 39-year-old Brady reflected on when the roles were reversed and he was a young backup nipping at the heels of starter Drew Bledsoe, trying to soak up as much knowledge as he could. He complimented Bledsoe as "tough, disciplined" and a "phenomenal player and leader."

But when Brady was asked if he has noticed a similar dynamic in recent years with the 24-year-old Garoppolo, he seemed stumped for a moment on how to answer.

"I mean, I have no idea. We're totally on different ends of the spectrum," he began. "I love being with Jimmy. I've enjoyed every day that we've spent with him."

For his part, Garoppolo said Brady has passed along helpful advice on how to answer questions from reporters, among other things. He also relayed that Brady had a few encouraging words for him before beginning to serve the four-game suspension.

"He was just wishing me luck for the first four, and I think he wished it for the whole team," Garoppolo relayed. "Tom, he's very supportive of us, and we appreciate that."

But that also has its limits, as Lombardi noted on WEEI: "In terms of how they get along off the field, I don't know. But I know this: Tom, just by the way he sees Jimmy Garoppolo [approach his work], respects him. And when he respects somebody, he sees it as competition. I think that's clearly the case in this situation.

"I think Tom wants to make sure that nobody's going to take his job from him. That's the essence of it. ... You can bring Tom back to high school, it's the same mentality. He's not going to give an inch." -- Mike Reiss

AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Ben Roethlisberger's 2010 suspension serves as blueprint for Brady, Pats

There was no goodbye. Nothing resembling a hug-it-out moment. No 'go-get-em' texts. Even Ben Roethlisberger's replacement, Charlie Batch, didn't hear from Big Ben during his four-game suspension in 2010 for violation of the personal-conduct policy.

But this is how these things work, and the Patriots are finding that out now as Tom Brady serves his suspension for Deflategate.

The suspensions for Brady and Roethlisberger were different in nature, but one dynamic won't change -- one day, everyone looking around and the star quarterback is just ... gone.

"He didn't have to say anything," said Steelers guard Ramon Foster, a starter on that 2010 team. "Just man the ship until he gets back. That was the mentality."

If there's a healthy blueprint for the Patriots and replacement Jimmy Garoppolo, it's the Steelers going 3-1 without Roethlisberger despite injuries to quarterbacks Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon. Batch completed 29 of 49 passes for 352 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions in relief as the Steelers were "15 seconds from going 4-0," as Batch recalls. A late interception secured a 17-14 Baltimore Ravens win in Week 4.

Roethlisberger and Steelers officials declined comment on Big Ben's exile. But like Brady, Roethlisberger wasn't allowed anywhere near the Steelers' facility during his time away. He visited California to work with quarterbacks coach George Whitfield. Back home, Roethlisberger kayaked at a state park north of Pittsburgh, according to a recent feature in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Before he left, Roethlisberger was quietly setting the tone. Batch said he saw Roethlisberger logging 9:30 p.m. weightlifting sessions during training camp.

"He didn't talk about (the suspension)," Batch said. "He wanted to prove he was going to be OK coming back."

Falling behind in the playbook wasn't a concern for the Steelers. Most of the team's advance scouting happened over the summer. Roethlisberger was known for having a photographic memory in the film room, Batch said, preferring to apply what he knows on the practice field or in throwing sessions than grind for hours watching tape.

Roethlisberger didn't give Batch any quarterbacking tips during the process because the top guys don't share their trade secrets anyway. It was up to Batch to figure things out, but a team with a loaded defense quelled concerns, and coach Mike Tomlin approached Roethlisberger's absence as if he was gone due to injury; those with a helmet will play, and play well.

Batch imagines Garoppolo will hear similar messages that he did during those weeks: Don't try to be Ben, just be the best you.

"I understood the storyline," Batch said. "If we win, it's because the defense was great. If we lost, it's because Ben Roethlisberger was out. But we had a veteran team that had done it before, so let's figure out a way to go 4-0. When Ben gets back, that's a bonus.

"I was at a different point in my career, but If I'm Garoppolo, I want to play well enough where I'm convincing the Patriots or other teams that I can be a starter." -- Jeremy Fowler

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Spy games? How the NFL tracks a suspended Tom Brady

Tom Brady's suspension comes with a lot of rules. He can't go to New England Patriots practices. He can't go to games. He can't even visit the team facility. If he left something in his locker Friday, he wouldn't be allowed to get it until Oct. 3.

There's more.

Brady isn't allowed to have any contact with Patriots coaches or other team personnel. He can't exchange playbooks via e-mail, snail mail, Snapchat ... nothing. He can't play catch with a teammate, even if Julian Edelman shows up at his front door and they want to throw the pigskin around in the backyard. In a nutshell: Brady is to remain cut off from the Patriots for all 30 days. He is grounded.

The question: How will the NFL really know?

How will the league enforce all of these rules? Will they bug his phone? Do they camp out in a van across the street from his house for 30 days? Do they email him game plans from a fake Bill Belichick account just to see if he'll take the bait? Do they text him from "Unknown" and say, "It's Gronk. How 'bout some catch?"

Short answer: No.

"If we were notified of possible impermissible contact, we would look into it," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.

And that's it. The honor system, basically. If Brady sends a technique-related or game-plan-related text to Rob Gronkowski next Thursday, the only way the NFL would know a violation had occurred is if Gronk ratted him out. Which is unlikely.

McCarthy stressed that this is no different a system than it is for any other player whose discipline requires him to stay away from the club, and is the same set of rules it applied to coaches during the 2011 lockout. So it's a system that has been in place for a while, and people know how to abide by it.

"Coaches, no contact at all," said one player agent with a client who has had a recent suspension. "They're very strict about that, and the coaches are kind of paranoid about getting caught, so they don't even go near it. Teammates, you're fine, if you want to text your friend and talk about the game, nobody's going to bang you for that."

McCarthy said Brady could "socialize with teammates but not engage in football discussions." But come on. That's got to be totally impossible to officiate, right? Call up your teammate after the game and talk about recipes?

"Their friends are their friends, and no one expects them not to talk to their friends for a month," another agent said. "If they're sending him playbooks or game plans, that's a different ballgame. But they set these guys up to succeed with this stuff, and honestly I don't know why the league would care. This is these guys' job, football."

It's worth a note here that, if Brady needed some sort of medical or training help during his suspension, there's a procedure in place for handling that. The Patriots' team doctor and/or trainers could speak with Brady's doctor or personal trainer (not to Brady himself) to "set up or monitor treatment, rehabilitation or conditioning plans," McCarthy said. So it's not as if the league keeps you from doing what you need to do to be ready to play when your suspension ends. They just want to make sure suspended really means "suspended."

"It's tough being away from your team any time you have to be," said Washington left tackle Trent Williams, who served a four-game drug suspension at the end of the 2011 season. "But I don't remember it being tough to follow the rules. You just deal with it."

So there are a bunch of things that are sure to bother Brady during his suspension. But Big Brother isn't one of them. -- Dan Graziano

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Big Ben touts Brady as the NFL's best QB. What say you?

Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw made waves this week, saying he'd take Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger "ahead of Brady, for sure, and anybody else." On Tuesday, Big Ben countered his fellow Steelers great: "Tom's the greatest in the world, and I mean that."

In the 2015 season, at age 38, Brady ranked first in passing touchdowns (36) and third in passing yards (4,770). And he currently ranks top-five all time among quarterbacks in the following categories:

Super Bowl wins (T-1)
Interception percentage (2nd)
Wins (3rd)
Touchdowns (T-3rd)
Net yards per attempt (4th)
Passer rating (5th)
Yards (5th)

Where would you rank him among the best quarterbacks in the league right now?

Illustration by Ward Sutton

How Brady should spend his time off

While most everything else surrounding Deflategate remains a confusing, convoluted mess, the rules for Tom Brady's involuntary, 30-day NFL sabbatical are simple and straightforward: zero contact.

For a workaholic and, arguably, the greatest quarterback of all time, it's going to be a long month. Luckily, we've compiled a handy bunch of ways Brady can maximize his free time. No extra charge for the ideas, Tom.

Illustration by Ward Sutton

Head North, eh?

Sure, the rules forbid Brady from any contact with the NFL. But they don't say anything about the Canadian Football League, am I right? It just so happens that a professional football team in Montreal, a mere 300-mile commute up I-89, is currently dead last in the CFL's East division standings and scoring.

Illustration by Ward Sutton

Eat the donuts. All of them.

After watching Brady get bullied, battered and bruised by the Broncos, who hit him 23 times during the AFC title game, I had only one thought: this poor guy needs some extra padding. The answer? Ditch the diet that consists of 80 percent vegetables, zero sugar, zero white flour and zero coffee for a daily dose of Dunkin's finest donuts.

Illustration by Ward Sutton

Hit the campaign trail

Donald Trump, the candidate Brady once called "remarkable," is now in a tightening race and looking for all the help he can get. Meanwhile, Brady just happens to have lots of spare time and a need for a daily conditioning routine. It's a win-win: Stump for Trump.

Illustration by Ward Sutton

Netflix and chill

How can Brady return the favor to fanboys Ben Affleck and Matt Damon for their unwavering support? He should spend the month binge watching all 138 Affleck and Damon movies, starting with a double feature: "Stuck on You" and "Gigli."

Illustration by Ward Sutton

Take a hike

If you told a Patriots fan it typically takes world-class climbers around a year of preparation and 40 days of climbing to acclimate before trying to summit Mt. Everest, you know exactly how they'd respond: "Sir Edmund Hillary was a loser! My boy Tawme could do it in 30."

Illustration by Ward Sutton

Get thee to a winery

Brady is signed through 2019, but at 39 it might not hurt for him to start planning for retirement. What about a 30-day internship at Drew Bledsoe's Doubleback winery in Walla Walla, Washington? He could learn all about cabernet sauvignon, the transition into the next phase of his life and what could possibly be in store for him should Jimmy Garoppolo set the world on fire during New England's first four games. Bledsoe bought the land for his winery just a few years after he was severely injured, then cold-heartedly replaced by Bill Belichick in 2001.

As Brady is about to find out, a lot can happen in 30 days away from the game. -- David Fleming

Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports

Best-case, worst-case for Patriots while Brady sits

The New England Patriots have spent months -- a couple of years, actually -- adjusting to the concept of four games without starting quarterback Tom Brady. They're set to go. They have a plan.

But the thing about a plan is that the world doesn't care. At some point in the next couple of weeks, something about the Patriots' circumstances will change again -- for good, for bad or (likely) for both. With that in mind, here's a look at the worst-case and the best-case scenarios for the Patriots' Brady-less first month of the season:


The Pats open with a loss in Arizona, which isn't a big deal unto itself. They might have been underdogs there even with Brady. But disaster strikes in the form of another injury on defense, where Rob Ninkovich is already out and nobody's sure about the pass rush. Chris Long and Barkevious Mingo, two players New England is high on after their preseason performances, turn back into the pumpkins they were the last couple of years in St. Louis and Cleveland. One or a couple of the team's defensive A-listers -- Jamie Collins, Dont'a Hightower, Malcolm Butler and Devin McCourty -- struggles or (much worse) misses a game or two. And don't even mention the quarterback situation, where Jimmy Garoppolo's mission is to steer clear of turnovers and not get himself hurt. A surprise Jacoby Brissett cameo ranks among the very worst of the worst-case scenarios.


Jimmy G pulls the Week 1 upset in Arizona, lighting up the Monday morning radio airwaves in Boston with talk of going 4-0 in Brady's absence. The following three games are at home, where the two-tight end sets the Patriots want to run with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett have the league buzzing about Bill Belichick's latest brilliant adjustment to his offensive personnel. They sandwich division victories over Buffalo and Miami around an impressive defeat of Houston's stout defense, hassling Brock Osweiler all day in a way that inspires columns about whether the Patriots can lead the league in sacks. And in their Game 4 victory, they survive a Garoppolo performance just shaky enough to ward off the ridiculous idea that he should keep the job even once Brady returns. -- Dan Graziano

The Michigan Daily

Reliving a rocky start at Michigan

The explanation sounded like philanthropy. Tom Brady waited two years for his chance, as impatiently as you might imagine Tom Brady would wait, and when his coach could delay no longer, the best he could say was: "Tom Brady has paid his dues."

In the summer of 1998, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr had to decide between Brady and freshman Drew Henson as the starting quarterback for a team that shared the national championship a year earlier. Carr didn't announce Brady's ascension until the season began -- 18 years ago today, in fact.

It was a difficult decision, believe it or not. Henson was one of the most heralded recruits in a generation of college football. No one would have excused Carr for starting him right out of high school, and it was reasonable to wonder why he didn't make a change after -- yes -- an 0-2 start under Brady.

Ranked No. 5 in preseason polls, Michigan lost its season opener at Notre Dame as Brady posted pedestrian numbers (see below) and then fell in the home opener to Syracuse, each time by double-digit scores.

Only then did Brady begin to demonstrate the competitive tenacity that would go on to define his career and verify Carr's initial assessment.

"Tom Brady is a fighter," Carr said then. "He's a competitor, so I don't sell him short at all."

Well gee, thanks, Coach.

Behind Brady, the Wolverines rebounded with a 10-game winning streak. Henson saw occasional action, throwing 45 passes in seven games, but Brady held the job through the Florida Citrus Bowl.

It was the first display of the famous Brady competitiveness, on a national scale, that would ultimately help him quarterback the New England Patriots to six Super Bowls, including four championships. His teams have won 77.1 percent of their games since 2001. But in 1998, no one knew if he was good enough to start over a true freshman. -- Kevin Seifert

The many hairstyles of Tom Brady

In case you missed it, Tom Brady debuted this new side-parted hairstyle earlier this week:

Mike Reiss

Getty Images

In honor of his new 'do, we decided to take a look at some of his best styles throughout the years. Enjoy.

First up, we have Young Tom:

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Long Hair Don't Care Tom:

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Almost A Middle Part Tom:

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Front Spike Tom:

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Sort Of A Blond Tom:

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Business In The Front, Party In The Back Tom:

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-- Hannah Whitten

Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports

Pats are in much better shape than 2008

Remember the last time someone replaced Tom Brady as the New England Patriots' quarterback? Matt Cassel had been a backup for seven consecutive years, four at USC and another three with the Patriots, when Brady tore his ACL in Week 1 of the 2008 season.

Since high school, Cassel's only start in an organized football game had come in 2001 -- as an H-back.

In Las Vegas, the Patriots fell from a nine-point favorite over their Week 2 opponent -- the New York Jets -- to a one-point underdog. Once given an NFL-best 5-2 odds to win the Super Bowl in 2008, the Patriots entered Cassel's first start with 15-1 odds.

"All of our hearts were broken for Tom," said Heath Evans, the Patriots fullback that season and now an NFL Network analyst. "But the initial shock and awe wasn't about what the season was going to look like as far as wins and losses. ... It was like, 'Man, our leader is done and hurting.' But we did believe in Matt. He had a cannon arm then, and he had a confident output as far as who and what he was and wasn't."

In a manner of days, Patriots coach Bill Belichick and his staff reimagined the offense, spreading out receivers and making it easier for Cassel to see the field. Evans' playing time as a traditional fullback decreased. By the Wednesday after Brady's injury, the entire organization had adjusted.

"If anyone from the outside saw our team meeting that day," Evans told ESPN, "they would have thought Bill was so callous. It was very clear and very simple: 'We're moving on.' We of course knew that Bill loved Tom, but the mentality then and always in New England is that whatever we have, that's enough."

Cassel helped keep the Patriots competitive; they won six of his first 11 starts and closed the season on a four-game winning streak. In most years, their 11-5 record would have qualified for the playoffs. In this instance, however, they fell short on tiebreakers and became one of two 11-win teams in NFL history to miss the postseason.

Cassel had even less experience and pedigree than Jimmy Garoppolo, who will start for Brady during his upcoming four-game suspension. Garoppolo was a record-breaking starter for nearly all of his four-year stay at Eastern Illinois. In part because of his body of work, and partially because Brady will be back in Week 5, the Patriots' Super Bowl odds went nearly unchanged when the suspension was finalized. At the moment, the Patriots are your Super Bowl LI favorites at 6-1.

"There is such a trust in the process there," Evans said. "Every player has weaknesses, and Matt Cassel and Jimmy Garoppolo are no exceptions. And they know it, because they've been told. But they also know that the coaching staff coaches around those weaknesses and can always find a plan that doesn't stretch anyone too thin. They did that with Matt and will do it with Jimmy, I'm sure." -- Kevin Seifert