Getting Back To Work

Tom Brady

Ben Roethlisberger is staying away from his team's off-season program because of off-field issues. Brett Favre is hanging out on his property pondering his future playing days. But Tom Brady, a man with plenty of opportunity for distraction, is back at work in Foxboro. Brady's commitment to the off-season program is one of the main reasons why the Patriots are consistently good.

Stop the presses. Tom Brady is in Foxboro participating in offseason workouts, just the way owner Robert Kraft predicted he would be.

The question now is whether or not this signals a new commitment from the franchise quarterback once lauded for his dedication and leadership. Married life and fatherhood provides inevitable change for anyone, let alone a professional athlete, so it's no surprise Brady's perceived attention to detail has waned since the new additions to his family.

The year he blew his knee out in 2008, he spent most of his offseason home in California. As a result, he lost his coveted parking spot at Gillette Stadium, which is annually awarded to the players who work the hardest during the team's voluntary workouts.

None of this would have been a big deal were it not for the fact Brady's vehicle of choice had been a fixture in those prime parking spots since his tenure with the team began in 2000. Seeing him hoof it to the front door was a foreign concept, and when his hopes and dreams for 2008 evaporated courtesy of a season-ending knee injury in Week 1, Brady's commitment and desire suddenly came into question.

To his credit, Brady worked hard to return to the field in 2009. He played all 16 games with limited side effects from the knee surgery, though his mobility -- which was never great to begin with -- suddenly seemed less fluid. His numbers were good, but not great, and the team bowed out ungracefully in the opening round of the playoffs.

The fact Brady is in camp this early -- even with a second baby in the family -- is a good sign for Kraft and the entire organization. Without making too big a deal out of a player doing his job (these workouts are voluntary, but it's understood that the players should do everything within their power to be there), Brady's early arrival could be a sign that he has rededicated himself to his craft and could experience a bounce-back year in 2010.

Winning the 2009 Comeback Player of the Year award was inevitable considering what he came back from, but his '09 season was below his own standards. Brady has the ability to be a difference-maker and has shown this potential so many times through the years that fans and media have come to expect it every Sunday.

Nothing great comes without hard work, and perhaps Brady now realizes it's time to put more focus on his football career, even if it puts a mild strain on his family life. This isn't about a parking spot -- it's about the pride and heart of a champion.

NOTES:

The Patriots announced the signing of tight end Alge Crumpler, another move aimed toward fixing the hole in their passing game created by the lack of a versatile, No. 1 tight end.

Through the years, the Patriots have made numerous attempts to develop a sturdy, pass-catching, pass-protecting, run-blocking tight end who could also serve as a severe threat in the red zone. In back-to-back years, they used first-round picks to draft Daniel Graham and Ben Watson.

Graham has spent the last three years in Denver while Watson is now a member of the Cleveland Browns, so, for all intents and purposes, consider those wasted picks. Both players had their moments, but when the time came to re-up, the Patriots weren't exactly breaking the bank to keep them in town.

--Head coach Bill Belichick, who will be 58 this season, doesn't plan on coaching forever, but it's uncertain how much longer he'll be pacing the sidelines.

"I don't see the Marv Levy situation. I don't think I'm going to be sitting here in 20 years," Belichick said of the former Bills' coach, who retired at 72.

"I enjoy it. All the aspects of it. As multifaceted as it is. I like all of it: the team-building, preparation, game days. I enjoy all of it. It beats working."

--QB Tom Brady added boxing to his offseason workout regimen, perhaps as an attempt to develop more flexibility, stamina and ... power?

Belichick likes the idea of his quarterback pulling out all the stops, but doesn't foresee Brady trading in his helmet for a pair of gloves anytime soon.

Asked what kind of boxer Brady would be, Belichick said, "Somebody that got knocked out."

--The NFL passed its new overtime rule for the postseason, which dictates that both teams will get at least one possession in OT if the first team with the ball doesn't score a touchdown.

Patriots' owner Robert Kraft was a big advocate of this rule and left the owners meetings thrilled with the NFL's new change in policy.

"We worked hard on that," Kraft said. "Very hard. I think we did something positive for the fans. I'm really happy it was passed."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He deserved it." -- C Dan Koppen on the playful ribbing he and his teammates gave QB Tom Brady for his most recent television commercial.

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