By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The impact of Tom Brady’s return to the Patriots locker room is impossible to put into words without making a gross understatement. The transformation of the offense on the field as it goes from rookie Jacoby Brissett to Brady will be swift and massive. And off the field, Brady’s mere presence at Gillette Stadium will be an emotional spark plug for a team that looked completely out of sorts in the final game of No. 12’s four-game suspension. This much doesn’t even need to be said.
But if you ask Bill Belichick, if you do say it you’re being irresponsible. According to the head coach, I’m just engaging in wild speculation. Shame on me.
Belichick took to his Monday conference call clearly still audibly (and justifiably) dissatisfied with Sunday’s 16-0 loss to the Bills in Foxboro, which was the first time the Patriots had been shut out at home since 1993. Belichick was so indignant about his team’s performance, he wouldn’t even bring himself to admit the obvious impact of getting back his Hall-of-Fame quarterback.
When asked how Brady’s presence back in the Patriots locker room impacted the team, Belichick responded, “I don’t know … That’d just be speculation at this point. He hasn’t done it.” When pressed on whether Brady’s return would make any impact, he offered a smidgen of admittance: “I mean it’s great to have Tom and Rob [Ninkovich] back, but I can’t tell you. I can’t answer the question.
“I mean I haven’t seen it. It’d just be pure speculation. It’s good to have them back. I’m not going to speculate on what will and won’t happen on anything going forward because that’s all it would be – it would just be speculation.”
Belichick is employing his typical strategy of keeping no single player above the team, which is perfectly understandable. But it’s not like Belichick would have caused a stir if he said something like, “Tom’s a great competitor and we’re happy to have him back. Nobody works harder.” But hey that’s why he’s the greatest coach of all time and I’m just a man with opinions.
Ultimately, Belichick gets a pass for this one – not that there was any doubt about that. This is not meant as a criticism of Belichick, who has had far saltier moments with the media, even in the past 24 hours. It’s just amusing to me that he couldn’t even bring himself to state the obvious about Brady or even give some generic remark. Perhaps he wants to motivate Brady by subtly saying “Well I don’t know what kind of impact he’ll have,” to which Brady says “I’ll show him!” But it’s also silly to think that Brady would need even more motivation than he already has.
The Patriots are getting back the best quarterback on the planet this week. There’s no way his impact would be anything less than colossal. But Belichick is clearly trying to downplay Brady’s return as much as possible. Early reports from players’ media availability suggest that Brady’s teammates are also downplaying Brady’s return.
Brady’s impact didn’t need to be harped on by Belichick or the players, but it also could not have been overstated. But the team is quickly proving how easily it can be understated.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.