By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Late in the 2017 season, we learned a lot about the crumbling relationship between the New England Patriots and Tom Brady’s personal trainer and overall health guru, Alex Guerrero. Things seemed pretty bad.
Now a month after their Super Bowl loss, it appears things might have been even worse than initially reported.
That’s at least a sensible conclusion to draw based on the reporting this week surrounding Rob Gronkowski.
First, NBC Sports Boston’s Tom E. Curran reported that Gronkowski was so frustrated with the way the team was forcing him to train that the all-world tight end was contemplating retirement all the way back in August. “The atmosphere” in New England was wearing Gronkowski down to the point where the most dominant tight end in football was apparently taking it under serious consideration to just quit the sport altogether. That’s significant.
Then, Mark Daniels of The Providence Journal reacted to that news by sharing a story about the Patriots’ attempt to shut down a story about Gronkowski’s revamped training methods and diet — a lifestyle change that follows the wisdom of Brady and Guerrero.
Daniels joined “Mut At Night” on WEEI on Tuesday night to explain the situation further. Daniels said that sometime around the divisional round, he spoke with Gronkowski about a potential story on his training and his diet. Gronkowski told Daniels that he really wanted to talk about it.
“So immediately I go to PR and I tell them what I’m working on, I’d appreciate some help with you guys setting something up with me and Rob one-on-one. Now in order to get that interview, you have to send it in an email,” Daniels said. “The following weekend, the Pats win, so AFC championship week, I send an email with my request for Gronk, and they send it back denying it saying it’s the team policy that they don’t want players talking about workout regimens or diets.”
This struck Daniels as odd, considering he’s written about players’ workout regimens and diets before, and spoken to trainers for such stories. Plus, the world-famous quarterback has kind of dedicated his entire life to sharing his own workout routine and diet plan, to the point where he released a $200 “nutrition manual,” another book that promises to teach readers “How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance,” as well as a fitness app — something Brady’s people released the day after the Patriots lost on Monday Night Football to the Dolphins.
“That was news to me, because I’ve done it before,” Daniels said. “I’ve talked to trainers for LeGarrette Blount, Eric Rowe. I’ve done stuff with diets with Marcus Cannon, LaAdrian Waddle. I’ve written about Alex Guerrero before. So that’s not new. But them saying it’s a policy, it was just surprising to me.”
The fact that the Patriots didn’t want Gronkowksi talking about his diet and exercise routine is one thing. The fact that Gronkowski talked to a reporter anyway is another.
“I’m like, huh, I’ve written stories like this before, and Tom Brady’s written a book about that, so that whole thing was really curious to me,” Daniels said on WEEI. “And honestly it fired me up, because if you’re telling me I can’t do something, I’m going to push really hard to do it. So I still approached Gronk and I was like, ‘They don’t want me talking to you about this but I still want to go for it, are you down?’ And he said he was. So I talked with him. … Gronk helped me out a ton, though. So it was interesting that the Pats didn’t want him talking about this stuff, and he still did.”
That situation, certainly, serves as another log to throw on the fire that is apparently burning in Foxboro regarding the growing influence of Alex Guerrero on a number of Patriots players. With Brady, Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Dont’a Hightower, and as many as 20 total players who are actively working with Guerrero, it’s fair to say that the players consider Guerrero to be a pretty important factor in treating their bodies. And considering their bodies are their livelihood, it’s also fair to say that having trust in a trainer is a rather significant part of their lives.
Now consider that Daniels is saying that the Patriots tried to prevent a player from singing the praises of Guerrero in January, after a season when Gronkowski earned First Team All-Pro honors and looked as athletic and healthy as he’s ever looked. This was right around the time of ESPN’s big report about growing tension between Belichick and Brady. It certainly raises an eyebrow or two.
From there, you can really take a deep dive into some of the more subtle messages being shared. Take, for example, some clips from “Tom Vs. Time” shed some light on the situation. As you may recall from Bob Hohler’s mid-December Boston Globe report on the curbing of privileges for Guerrero within the walls of Gillette Stadium, it was reported that Guerrero could no longer treat any player other than Brady in his exclusive office at the stadium. The report made it seem as if Guerrero still had access to this office, and one would imagine that it included a massage table and whatever else a trainer might need.
But in the fifth episode of “Tom Vs. Time,” we saw Brady and Guerrero scramble to try to find space within Brady’s stadium suite for a suitable pregame massage. Considering it was a game day and there were many people already inside the stadium, the glass walls in the suite didn’t make for a very private experience. Brady haphazardly tried to slide a heavy chair and hang some towels to block however much of the window he could.
“Tommy,” Guerrero said to him. “That looks ridiculous. Let’s not draw attention to ourselves — let’s stack up a bunch of chairs by these windows!”
They ended up moving the massage table to a tight space in the back of the suite, in what looks like the area close to the where a bathroom might be. This portion of the program came just after some audio of national talking heads discussed the “controversy” of Guerrero’s involvement with him and the team.
“Got a little treatment room back here,” Brady said while looking at the camera. “I told [Guerrero], now he’s notorious, too.”
Now, this “Tom Vs. Time” series is important to Brady. He’s not sitting in a dark room on Final Cut Pro to edit each and every scene, but he absolutely has creative control on what’s included and in what manner that material is presented. Certainly, if there were anything that Brady didn’t want to make it to a final episode, he would make sure it got cut. So you do have to wonder why, in the midst of the national and local media salivating over the juicy gossip of a Brady-Belichick-Guerrero spat, Brady would include a flippant line in his docuseries about Guerrero now being notorious.
The Patriots, mind you, were “nominally aware” that this documentary was being filmed. Suffice it to say, given that the team tried to prevent a writer from simply reporting on Gronkowski’s diet and exercise routine, the Patriots probably wouldn’t have been eager to share with the world that Brady needs to jump through hoops in order to get the pregame massage he feels he needs to get inside his own home stadium. In instances when “controversy” surrounds their team and floods their locker room, the Patriots’ modus operandi has been to put up walls, say nothing, and just focus on winning football games. In this instance, Brady welcomed a camera crew and a boom mic operator into a cramped space as if to announce to the world that he should not have to put in so much work in order to receive a simple pregame massage before a Week 17 game against the Jets.
Likewise, the team probably wouldn’t want Guerrero to have a blank page to lay out his exact philosophy during a debate that was taking place between Brady and Julian Edelman about the benefits of a pliability-focused workout. Danny Amendola and Brady’s friend — Kevin Brady — were also involved.
Edelman: “I do all of the things that you guys do. I just incorporate lifting weights because I have to stay strong. Because I have to.”
Brady: “Let’s keep it real. The only reason why you’re trying to get jacked up is so you can go and be naked on magazines. You ain’t fooling us.”
Edelman: “Are we really … we’re done with that. That’s in the past.”
Kevin Brady: “We were just educating Julian on fast-twitch muscles and how he is neglecting to understand the core principles of what we’re trying to do to maintain our longevity as we further our playing career. But if Julian just wants to play another couple years, that’s Julian’s decision, OK?”
Edelman: “The one exercise I did yesterday was a [expletive] bench press, and I’m getting [expletive] killed about this.”
Tom Brady: “[Expletive] right! Someone needs to protect you.”
Edelman (to camera): “I’ve been hearing this for [expletive] eight years. Eight years. We’ve been in an argument for eight years.”
Amendola: “I think there has to be a medium in everything. I feel like you have to have strength, but you have to have pliability and flexibility. You have to have—“
Guerrero: “Listen, I’m not an anti-weight guy. Everyone thinks I’m anti-weights.”
Brady: “I think weights with pliability are optimal. That’s what you want.”
Guerrero: “I just think you should train for what you want to get out of your training.”
It was a conversation presented as a situation of guys being guys, but as Edelman shared, it is the root of a philosophical debate that clearly takes place among players on a regular basis in Foxboro. Plus, remember, the so-called TB12 method of living is Brady’s passion. It’s his life. And assuming he stops playing football at some point, selling that method to millions of people figures to be the foundation of his second career.
Considering the matter of hand is one without a definitive answer (though the Patriots may disagree), it’s a debate that is sure to continue.
And when Curran reports that part of the reason Gronkowski considered retirement in training camp was because he “wanted to train a certain way” but “the team didn’t necessarily want him to train the way he wanted to train”? And when the team tries to shut down a simple story that eventually ran with a headline of “TB12 method pays off for Gronkowski this season”? And when Brady includes a semi-passionate debate about the merits of his training program, as well as a behind-the-scenes look of how many obstacles he faces in order to receive a simple pregame massage at Gillette Stadium?
It’s all indicative that the reported issues that exist between the Patriots/Belichick and Brady/Guerrero are even bigger than we all initially were led to believe. How, exactly, the involved parties navigate that reality is yet to be determined. But in order to maintain a manageable environment, it’s something Belichick ought to address sooner than later. It doesn’t appear to be a problem that will just go away.