By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Everybody’s talking about Tom Brady these days. They’re talking about his prolonged absence from the Patriots’ offseason workouts, an absence which was magnified this week when he skipped the start of OTAs. They’re talking about where he is — or where he isn’t — in reporting and disputing reports regarding his exact location. They’re talking about WHAT IT ALL MEANS that the most important player in franchise history isn’t with his team during what has been described as a very important part of the offseason in terms of team building.

Brady, surely, knows all of this. But it’s not exactly a rarity for everybody to be talking about Brady. That’s kind of been the status quo for at least four years now. So Brady isn’t talking.

But he is Instagramming.

The QB posted on his favorite social media platform on Wednesday afternoon, a day after he was reportedly working out at his TB12 center instead of next door on the Gillette Stadium practice fields. The picture depicts Brady throwing a pass on those practice fields, and it’s captioned with the word “Dreamworks” along with two emojis: a sparkles emoji and a peace sign emoji.

Dreamworks ✨✌🏻

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

WHAT IN THE WORLD DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Let’s start with the most likely answer: Nothing. It means nothing.

Right? I mean, athletes post pictures of themselves playing sports all the time. Brady is no exception. A few days after losing the Super Bowl, he posted a picture of himself with Rob Gronkowski during that Super Bowl, and there can’t be any further meaning drawn from that association — especially because Gronkowski never posts any passive-aggressive comments on social media.

Jokes aside, Brady has posted pictures of himself playing football many times. (See: here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. And that’s only going back to October. Got it?) Maybe he was chucking the old pigskin around the yard and thought, “Man! I sure do love some football. In fact, I’m so jazzed up for football at this moment that I’m going to post a photograph of me playing football. I’m going to share it with my 4 million followers on Instagram. Gosh I just love football so much!”

Maybe that’s it.

Or maybe that’s … not it.

Let’s look a little deeper into just where this image came from. Doing so is not easy — you must visit the specific page of the Instagram picture, then view the source code, then find the jpg, then visit that jpg page, then right-click that image and click “Search Google for Image.” What are the results? These are the results:

Kick American Football?

Is Tom going to revive his career as a punter? He is pretty good at it, you know.

No, that’s probably not it.

Is he going to “kick” football, the way people “kick” cigarettes? And the peace-out emoji? Is he quitting? No, he’d never. (Right?) No — Tom Brady is going to play forever. We all know this.

Plus, the caption. “Dreamworks”? What is that all about? We know Brady made a cameo in “Ted 2,” but is he angling for a spot in a new Shrek movie? Hey — Jimmy Garoppolo is widely considered to be “dreamy” or a “dreamboat.” Does Tom just miss Jim?

And what’s with that emoji of sparkles? Who’s sparkling? Why is it/why are they sparkling? And why does it look like the Steelers logo? Has Brady been traded straight up for Ben Roethlisberger? Probably not.

So what does it mean? WHAT DOES IT MEEEEAAANNNNN????

That’s all a bit overdramatic, but there are probably three real questions that people are wondering after the post:

1. When was this picture taken?
2. What’s the intended message for the photo and caption?
3. Why were comments disabled?

On number one, we know the photograph is not from Wednesday or any day this week. Brady was not present at Tuesday’s OTA practice session, which was open to the media, and the Patriots did not hold a practice session on Wednesday. So that rules that out. (Plus it’s kind of cloudy in the picture; Wednesday was an overly sunny day in the Foxboro area.)

Number two, well, as we’ve covered, you’ll have to draw your own conclusion.

Number three is actually kind of interesting. As has been mentioned, the world talks about Brady quite often, and Brady often doesn’t really care. They’ve called him a liar, a cheater, a fraud, and they’ve attacked his personal life, and his businesses, his face, his hair, and his core beliefs. They’ve said it all. He’s largely remained silent, taking a Zen-like approach where he doesn’t let people “take away his power.” That’s a firm belief of his. Here’s what he’s said on the matter of being criticized:

“When you play professional sports … you subject yourself to a lot of criticism. After 17 years in the NFL, there’s a lot of criticism. … The point is, when you subject yourself to a lot of criticism, what I’ve learned from myself is, I don’t want to give my power away to other people by letting my own emotions be subjected to what their thoughts or opinions are. So if someone calls me something, that’s their problem. It’s not my problem. I’m not going to give away my power.”

Translation: Say what you want, people, but I’m not listening.

That’s a lifestyle approach, one that’s not easy to maintain. Especially on Instagram, apparently. Scanning back through every single one of his Instagram posts this offseason, none have had comments disabled. Just this one.

WHY DID HE DISABLE COMMENTS ON THIS PARTICULAR INSTAGRAM PHOTO?!?!?!

Maybe he just wanted to mess with people. (Hey, between the inside-out practice jersey last year, and the gloves-at-all-times during Super Bowl week, we can’t put that past him.) Maybe his thumb slipped … twice … and he disabled comments by accident. Maybe he just wanted to say hi to the world, remind them that he’ll be playing football soon enough, and didn’t really want anyone to get lost in the comments. (People say mean, bad things in the comments, you know.)

Realistically, nobody outside of Brady himself (and/or his social media manager) knows if there even is a true meaning behind such a post. But considering that he’s a major talking point in New England and around the whole country as he skips out on OTAs with his team, he had to have known that any post at all would make people go berserk trying to uncover the true intentions behind the photograph.

For now, you’ll just have to add it to the long list of strange occurrences that have taken place for the Patriots since Feb. 4 — occurrences that probably receive slightly too much attention in the moment but will be completely forgotten if the Patriots do as expected and have a successful 2018 season. Nevertheless, something as simple as an Instagram post of a football player playing football can manage to stoke the curiosities of those who follow every development involving the local football team.

UPDATE: The Athletic’s Jeff Howe reported that Brady’s Instagram post was related to the quarterback’s business interests. So … as it relates to the football team … it means nothing? Maybe?

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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