By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — We fall into this trap sometimes in New England where something happens somewhere in the NFL, and our instant reaction is to say the lamest thing imaginable: Imagine if a member of the Patriots did that! It’d be pandemonium!

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It’s happened too often in the past. Imagine if that guy who’s on that team was actually Tommy Brady of the beloved Patriots? Imagine if that coach who did that thing was actually Billy Belichick?!

It is, quite obviously, a bit overdone.

But — but! — it’s not entirely without cause. To those who pay close attention, there should be no doubt that during this unprecedented run with Brady and Belichick, the Patriots are just covered differently than every other NFL team. The smallest thing — whether it be lining up in certain formations, or having video screens 500 feet outside the stadium running on a delay, or maybe having footballs that fluctuate in accordance to the laws of science — can become a national story. It’s like a unique combination of sports and reality TV. People can’t look away. Everything is huge.

We were reminded of that this summer when Brady, at the end of a five-and-a-half-minute press conference after a training camp practice, didn’t like a question about Julian Edelman and Alex Guerrero, and so he quickly offered his thoughts before abruptly saying farewell to the assembled media. The headlines flowed in, like Brady storms off, or Brady cuts press conference short. This one, from a website called The Spun, was the best: “Tom Brady Was Furious With This Reporter’s Question At Training Camp.” Furious!

Anyway, it wasn’t quite that dramatic. But it nevertheless filled sports programming for weeks.

All of that can sit in the background as we all play the trite-but-nevertheless-worthwhile game of “Imagine If” with regard to Aaron Rodgers’ most recent comments about the Packers’ young receivers.

Here’s what Rodgers said Tuesday:

“Not with the kind of effort we had today. It was one of the worst cards sessions we’ve had. I don’t know how you can make it any simpler. You literally have what the play would be in our terminology on the card, and the effort level was very low, especially what I’m accustomed to having run that period for a number of years. So it’s not a good start for us on the card period for the young guys. I think [DeAngelo Yancey] has really progressed, G-Mo [Geronimo Allison], obviously 16 [Jake Kumerow]. But everybody else was kind of piss poor.”

Piss poor! A casual piss poor on a Tuesday afternoon in Wisconsin. That’s wild.

Anyway. Rodgers was pretty clear in expressing his displeasure with the effort of some of his receivers, and the comments have brought about a fair amount of coverage. Most of it is pretty straightforward — Aaron Rodgers Calls Out ‘Piss Poor’ Effort Of Receivers At Practice. Simple enough. Fun training camp side story. A week from now, it’ll be forgotten.

But …


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I know, I know, I know. Overdone. But this isn’t about “Poor Tom Brady, the man can’t buy any privacy” or anything like that. It’s more a simple directive: Imagine if Tom Brady said this.

Here’s what would happen.

Immediately, every reporter gathered around Brady would tweet out the quote. Retweets would be bountiful. So many retweets.

Every sports site on the internet would have a news story up within minutes. It wouldn’t be long before the #Takes started rolling in. Brady calls out teammates; major problems evident in New England? Was Brady really upset with Belichick?

Sports talk radio would devolve into full meltdown mode. As it is, Felger & Mazz already spend three hours every day fantasizing with their Patriots Fan Fiction about all of the tension and drama that’s eroding the Patriots franchise at the core. Sound clips from 2014 still get played every other day. This? This would, in the words of the inimitable Ray Lewis, pour lighter fluid on an open flame. Forget about any more football talk; for the rest of the summer, and the season, and the postseason, and the ensuing offseason, it’d be wall-to-wall talk about Brady being mad at everybody.

Nationally, it’d be all the rage. You can bet that Colin Cowherd would be all over it. Plus Skip Bayless. Shannon Sharpe. Stephen A. Smith. MAX KELLERMAN. Everybody would get a big ol’ kick at the can. And any time the Patriots ended up in the news in the following weeks, rest assured this would immediately be brought back to the forefront. (To be fair, these people did all spew on Rodgers, of course. But the tenor and tone was markedly different from even the most benign Brady story. Kellemerman said he had “no problem with him calling out the receivers.” Stephen A. said, “Aaron Rodgers, when it comes to the Green Bay Packers, can say what he wants, when he wants, how he wants, to whomever he damn well pleases. This is how I feel about this baaaad man that he is, the greatest quarterback that I have ever seen in my life.” Stephen A. called on the Packers’ young receivers to “stand at attention, and listen, and damn it, after he finishes, APOLOGIZE TO HIM FOR HIM HAVING TO TELL THEM THAT! SALUTE THAT MAN AND THEN GO OUT ON THE FIELD AND GIVE THIS EFFORT!”)

There would, of course, be follow-up questions whenever Brady dared step to the podium again, though that almost assuredly wouldn’t be for another few weeks after it happened. When the question was finally asked, he’d issue some stock answer about everybody working hard and working toward the same goal. Nobody would even listen.

And years down the line, even if Brady is somehow able to defy the laws of time and aging, you can bet that they’d all be playing that single sound bite in the summer of 2022 to highlight an ongoing dispute — real or imagined — between the 45-year-old Brady and 70-year-old Belichick. This thing goes back YEARS, you know. It’s been slowly boiling for YEARS, people.

Remember, we still recall Brady staring down Joey Galloway with regularity. The Patriots’ PR staff had to scramble after Brady once suggested that fans might drink alcohol prior to a late-afternoon game. The presence of a hat in his locker has led to endless coverage and speculation about his political beliefs, as have a pair of absences from two separate trips to the White House. It’s brought up regularly that he got into a sideline shouting match with Bill O’Brien after yapping at Tiquan Underwood. The famed “BEGINNING OF THE END” story from ESPN last January opened with a harrowing tale of Brady yelling at Josh McDaniels, and having the gall to do it when … McDaniels’ father was present in the stadium! Egads! I still can’t believe it!

Anyway. Again. It’s not a matter of playing a sympathy card for Brady or anything. He’s rich, famous, successful, all of that. Making headlines for tiny, unimportant matters comes with the territory. (A Brady family dodgeball game was one of the most popular local sports stories of the summer.)

It’s more just a reminder of why, more often than not, Brady steps to the podium and offers up the most hackneyed, milquetoast answers to whatever question comes his way. Where other guys can let it rip with honesty, Brady generally has to play things by the book. Choosing to deal with the alternative timeline would, to any reasonable human being, be a piss poor decision.

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