An hour into the first day of Patriots training camp, it was hard not to be drawn into a scene playing out by the tackling dummies flanking the two practice fields.
Bill Belichick had his back up against one of the dummies, and was having a fairly animated conversation with his quarterback.
Tom Brady, who had his helmet off, listened intently and nodded a bunch of times to whatever points his coach was making. From afar, Belichick, who gestured quite a bit with his hands during the conversation, perhaps to make a point, or emphasize what was being discussed, held court for several minutes with his four-time Super Bowl MVP.
And who knows what was on the Hoodie’s mind? The topic could have been anything from football to Jimmy Garoppolo’s recent date with an adult film star.
Maybe he finally revealed the Malcolm Butler secret, and why he chose to keep the cornerback on the sidelines the entire Super Bowl while his secondary was being torched.
The subject really doesn’t matter. This was more on-field interaction than the two had during three days of minicamp last month. Much more. It was the first time they were in each other’s personal space during a meaningful practice for the 2018 season.
When the conversation ended, they split up, with Belichick heading toward the main field, and Brady toward the secondary field. The chat seemed amicable enough.
Is it a sign of a thaw in their frosty relationship? Maybe. The more likely explanation is that it’s a sign of them being able to coexist on a football field despite their differences.
That’s how it was last season with friction stemming from Belichick altering the privileges of Brady’s body coach Alex Guerrero.
Asked earlier during his session with the media if his relationship with Brady was good right now, Belichick provided a classic non-answer.
“I feel like I have a good relationship with all of our players,” he said. “I hope so.”
Well, Patriot fans are hoping the two can get along to the point it won’t interfere with the goal of trying to snag a sixth championship before Brady retires.
Given it was Day One, perhaps the Hoodie decided it was important to break the ice. Or, be seen by the masses doing it. Patriots owner Robert Kraft also spoke with Brady privately a little bit later on the field, but this pow-wow seemed much more significant given the background, and an offseason that punctuated their strained relationship.
Whatever the case, when it came to throwing the football, Brady sure looked like he picked up where he left off in the Super Bowl and in minicamp. He didn’t seem rusty. Maybe there is something to practicing throwing deep balls to someone in a moving golf cart, or throwing yacht to yacht passes in Monaco.
While the pads don’t come on until Saturday, in the competitive situations, down by the goal line and in the red zone, Brady was 11-of-15.
He hit most of his usual targets, be it Rob Gronkowski, James White or Chris Hogan. He also seems to be finding a rhythm with the speedy Phillip Dorsett, who’s in a receiver battle, but could play a more prominent role thanks to Brandin Cooks’ departure, and Julian Edelman’s four-game suspension.
“It’s going to take some time, just getting acclimated,” said Dorsett. “Even coming in late last year, just trying to learn everything. I feel like I got everything now. Obviously, I still got a ways to go. I’m just starting to feel more comfortable, and I feel like he’s starting to feel more comfortable with me in terms of route-running, and having a feel for the defense, but we have a long way to go. It’s only Day One. I’m looking forward to it.”
Brady was pretty much all business during this session. He wasn’t as animated as he can be, pumping up guys, or getting stoked over certain plays. He just seemed focused on the task at hand.
Brady, of course, has set himself up for criticism if the Patriots start slow and he can’t get on the same page with the new receivers given his absence from the early voluntary camps.
We’ll see how it all develops, but the first day sure looked like it went well on a lot of fronts.
And as Brady finally headed off the field, having equipment guy Brenden Murphy punch him around with a blocking pad for 20 minutes after practice, I asked the GOAT how he was, and how the first day went.
“It’s all good,” he said.
It’s all good.