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The Five Time Super Bowl QB is Working His Ass Off at OTAs

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ESPN BostonAt one point during the New England Patriots’ organized team activity on Thursday, quarterback Tom Brady brought four of his friends to the red zone and got to work.

It was a segment of practice in which Brady was focusing on work with the group that would be considering “pass-catching running backs”, with James White, Dion Lewis, D.J. Foster and Rex Burkhead. …

Watching the drill unfold, it was hard to miss how Brady was part-quarterback, part-coach. Seemingly after each repetition, he would talk to the running backs about the finer points of how they ran the route as they worked to create a more efficient connection between them.

The drill also showed how Brady, approaching his 40th birthday on Aug. 3, is still hard at work on the fundamentals of the game just as he was as a 21-year-old rookie in 2000.

“He’s the same person,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said.

Patriots.comDuring the middle of practice the entire team lined up on the sideline. Three different coaches then rolled a ball out on the field and one player would run after and dive on each ball for a fumble recovery. Brady was initially standing to the side watching before he strapped his helmet on and took a turn. … Can’t be said that the Patriots star players don’t do all the drills and dirty work of their other teammates.

The last thing I expect every year is to be getting news out of Patriots OTAs. Short of someone being carted off the practice field with his knee in a brace or some reporter working out his personal issues in Belichick’s media availability, you take for granted that there won’t be any problems.

But on a day like today, I realize that taking it for granted is the problem. What we’re witnessing here is pretty goddamned remarkable and needs to be appreciated. The “O” in OTAs stands for “Optional.” Plenty of guys blow them off. Ben Roethlisberger is pissed off that Le’Veon Bell isn’t at Steelers camp because they have work to do. And that’s coming from a guy who spent half the Spring talking retirement. Odell Beckham Jr. can’t make time for Giants’ camp because allegedly he’s busy taking Iggy Azalea to Pound Town. And Ben McAdoo is saying he could use him right now. That’s just naming two players, but two superstars. Who between them have been in fewer playoff games (4) than Brady has Super Bowl rings (5). But they’re all set. They’re getting all the prep they need working out alone at the Planet Fitness up the street from where they live. See you when they’re required to be there.

Meanwhile where is Brady? Working on the minutiae of end zone fade routes and back shoulder throws with his 3rd down backs. Running sprints alongside Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. Rolling around on the ground on fumble recovery drills. Basically climbing out of his bed with the organic, Fair Trade 1800 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets and the supermodel wife between them to go run the same drills he’s been taking part in for his previous 17 OTAs. And in case you weren’t near Boston this week, or you were but you’re locked up in Room and Old Nick won’t let you look outside, it’s been miserable the last two days. Mid-March weather where just walking to your car feels like you’re on a the deck of a ship in the North Sea. And a 40-year-old Brady is rolling around in the mud with guys half his age who are there because they’re fighting for a roster spot.

Why? I have no idea. I can’t explain why the biggest winner in North American sports ever (as my buddy Kerry Byrne at CHFF points out, Bill Russell’s career winning percentage was around .700. Brady’s is around .800) would be driven to keep busting his perfectly symmetrical ass like this any better than you can. It’s like the work makes him better and the getting better makes him work, so he’s formed this infinite, one-sided Mobius Strip of commitment and improvement circling back on themselves.

And all I’m saying don’t forget to appreciate it while you get to see it. Because a Tom Brady will pass this way but once. And if other teams are frustrated by the fact their superstars don’t have his work ethic? They have every reason to be.

@jerrythornton1