He was given the chance to clear the air about all that Monday night in a live interview with Jim Gray at the Milken Institute’s Global Conference in Beverly Hills, Calif., and he did so — to a point. (This is, after all, Tom Brady.) Still, he said more than he has said in the past, especially concerning the national anthem demonstrations that roiled the NFL last season and sparked a national discussion, aided by President Trump, his longtime friend.
“It was a lot of great conversations we got a chance to have in our locker room, in our meeting rooms. I have a lot of friends that I’ve played with. Everyone’s from different backgrounds. Everyone’s from different parts of the country. Everyone has different stories, and you’ve got to have respect for everybody,” Brady said. “You’ve got to have respect for everybody’s opinion and the way that they want to present themselves and the opportunity that they have to make a difference. We all have an opportunity to make a difference in our own way, and people are going to use those opportunities how they see fit and you’ve got to have respect for them. And they have to have respect for you. I think part of having conversations [is to] understand why people are doing what they’re doing.
“Sports for me has been the most unifying part of my life. . . . It brings us together, and we shouldn’t forget that we’re being brought together to do something that’s very pure, that’s very fun. People . . . want to watch us do something great. Never forget that.”
Last fall, Brady refused to get into “any of that” as Trump used the demonstrations to political advantage. Brady, who passed up the chance to visit the White House with the Patriots after they won Super Bowl LI shortly after Trump’s inauguration, has, to the degree that he desires, separated himself from the president after famously displaying a “Make America Great Again” cap in his locker in the fall of 2015. He explained then that the cap came from “R.K.K.,” owner Robert Kraft, and called Trump a longtime golfing buddy. As questions intensified and it grew apparent that Trump’s candidacy was gaining steam, he added in January 2017, “I don’t want to get into it, but if you know someone, it doesn’t mean you agree with everything they say or they do. You have a lot of friends in your life. I think there are things that are based in your own dealings with someone that is a personal dealing, not a public dealing. Because you have personal experiences.”
In that regard, he has company with Kraft, who considers Trump a friend and gave him a Super Bowl ring. Still, he was caught in an audio recording disparaging the president during a meeting of owners and players. “The problem we have is, we have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interests of America,” Kraft said, according to the New York Times report. “It’s divisive and it’s horrible.”
As for Butler, who barely played during the Super Bowl for reasons known only to Coach Bill Belichick, Brady has chosen to share his thoughts on social media, liking an Instagram post by Butler and writing, “Love you Malcolm. You are an incredible player and teammate and friend. Always!!!!!!” On Monday, he elaborated on Butler’s benching and how things work with Belichick.
“I don’t make the decisions,” Brady said. “I am telling you the truth. I wish he would have played, but the coach chose not to play him and we still had a chance to win. . . . I’ll say this: For a team, this side of the room is the offense and this side is the defense. We don’t interfere with them much. I didn’t know. Malcolm kept coming over to me during the game and was like, ‘Come on, TB, let’s go.’ And I kept going, ‘What defense are we in where Malcolm’s not on the field?’ Is it short-yardage, goal line? And then after the game, I found out. So I just didn’t know. And I asked Malcolm and Malcolm said, ‘I don’t know. Coach has just decided something different.’ I said, ‘Okay.’ So I don’t know what was a part of that decision-making, but I know we were trying to win the game. I don’t think we were trying to do anything but win.”
On the Patriots, Brady’s power goes only so far, believe it or not.
“You don’t make all the decisions,” he said. “I can control what I can control. So much of what my performance has been over the years is how much can I maximize what I can do. I can’t run. I can’t catch. I can’t block. I can’t tackle. I have my job, and I am going to do the best I can. I have to trust everyone else to do the same thing, and sometimes it works out. For our team, it has worked out better than every other team for a long time, so how do you nitpick a few things? Everyone is trying in my belief to do the best thing. It just doesn’t always work out.
“I love that particular player, Malcolm. I have a great relationship and history with him. He has moved on in his life. He’s on a different team.”
Losing a Super Bowl in which he passed for more than 500 yards “sucked,” Brady admitted, and he addressed the buzz that has circulated about a fractured dynamic involving Belichick, Kraft and him. It led to reports that Brady might consider retiring, followed by reports that he would play and a comment by his agent that he wants a new contract. Trouble in paradise?
Well, when asked by Gray whether he feels appreciated by Kraft, Belichick and the Patriots (eight Super Bowl appearances, five victories), he answered to laughter: “I plead the Fifth.”
“Man, that is a tough question. I think everybody in general wants to be appreciated at work and in their professional life. There are a lot of people that appreciate me more than — way more than I ever would have thought was possible as part of my life. You have different influences in your life, and I think the people that I work with are trying to get the best out of me. They are trying to treat me in a way that is going to get the best out of me, and I have to get the best out of myself.
“What I am learning as I get older is it comes from within — the joy, the happiness — those things come from within the inside. To seek that from others, from outside influences, people you work with, people that cheer against you or cheer with you, I feel like it comes from within for me. I am trying to build up what is within me so I can be the best for me so that I can be the best for other people.”
Gray asked about Belichick, calling him a “fascinating man” and eliciting laughter from Brady. He did agree but added that Belichick “maximizes talent. What more could you ask for as a player? I wouldn’t be sitting here without his coaching.”
Asked whether he is happy, especially after the glimpses into how football consumes his life in his “Tom vs. Time” Facebook series, he answered to laughter, “I have my moments.”
He still plans to play into his 40s — he’ll be 41 in August — and went on to add, when asked whether he was happy with the people he works with, “I would say absolutely. In general, I am a very happy person and I am a very positive person. It is just my personality. I always look at things as if the glass is half full. When you have been on the same team for a long time, you have relationships for a long time, they ebb and flow like every relationship, but there are no people I would rather play for than the team I have been with for a long time.”
There you have it. Maybe not all of Tom Brady’s innermost thoughts, but maybe more than usual.
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