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In the eighth episode of the Tom Brady documentary, “Man in the Arena,” the story of the 2017 Patriots’ season plays out amid growing discontent.
Brady, joined in the episode by teammate Rob Gronkowski and trainer Alex Guerrero, offered a more direct commentary than in previous chapters of the show. Specifically, both Brady and Gronkowski discussed being unhappy with the Patriots that year. For Brady, much of his criticism fell on the media.
And in the end, following the loss to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII, he alluded to a sentiment that would lead to his eventual Patriots exit in free agency.
Here are a few notes from Episode 8, “Nobody’s Business”:
In previous episodes, Brady refrained from delving too deeply into specific criticism. But looking back at how the Patriots were covered in 2017—coming off of yet another Super Bowl—he took issue with what he called “nitpicking.”
“When you’re in successful places, a lot of people are trying to tear us apart,” said Brady. “We had all gotten I think spoiled. Sometimes when you have a lot going for you, you nitpick about things that are relatively unimportant.
“People need the drama,” Brady added. “People need the ‘Real Housewives’ conversations. And I think that’s so much of what things became in a very short period of time because there were people creating division.”
By 2017, Brady’s brand, “TB12,” was beginning to become more mainstream. In the episode, he recounts how a positive experience working with Guerrero in 2008 lead him to become “holistic and natural” with his regular workout and recovery regimen.
“People thought I was full of s*** and that I couldn’t play this long, and my methods were crazy, and the way that I was training was crazy,” Brady noted.
In response to an ESPN clip from the time calling Guerrero a “glorified snake-oil salesman,” Brady’ business partner said that he “never really gave much energy to those words.”
“I just never wanted to give much power to them,” Guerrero added regarding criticism. “The reality of it is, at the end of the day, I knew that Tom knew who I was. I know who I am, so we worked together, much like what a coach and a player would do. It’s a really good partnership.”
Brady called his connection with Guerrero “unbreakable.”
“I was going into a really unprecedented time,” Brady recalled of 2017. “I was going into being 40 years old.”
Not for the first time, Brady was motivated by his critics. Interestingly, Guerrero also acknowledged being motivated partly by Brady’s doubters.
“There was more talk of him ‘falling off the cliff’ than talk of his ability to perform, and that really drove us,” said Guerrero.
“I’ll go prove them wrong again,” Brady said of those who thought he would soon decline. “They didn’t learn their lesson last year, obviously. Or they didn’t learn their lesson the year before that, or they didn’t learn their lesson the year before that.”
One of the themes of the episode was certainly that both Brady and Gronkowski do not remember 2017 fondly.
“It was a tough season, it was a grind season for sure,” said Gronkowski. “Let me tell you, it wasn’t really that fun of a year. It was just a little eerie, the atmosphere with the Patriots.”
Brady noted that despite the team’s improving record after an up-and-down start, the media perception still felt negative.
“Everyday it felt like there was some type of dark cloud over what we were trying to accomplish for one reason or another.”
In a later passage, he elaborated.
“Even though we were being very successful, even though I was playing great, it didn’t matter because I was still dealing with the constant negativity,” said Brady. “The media were going to cause division, make people take sides. I think the noise was just getting louder.”
“More and more I think the joy was being taken away because it wasn’t about my football performance anymore, it was about so many other things,” Brady continued. “I think people always choose the word ‘humanize.’ ‘Oh you’re such a human,’ and I’m like, ‘No f****** s*** I’m a human!'”
Brady had a blunt response about being held accountable by media coverage.
“Everyone feels like they’re entitled to everybody’s thoughts and opinions all the time,” he explained. “Mind your own f****** business, you know what I mean?”
At the trade deadline in 2017, the Patriots sent backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers in exchange for a 2018 second-round draft pick.
“I think a lot of people were confused,” Brady said of the deal.
“There was unfortunately a lot of false narratives that were being spread about his relationship, my relationship, or how that all went down,” Brady said of the coverage following the trade. “It was just drama. It was just soap opera stuff.”
Following his late hit on Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White in a December win that season, Gronkowski was suspended for a game.
The 32-year-old tight end said that his frustrations at a lack of penalty calls in his favor built over time, leading to the incident with White.
“I just lost it,” Gronkowski said of his emotions in the moment. “And right when I was going down I was like, ‘Oh shoot, I shouldn’t be doing this.”
Though he expressed remorse about the hit, Gronkowski admitted he had a different reaction to the suspension.
“I was happy,” said Gronkowski. “I was finally happy. I was like yes, I’m away from football for a week, I get to recover my body. I mean when you’re running full speed into people, it definitely was taking a toll on me.”
“We spent everyday during his suspension together,” Guerrero said of Gronkowski. “It wasn’t just helping him through his physical issues, it was also talking to him through some of the mental [and] emotional things he was experiencing.”
Gronkowski credited his strong performance later in the season against the Steelers for having had time to recover.
The 2017 season was the time in which Bill Belichick revoked Guerrero’s access to team facilities. As the episode broached the subject—and how the story was broken by Boston Globe reporter Bob Hohler—Brady reiterated his desire to keep things private.
“I think we’re in such an era of life where everyone thinks that they should get to know everything,” said Brady. “The reality is I don’t believe you should. I think there are things about relationships that are just private. When two people have conversations that are in a private room, they should remain private.”
One notable aspect to the documentary’s coverage of the subject was showing Brady and Guerrero having to find alternative settings for their treatments.
“I’d always gotten my treatments with Alex, my pliability treatments, in the locker room, but at that point, we were having to find unique places to do it,” Brady remembered.
“We got put in this like maintenance shed,” Brady said. “So I was in there with like the John Deere tractors and I had some pretty funny laughs with Alex. It was just perspective on kind of how things were changing.”
Brady also offered a nonspecific quote about his evolving situation in New England.
“Anytime you’re in 20-year relationships with different people, one year or one experience doesn’t shape my relationship,” he said. “And then some relationships got strained. That’s just what they were.”
During practice leading up to the AFC Championship game against the Jaguars, Brady suffered a large cut on his hand.
“Rex [Burkhead] thought we were running the play to the right, I had changed the play, we were running the play to the left,” Brady recalled. “We ran into each other. After I handed him the ball, I felt this immense pain. The ball got pinched against my body, and the thumb got bent back so far that it ripped the skin on my thumb open.
“I looked down at my hand and it was just this bloody palm, like a pool of blood,” said Brady. “And I was just like, ‘I’m f*****.’ That’s what I thought. I thought that’s it.”
Guerrero said that Brady looked “distraught” afterward.
“He thought this is it,” Guerrero explained. “This is the end for me. This could be completely over.”
After multiple “long nights,” in Guerrero’s words, Brady began to feel better. By Friday before the game, he was able to grip the football.
“I could start to see that confidence come back in him,” said Guerrero. In the end, the Patriots were able to rally in the game and defeat the Jaguars 24-20 to reach yet another Super Bowl.
“From the moment the game started, it was tough,” Brady said of Super Bowl LII against the Eagles. “All the things we had kind of prepared for, they had chose to do some different things. Not that we weren’t being productive against it, but we never really had them on the ropes because we could never get a lead.”
Gronkowski admitted that he started the first half “slow.”
“I wasn’t feeling it all the way,” he acknowledged.
On his dropped pass—a play that was called “Clemson,” as that was its source—Brady explained that he didn’t have time to put a glove on his throwing hand, and simply couldn’t make the catch.
“I’m running out to catch it, and man I’m in space,” Brady remembered. “Danny [Amendola] literally throws a perfect ball. I look up for the ball and I see it, and I reach out, and just as I reach out to catch it, I don’t come down with it.”
“Out of all the moments for me to make a play to help us win that was the one that in that game I really look back on,” said Brady.
Later in the game, the Eagles famously scored on a touchdown pass thrown to quarterback Nick Foles.
“They executed to perfection,” Brady admitted.
“It ends pretty quickly,” Brady said of the postgame scene following a season-ending loss.
For Gronkowski, he was glad that the 2017 season was over.
“Just walking into the shower talking with a couple of players, like great season, but I’m glad it’s over,” Gronkowski told teammates. “It needed to be over. It was long. It was eerie through the whole year. The energy, the atmosphere was just always off. It felt good to walk off the field and know that I didn’t have game the next week.”
“Tough season, tough game,” Brady summarized.
But as he closed out the 2017 season, Brady acknowledged that he was heading to a crossroads.
His final quote of the episode appeared to plant the seed for his eventual departure from the Patriots.
“I learned a lot about people that year, learned a lot about relationships and who is in your corner and who wasn’t,” said Brady. “Based on how things were going, I maybe in a way held out hope that I would begin to have a different type of feeling toward going to work everyday, that maybe I could find more joy. But I did know that if things were going to continue the way they were heading that I couldn’t do it anymore.”
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