The New England Patriots haven’t yet set up a time to speak with Tom Brady’s representatives. That would seem puzzling considering the future Hall of Fame quarterback becomes a free agent on March 18.
Puzzling except ... these are Bill Belichick’s Patriots.
The NFL rumor mill is freaking out about the Pats not talking to Brady yet, but this is precisely how Belichick has done business for years now. Nothing has changed. The surprise is that anyone would think it would be different.
Should New England be in constant communication in an effort to show how much it values (beyond salary) the greatest player in franchise history? Should it treat a 20-year veteran who delivered six Super Bowls to Foxborough differently than just another player?
Maybe. But the Patriots won’t. That isn’t how they won those Super Bowls.
To Belichick, Brady is a player. He has lots of players on the team. That’s pretty much it.
“Certainly, Tom’s an iconic figure in this organization,” Belichick said the day after a season-ending playoff loss to Tennessee. It took multiple questions from multiple media members at an end-of-the-season news conference to get even that out of him.
“Nobody respects Tom more than I do,” Belichick continued. “I respect all the other players and all the other coaches in this organization, too. Everybody who is a part of it is an important part of it. I want to give the proper attention and communication and detail and thought on my input into those decisions.”
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick through the years
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick through the years
CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 18: New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick holds a sideline meeting with quarterbacks Tom Brady and Drew Bledsoe during the fourth quarter of Saturday's NFL preseason game with the Carolina Panthers played in Charlotte. (Photo by John Bohn/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, UNITED STATES: New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady celebrates with head coach Bill Belichick (R) after their win over the St. Louis Rams 03 February, 2002 in Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Patriots defeated the Rams 20-17 for the NFL championship. AFP PHOTO/Jeff HAYNES (Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)
Head coach Bill Belichick and the coaching staff give frantic last second instructions to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during the final drive of the game vs. the Chicago Bears 11/10/2002. Brady went on to throw a 20 yd. touchdown pass to wide receiver David Patten to beat the Bears 33-30.ï¿½ Don Lansu. (Photo by Don Lansu/Getty Images)
NFL Football - New England Patriots head coach, Bill Belichick, Tom Brady against Pittsburgh Steelers during the AFC Championship at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Penn., on Jan. 25, 2005. Patriots won 41-27. (Photo by Sporting News/Sporting News via Getty Images)
JACKSONVILLE, UNITED STATES: Head coach Bill Belichick (L) of the New England Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady (R) talk 06 February 2005 after winning the Super Bowl XXXIX at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida. The Patriots defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 24-21 to win their second straight Super Bowl and third in four years. AFP PHOTO/Jeff HAYNES (Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick celebrate after 24-21 victory over the San Diego Chargers in AFC Divisional Playoff game at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Calif. on Sunday, January 14, 2007. (Photo by Kirby Lee/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH - OCTOBER 20: During the Patriots practice on the practice field at Gillette Stadium, coach Bill Belichick (left) talks with Tom Brady. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 22: New England Patriots' coach Bill Belichick hugs Tom Brady (#12) after winning the game against Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. (Photo by Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - SEPTEMBER 30: New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick applauded New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (#12) after Brady's touchdown pass to New England Patriots wide receiver Brandon Lloyd (#85) in the fourth quarter as the Patriots took on the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 22: Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots confers with Tom Brady #12 during a time out in the 2nd half in a game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Gillette Stadium on September 22, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
PEBBLE BEACH, CA - FEBRUARY 07: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady hits a tee shot on the 13th hole as New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick looks on during the second round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am at the Monterey Peninsula Country Club on February 7, 2014 in Pebble Beach, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - DECEMBER 14: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick share a moment as the final seconds tick off the clock in their victory, which gave them their 6th straight AFC East title. The New England Patriots hosted the Miami Dolphins in a regular season NFL game at Gillette Stadium. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 01: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates with head coach Bill Belichick after defeating the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 during Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 01: Tom Brady #12, team owner Robert Kraft, and head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots celebrate with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 to win Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 13: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady throws the first pitch before the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Washington Nationals as New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick looks on from left at Fenway Park on April 13, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - OCTOBER 25: With only three days off between games, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (rear) and head coach Bill Belichick (front) will have very little time to get ready for Thursday night's game against the Dolphins. Here they are pictured on the sidelines during Sunday's game against the New York Jets in a regular season NFL football game at Gillette Stadium. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 13: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots reacts with head coach Bill Belichick during the fourth quarter of a game against the Seattle Seahawks at Gillette Stadium on November 13, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 30: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots and Tom Brady #12 stand onstage during Super Bowl 51 Opening Night at Minute Maid Park on January 30, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05: Tom Brady #12 and head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots celebrate a 34-28 overtime win against the Atlanta Falcons during Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
BOSTON - FEBRUARY 7: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady raises a Lombardi Trophy during the rally in City Hall Plaza following the Patriots Super Bowl LI Victory Parade in Boston on Feb. 7, 2017. Head coach Bill Belichick is behind him. (Photo by Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 31: Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots and Tom Brady #12 chat before a preseason game with the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium on August 31, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
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Belichick not initiating early talks with Brady is the most Belichickian move ever. It is the ultimate proof that he values team over individual, that no single player (not even Tom Brady) will make him alter his way of doing business.
Instead, the Patriots want to know what the salary cap will look like in 2020 before making any commitments — a reasonable take. Until then, Brady can sit around posting on Instagram and watching television debates about his future.
If that is enough to sour him on returning to New England, then that is apparently a risk Belichick is willing to take. Brady has said he wants to return. Owner Robert Kraft has said he wants Brady to return.
Belichick? He hasn’t said much of anything. This is a show of force, if nothing else. No one — not Brady, not Kraft — will alter his timeline.
“The future is the future,” Belichick kept saying in January.
Belichick has always gone to great lengths to treat Brady, or any star player, like the others. There have been exceptions, of course. As a defensive coordinator with the New York Giants, he didn’t worry too much about Lawrence Taylor taking an occasional nap in meetings because, well, it didn’t matter on Sunday. LT was getting his.
As the head coach in New England, though, it’s been about all 53 players. He has said it a million times over. Brady could throw for 500 yards and four touchdowns in a victory, and Belichick would mention how the team played well in “all three phases” — like the punter had as significant of a role.
Part of the most famous ways that Belichick has maintained a standard of excellence through the years is by regularly criticizing Brady during team-wide film sessions. By undressing his best and most famous player, younger players get the message quickly that anything short of perfection will be addressed.
That Brady has been willing to take it is part of the Pats’ magic. At some point, it has to become a chore. Brady is 42. No one that age wants to be treated like they are 22. Everyone wants to be cut some slack for past deeds done well.
That’s the only way it can work in New England, though, and this is just the latest. Brady will wait.
Earlier this week, Belichick was at Middle Tennessee State, photographed standing in a driving rain while personally scouting defensive end Tyshun Render, who wasn’t even considered good enough to earn an invite to the NFL scouting combine.