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‘Deflategate’ in air as Brady hits field with Pats

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Opening day of training camp was pretty much business as usual for the New England Patriots amid the storm surrounding Tom Brady.

The star quarterback, who continues to fight the four-game suspension levied by the NFL in the Deflategate saga that is now waiting to enter the federal court system, joined his teammates for the first day of camp.

There were some differences: like the Patriots not wearing numbers, making individuals not named Brady, backup Jimmy Garoppolo or some of the other mainstays difficult to identify. There was an overflow crowd of both fans and media on hand, the fans chanting “Brady, Brady, Brady” several times throughout the workout. There was a professionally made banner that read “Free Brady.”

Overhead, early on, a plane flew over dragging a banner that read: “Cheaters Look Up @jetsfanmedia.

“Just like any other day,” said tight end Rob Gronkowski. “Just out here working hard.”

Brady, who did not meet with the media, got the crowd excited with several plays, including him coming out of the backfield and making a one-hand grab of a pass from slot receiver Julian Edelman and tight-roping his way into the end zone.

Coach Bill Belichick, meeting with the media before practice, again refused to comment on the Brady situation, saying, ‘I think Robert (owner Kraft) addressed that yesterday. You can go back and read the transcript. I think you can read what he said and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Asked if he’s planning for the worst-case scenario, Brady being suspended for the first four regular-season games, Belichick said, “Right now we’re preparing for today, practice today.

“Right now we’re practicing for today. That’s all I’m thinking about. I’m not thinking about a month from now, a year from now, 10 years from now, six months from now. I’ll leave all that up to you guys and the experts. Just today.”

“Today” meant the official start of Garoppolo’s second year – whether he’s starting or not.

“I think every player comes into their second training camp feeling a little bit more comfortable about just playing in the National Football League than they did as a rookie,” said offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

McDaniels said he hasn’t spoken to Garoppolo about his playing status, saying, “We have so many things to do right now in terms of just building a foundation for this year.

“Today is very similar to the first day of training camp last year. We split the reps. We go out there and try to give everybody an opportunity to get better and hope we can make some corrections and make some progress tomorrow.”

He said Garoppolo entering Year 2 is already different than Year 1, when the then-rookie spent so much time in meetings trying to learn the system. Garoppolio agreed, saying, “No question … this year is completely different. Got different goals.

“Compared to last year, it’s night and day. Last year I was just trying to pick up the playbook, meetings, head was spinning a little bit. This year it’s a little different. Got different goals and everything – focusing on that.”

He also said, “we’re not really looking that far ahead” when it comes to whether or not Brady will be available.

“Not much of a reaction to it, really,” he said when asked about the decision that upheld Brady’s suspension. “Just stayed focused on what I can control and what I’m trying to learn right now and improve on.”

And, yes, someone wanted to know if he likes his footballs “hard or soft.” Taken aback, Garoppolo said, “No.”


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