Tom E. Curran

As Patriots end minicamp early, Trent Brown situation casts a cloud

Trent Brown just gave Bill Belichick something to think about this summer.

NBC Universal, Inc.

We can all agree that when the sun is blazing and the summer gets hot, Water Country’s a very cool spot.

I doubt a water park was Bill Belichick’s first choice for Wednesday’s minicamp-wrapping team-building outing. But I did want to slide that earworm your way.

So what does it meeeeaaaaannnnn that Chill Bill threw the kids a bone with a field trip instead of a workout?

After losing a pair of Phase 3 OTAs, are the Patriots that far ahead of the game that they can just bail on a workout? Isn’t the fact that the starting left tackle missed Monday’s mandatory workout entirely and then made it through one period of Tuesday’s practice before tapping out a sign that mayyyybeeee some guys aren’t taking it seriously enough?

That can be alleged.

Patriots Talk: Offensive tackle is a growing concern for Patriots | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

In return, it can be argued that all across the league, teams are banging out of minicamps and OTAs. And while the Patriots were never known for hewing to what teams “all across the league” are doing, you can’t simultaneously argue Belichick’s got to keep up with the needs of his millennial players and also rip him for being soft.

So to me? Not a big deal. Watching these workouts -- three OTAs and two minicamp workouts -- they are miles ahead of where they were at this time last year. Actually, they weren’t even at this point by the end of training camp last year, as evidenced by disgusting workouts with Raiders during their first two days out in Vegas.

But circling back to the aforementioned left tackle, Trent Brown … his situation has got to be tough for Belichick to stomach. And I wonder if it gave Belichick any pause at all when deciding to go play paintball or whatever the team has planned.

It’s mid-June. Brown, who’s carrying a $12.25M cap hit and has $3M in guaranteed salary, apparently waited for the last flight out to get to Massachusetts by Monday. And when that was cancelled due to a hailstorm, he missed practice and hit the field Tuesday. With a thud.

Brown -- who’s got $750,000 in weight incentives in his deal this year -- went quarter-speed during the team’s loosening-up period, lagging WAAYYYY behind the other linemen. Then, after taking part in one drill and watching the second, he was sent down to the lower field for conditioning work.

Now he’s out of the facility for a month. During barbeque season. Maybe Brown’s just about to kick the conditioning into gear so he’s ready for camp. Never know.

But for the rest of the players and new coaches Adrian Klemm and Bill O’Brien, watching a well-paid, veteran player arrive late and then tap out early when he does arrive is an insult to the work they’re doing. It is, as Ted Johnson said on Early Edition Tuesday night, an act of “defiance” to Bill Belichick.

So what does Belichick do about it? On one hand, you can say the Patriots need Brown. But the Brown they need is the one they got in 2018 and in cameos early last season. They don’t need the guy who’s not in shape, misses time and commits unforced errors during games. If that’s the Brown they’re getting, then what the hell, Conor McDermott and Calvin Anderson it is. Or should be.  

You can say the old Bill Belichick would never put up with this. I’ll tell you he’s put up with a helluva lot more and for a lot longer. And he won Super Bowls while doing it. See 2001 with Terry Glenn. Actually, as I look back, it went on with Glenn all the way from training camp until December. That season worked out OK.

There are differences worth noting, the main one being that a left tackle is RELIED upon every single play to do his job adequately. It’s a position that’s central to the performance of the offense. Wide receiver? Not as much.

Phil Perry went into the Brown conundrum a bit right here but aside from what the Patriots could do without him, Belichick is really stuck. Catch-22, Scylla and Charybdis, devil and the deep blue sea, damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.

He can put Brown on notice (again, this is presuming Brown doesn’t come back to camp looking like Adonis) and prepare to move on without him knowing that -- in a critical year for Mac Jones, the offense, the pursuit of Don Shula and perhaps Belichick’s ability to author his own exit -- the Patriots will have the worst offensive tackle situation in the league.

Or he can cross his fingers and hold his nose knowing that Trent Brown at 70 percent is still better than anyone else he can trot out there.

It ain’t a place you wanna be. Unlike Water Country. Which is.

Contact Us