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How Tom Brady's Suspension Affects New England Patriots Training Camp

Tom Brady (right) will not be participating in the first  four games of the season, which means Jimmy Garoppolo (left) will get the start.
Tom Brady (right) will not be participating in the first four games of the season, which means Jimmy Garoppolo (left) will get the start.Associated Press
Erik FrenzSenior Writer IJuly 30, 2015

Tom Brady will be present for the New England Patriots' first open practice of training camp. 

That doesn't mean that the impact of his suspension still won't be felt. 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld Brady's four-game suspension for the findings of the Wells Report and the investigation into Deflategate. The NFLPA plans to fight Goodell's decision in court, but for now, the Patriots have to live with the reality of life without Brady for a quarter of the season.

They also have to think about how that will affect their plans in training camp.

We've already gotten a glimpse of how this could unfold. This spring, the Patriots split the first-team repetitions between Brady and second-year backup Jimmy Garoppolo. This was a concerted effort to get Garoppolo on the same page with the pass-catchers he'll be throwing to in the early portion of the season: wide receivers Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell, tight end Rob Gronkowski and others. 

The Patriots should be taking it one step further, though. Match Garoppolo against the top unit on defense to dial up the difficulty level a few ticks. Of course, this would be a much different story if he were facing off against last year's duo of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner instead of this year's duo of Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler. 

That being said, facing Garoppolo against the top defensive unit is still an opportunity to increase the quality of his practice time. In that vein, the Patriots should be ready to throw the kitchen sink at him in terms of defensive looks.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick typically likes to keep things pretty simple in training camp, ramping things up over the course of the offensive and defensive installation rather than throwing everything at the players all at once. This year, the Patriots should consider changing things up from the norm. After all, this is not a normal situation for them to be in.

That applies on the offensive side, as well. Yes, they'll probably be looking for ways to keep things as simple for Garoppolo as possible. That doesn't mean it should be all bubble screens, drag routes, hooks, curls and the basic routes and route combinations. At some point, the Patriots are going to have to call some more complicated plays to keep the opposing defense off balance. They need to make sure Garoppolo is ready when those situations arise.

The bigger question is how this affects the Patriots in their preseason games. Typically, the first series or two would be devoted to the first-team offense; then, the backups would come in for the remainder of the first half, followed by the third-string unit in the second half. Now that the lines have been blurred between starting units and backups, the Patriots could take a different approach to the preseason games.

Could we see Garoppolo get the start in the preseason with Brady getting more reps than Garoppolo in the first half? It may seem like backward logic, but there's some merit to that strategy. Primarily, it would get Brady the reps he'll be missing out on during the regular season, and would allow him to work off some of the rust before serving his suspension.

There's a possibility that Brady will be available to the Patriots at the beginning of the season while the case is heard in court. In that situation, there would be no need for the Patriots to change their philosophy on how to divvy up the repetitions. 

One way you can be sure it won't affect the Patriots' training camp is in how they address the situation with the media. They've taken a hard-line stance in the past against speaking on legal matters (see their handling of the Aaron Hernandez trial). Now that this is going to court, don't expect Belichick or anyone on the Patriots roster to suddenly open up to the media and answer every question that's still out there.

"We're gonna take it day to day," Belichick said, "just like we always do."

 

Unless otherwise noted, quotes obtained firsthand.

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