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Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft Respond to ESPN Report on Discord

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2018

CBS announcer Jim Nantz, right, interviews New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, second from right holding the AFC championship trophy, beside team owner Robert Kraft, left, honorary captain Tedy Bruschi, second from left, and head coach Bill Belichick after the AFC championship NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. The Patriots defeated the the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-17 to advance to the Super Bowl. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

The New England Patriots released a statement on behalf of team owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady refuting a report by ESPN's Seth Wickersham.

New England Patriots @Patriots

Joint statement from Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft, Head Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady: https://t.co/i555gWZIi6

Wickersham reported a rift is growing between the trio, with Brady's trainer, Alex Guerrero, a lightning rod for the division.

In one instance, Wickersham wrote some Patriots players felt pressured to train and rehab injuries with Guerrero rather than work with the Patriots' training staff, and they risked irking either Belichick or Brady depending on their decision.

According to Wickersham, Belichick also grew angry over Kraft's mandate to trade Jimmy Garoppolo ahead of the Nov. 1 trade deadline. Belichick wanted to keep Garoppolo as the long-term successor to Brady, whereas Kraft believed the team's best strategy was dealing the 26-year-old and selecting a quarterback in the draft.

Sources told Wickersham that Belichick was "furious and demoralized" after the meeting in which Kraft outlined his demand.

Wickersham also described how Brady did little to actively aid Garoppolo in his on-field development, and the 13-time Pro Bowler "seemed liberated" after the Patriots traded Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers.

Wickersham's report certainly comes at an inopportune time for the Patriots. New England is a little over a week away from the AFC Divisional Round, where it will meet one of the Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans or Buffalo Bills.

Former Patriots offensive lineman Damien Woody believes the pursuit of a sixth Super Bowl title could allow Belichick, Brady and Kraft to put any differences aside for the time being:

Damien Woody @damienwoody

When you’re dealing with alpha males, you better believe there’s going to be some underlying tension behind the scenes but at the end of the day, winning is the ultimate deodorant to these types of things #Patriots

Any underlying tension between the three will, however, set up an interesting offseason in New England, and failing to repeat as Super Bowl champions could magnify internal drama.

And while Belichick, Brady and Kraft attempted to downplay the significance of Wickersham's report, it will still loom large over the Patriots' postseason.

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