‘It Only Makes Us Stronger': Tom Brady Responds to ESPN Report

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady spoke publicly for the first time Saturday since the release of an ESPN story this week detailing an alleged power struggle between he and head coach Bill Belichick.

Speaking to Westwood One's Jim Gray, Brady said he's heard all of the talk, but is focused only on getting to another Super Bowl.

"We're in a great position as a team," he said. "We're 13-3, getting ready for the biggest game of our season, and that's where our focus is."

Brady said the working environment in New England is the same as it has been for the past 18 years.

"We're all there to do a job, and that's to go out and do our best to help the team win."

He said he doesn't think all of the noise will get in the way of Patriots' quest for another Super Bowl.

"I don't think so. I think in so many ways the adversity that our team has faced over the years only makes us stronger."

The ESPN article alleged that there is a rift between Brady, Belichick, and owner Robert Kraft. The story cited "interviews with more than a dozen New England staffers, executives, players and league sources with knowledge of the team's inner workings," said the trio has had a series of major disagreements in recent months. The article also said there was a sense inside the building that this could be their last year together.

But Brady wasn't having any of that in his interview with Gray on Saturday.

"We've worked very hard to get ourselves to this spot," he said. "To let anything get in the way of that... it would be very unfortunate if we let this opportunity get away from us."

"Hopefully we can write a great ending to this particular chapter this season."

Brady also praised Kraft, calling him "a great person, a great man. He's been like a second father to me in so many ways."

And he said he has a "great relationship" with Belichick. "There's no coach I'd rather play for."

"My relationships with everybody that I deal with are so positive. To think anything different than that is complete nonsense," Brady said.

Kraft also spoke out Saturday, telling MMQB's Peter King that he "absolutely" believes Belichick will be coaching the team next season.

The ESPN report, written by Seth Wickersham, says that much of the tension between Brady and Belichick stems from Brady's relationship with his trainer, body coach and business partner Alex Guerrero.

The Boston Globe reported Dec. 19 that special privileges the Patriots had granted to Guerrero, were revoked three weeks earlier. Before Belichick's decision, Guerrero had been allowed to fly to road games on the team's charter jet, and he had sideline access at games.

"Belichick felt the need to permanently clarify Guerrero's role, drawing sharp boundaries. After the brief discussion with Brady, Belichick emailed Guerrero to let him know that while he was welcome to work with any players who sought out TB12, he was no longer permitted access to the sideline or all of the team headquarters because he wasn't an employee of the Patriots (a point that Belichick would resoundingly make clear when reporters asked about Guerrero)," wrote Wickersham.

"An email designed to solve problems only created more of them. Guerrero texted some of the Patriots players who were clients and specified, he says now, "that I would need to treat them at the TB12 Sports Therapy Center." But several players told staffers and coaches that Guerrero gave them the impression that Belichick would no longer allow them to work with him. In the view of many Patriots, it was an example of Guerrero trying to split the organization by turning players against Belichick. All of this happened as Brady, serving as TB12's test case, continued to reiterate publicly and privately his goal of playing into his mid-40s."

The Patriots issued a joint statement from Kraft, Belichick, and Brady in response to the ESPN article on Friday.

"For the past 18 years, the three of us have enjoyed a very good and productive working relationship. In recent days, there have been multiple media reports that have speculated theories and are unsubstantiated, highly exaggerated or flat out inaccurate. The three of us have a common goal. We look forward to the enormous challenge of competing in the postseason and the opportunity to work together in the future, just as we have for the past 18 years. It is unfortunate that there is even a need for us to respond to these fallacies. As our actions have shown, we stand united.

ESPN's Wickersham paints a different picture.

"Nobody is budging now. Kraft, Brady and Belichick were supposed to meet in late December to clear the air, but that never happened. It probably won't until after the season. Those interviewed describe a lingering sadness around the team, as if coaches and staff know that the end might be near. Both McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia are expected to become head coaches; other assistant coaches might leave to join their staffs or for college jobs, or even retire. The imminent exodus raises the question going forward: Is it possible that Belichick would rather walk away than try to rebuild the staff with a 41-year-old Brady and another year of Guerrero drama -- all while trying to develop a new quarterback?"

The Patriots went 13-3 this season and will face the winner from this weekend's AFC wildcard playoff game during the divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 13.

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