Patriots notebook

Brady acts as a union soldier

He weighs in on expanded season

Tom Brady got loose at minicamp, and off the field he took a stance on behalf of the NFLPA. Tom Brady got loose at minicamp, and off the field he took a stance on behalf of the NFLPA. (Robert E. Klein for The Globe)
By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / June 17, 2010

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FOXBOROUGH — Tom Brady has elected not to speak to the media during the Patriots’ three-day minicamp, but he said volumes yesterday via a press release.

The quarterback was quoted on the NFL Players Association website on the possibility of an 18-game regular season — or an “enhanced season,’’ as the league likes to call it.

An alternate player representative for the Patriots (Matt Light is the primary union rep), Brady said, “I’ve taken part in several postseason runs where we have played 20 games. The long-term impact this game has on our bodies is well-documented — look no further than the players that came before we did.

“Each player today has to play three years in order to earn five years’ or postcareer health care. Our union has done a great job of raising the awareness on these issues and will make the right decision for us players, the game, and the fans.’’

There was also a comment on the matter from Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis.

The statement serves as confirmation that Brady’s involvement with the union isn’t just for show, but a full commitment as the NFLPA begins what is sure to be a knock-down, drag-out fight with owners over a new collective bargaining agreement.

This week, a Yahoo! Sports article outlined the reasons why the contract negotiations of Brady and Colts quarterback Peyton Manning are being viewed as bellwethers for the tenor of the labor battle. The thinking is that if Brady and Manning — the greatest of their generation at quarterback — can’t get big-money, long-term deals, then no player will, and a lockout in 2011 may become reality.

Although it seemed a safe assumption anyway, it seems fairly clear now that Brady will not be taking another team-friendly deal as he did in 2005.

Rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez met the media yesterday, but was not willing to discuss the personal problems that affected his draft status, most notably the alleged multiple drug tests he failed at the University of Florida.

When asked about predraft questions he faced from NFL teams, he said, “That’s in the past. I’m just worried about the future and the present. And I just keep coming out every day. I’ve forgot about the past, and just keep grinding and doing the best I can for this team.

“People can think what they want,’’ he said, adding that he is simply trying to become the best player he can be and help the Patriots as much as possible.

Hernandez’s signing bonus is just 40 percent of the bonus of the player chosen four spots ahead of him, and there are roster bonuses in each year of the pact if he makes the 53-man roster. Those bonuses are a way to recoup the up-front money he sacrificed, but Hernandez will only see that money if he plays out the deal.

Asked if he feels he has to prove himself to the club, Hernandez reiterated, “That’s all in the past. All I’m worried about is football right now.’’

A Connecticut native, Hernandez has spent a great deal of time with the first-team offense during spring camps; yesterday, however, was not his finest day. He was dressed down by de facto offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien during a skeleton passing drill for not knowing where to line up, and at the close of practice he inadvertently kneed safety James Sanders in the gut, putting Sanders on the turf for a few minutes.

Thought by many to be a first- or second-round talent, Hernandez fell to the fourth round because of his troubles; after a Globe report revealing his issues, Hernandez released a statement through the Patriots saying he had failed only one test with the Gators.

Camp opens July 25
The Patriots announced their starting date for training camp.

Rookies will report to Gillette Stadium July 25, veterans July 28, and the first public practice will be July 29.

The Patriots will hold a joint practice with the defending champion Saints Aug. 10, two days before their preseason opener against New Orleans at Gillette. The Patriots will also hold joint practices with Atlanta a week later at the Falcons’ Flowery Branch, Ga., facility; the clubs play an exhibition Aug. 19.

Training camp schedules will be released a week ahead of time, and the Patriots offer daily updates on practice times through their website and a special hotline.

Mesko in the fold
Punter Zoltan Mesko inked a four-year deal, the fifth of the Patriots’ 12 draft picks to sign. The 150th pick, out of Michigan, Mesko got a contract that pays him $1.977 million, with a $187,000 signing bonus, and standard escalators on the back end. A 6-foot-5-inch native of Romania, Mesko and his parents emigrated to the United States when he was younger after winning a visa lottery . . . Disgruntled left guard Logan Mankins was the only player not on the field for practice. The team wraps up minicamp today, then there is a five-week break before training camp.

Shalise Manza Young can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.

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