On Football

Brady business more interesting

By Albert R. Breer
August 1, 2010

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FOXBOROUGH — Tom Brady’s words, fewer than 48 hours after they were spoken, have been sliced and diced into tiny little pieces.

There were several areas in which he was clear when he spoke to the media Friday. And one thing took zero clairvoyance to make out.

This Tom Brady isn’t the “skinny beanpole of a kid’’ that Patriots owner Robert Kraft waxed poetic on in that morning’s New York Times.

This Tom Brady is a businessman, and is approaching his contract negotiation with the kind of savvy eye his bosses have always had on the mountaintop of professional football’s cutthroat world. And to borrow a phrase Brady’s coach, Bill Belichick, is fond of, the quarterback clearly sees it’s time to “do business as business is being done.’’

Rookie Sam Bradford came to terms with the Rams late Friday night. According to a league source, his deal is for six years, could be worth up to $86 million, and has $50 million in rock-solid guarantees.

That’s the same Bradford who played in two games during his final year at Oklahoma, blew out his throwing shoulder in both of them, and finished neither. He has yet to take an NFL snap.

Those are the same Rams who, for now, don’t have an owner and have been floated as a possible target for Los Angeles developers trying to lure a team to Southern California.

Yet they got a deal done, and while some might think that could incite bejeweled, franchise quarterbacks such as Brady or Peyton Manning or Drew Brees, it was probably more likely to prompt a high five.

The labor situation may still be a mess. But business, by the looks of it, is being done just fine, and there’s a certain businessman who wears No. 12 that has little problem with that.

“That’s the way the system’s been and who knows what will happen in the future?’’ Brady said yesterday about Bradford’s deal, on Sirius NFL Radio. “As players, we want the money going to the players. If it’s rookies, it’s rookies. If it’s veterans, it’s veterans.’’

Brady added that he would have little problem with a rookie wage scale being introduced, as long as it didn’t allow owners to spend less on players. In other words, if Bradford was going to make $10 million guaranteed rather than $50 million, that spare $40 million better not go back in the owner’s pocket.

“If a team would reallocate the money and spend it on veterans, [then yes],’’ Brady said. “But if every team is going to spend under the cap, then it doesn’t make a lot of sense.’’

What also doesn’t make much sense is Brady and Manning ignoring what just happened with Bradford, and after hearing Brady talk, it’s clear he’s got a pretty good understanding of the signing’s meaning.

The new face of the Rams got 20 percent hikes in guarantees and total money over what Detroit’s Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft, got. Stafford had been the NFL’s standard-bearer for guaranteed money ($41.7 million), and his $12-million-a-year deal helped set the stage for veterans Eli Manning and Philip Rivers to net more than $15 million per on extensions last year.

The natural reaction to all the hoopla could well be, justifiably, that it’s nuts to react in kind to something that’s insane to begin with. But the truth is the Rams did what they did because it was important to have the guy their future will be built around reporting to training camp on time.

As such, the other quarterbacks are well within their rights to assess their value to their respective clubs and ask that the teams “do business as business is being done.’’

The reason these deals aren’t done has to do with the owners’ feelings on how the labor negotiations will turn out, the uncertainty over how the finances of the league will be structured, and a lack of willingness to commit big money over the next seven months that can’t be massaged or reworked after the CBA is worked out.

Or so the clubs say. The union, of course, scoffs at that and repeats the message: If you really want to do a deal, a deal can be done.

The implication, of course, is that teams want to avoid committing huge pre-lockout dollars as they prepare for the impending work stoppage. Whether that’s the correct way to look at it or not, Brady’s a bigger part of the union that’s sending this message than he ever has been before.

So yes, it’s complicated, and that’s because the players and owners see things so differently.

The good news for Patriots fans is that their quarterback is nothing if not a master at compartmentalizing his life, with an uncanny ability to master multiple things at once.

Brady won’t use football to hijack his business negotiations, as so many would, by holding out. It’s to his credit and, some would say, detriment as well.

“Whether it’s a contract or a family situation or anything off the field, you owe it to your teammates to get the job done at your position,’’ Brady said in the radio interview. “You can’t bring that stuff to work. It’s not conducive to winning football.’’

On the field, that’s great for the Patriots.

But off the field, this kid who won three Super Bowls before his 28th birthday is all grown up.

So you’d better believe that he’ll be “doing business as business is being done.’’

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