A key injury to the Patriots had a huge impact off the field as other players were forced to pick sides in a growing power struggle

Bill BelichickAl Bello/Getty Images

  • ESPN’s Seth Wickersham wrote a bombshell report describing tensions among the New England Patriots’ leadership.
  • One example occurred when Julian Edelman went down with injury, and players who wanted to fill the gap reportedly faced a dilemma of choosing between working out with the Patriots’ trainers or Tom Brady’s health guru.
  • Despite the struggle, the Patriots’ offense suffered little on the field, with yet another dominant season that helped secure the top seed in the AFC.

The New England Patriots have been the most dominant franchise in American sports over the past two decades, but a report from ESPN’s Seth Wickersham revealed that all might not be well with the Patriot Way, as a clash of egos has been ongoing among team leadership.

One of the central sources of this tension is the divide between Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. That split reportedly caused some confusion among Patriots players as to where to train and how that could have been perceived as picking one side over the other.

Much of the trouble started when wide receiver Julian Edelman went down with a season-ending injury, leading to what Wickersham described as an “unspoken pressure” among Patriots players. While the “next man up” mantra that the Patriots have long touted still held, those looking to take the spot of Edelman were torn on what their best path would be if they wished to take over the role.

“[T]here was ‘hypersensitivity’ among players, in the words of a Patriots coach, over who would take his place. New players felt the surest way to earn Brady’s trust was to join Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola and others by seeking advice from [Alex] Guerrero at his TB12 clinic — and not team doctors, which Belichick preferred.”

While Guerrero, the controversial trainer that runs the TB12 clinic and was recently banned from the Patriots sidelines, denied that any players were pressured to join the program, Wickersham’s report makes clear that the choice of facilities left some players in an incalculable Catch-22.

“But according to multiple sources, players openly discussed with Patriots coaches, staff and trusted advisers whether to follow Brady or the team, leaving them trapped: Do we risk alienating the NFL’s most powerful coach or risk alienating the NFL’s most powerful quarterback?”

Still, the tensions didn’t seem to affect the Patriots on the field performance all that much this season — New England finished the season 13-3 with the top seed in the AFC, and Brady had yet another MVP-caliber under center.

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