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How Should We View Brady And Gronkowski Skipping Start Of OTAs?
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski aren't on hand for the start of the Patriots offseason program today.

According to ESPN's Jeff Darlington, Brady is skipping the start of workouts because he is doing charity work in Qatar, but even after he returns, Darlington expects the veteran signal caller to skip portions of the program in favor of spending time with his family and his personal body coach Alex Guerrero at their TB12 Sports Therapy Center.

While the absence of Brady, with five Super Bowl Championships under his belt, isn't likely to generate much excitement, it's a situation worth watching given the reports of minor unrest in the Patriots locker room.

Which brings us to Gronkowski. ...

According to's Mike Reiss, there are multiple ways to view Gronkowski's absence. In fact, Reiss laid out three possibilities: 1) Gronk is making a statement; 2) it's no big deal; and 3) it's a legitimate concern.

In explaining the possibility Gronkowski is making a statement, Reiss notes the star tight end has a $250,000 workout bonus in his contract, which would be paid out for attending 90 percent of the sessions. By not being there on Day 1, he is making a statement there are larger issues on his mind that potentially trump earning a workout bonus. Reiss believes those issues could be related to the physical pain he has endured over his career as he questions whether to continue playing, or they could be related to his contract.

Gronkowski is scheduled to earn a base salary of $8 million this season. Per Reiss, "When a player wants to make a 'peaceful' statement over displeasure of a contract, staying away from voluntary workouts is sometimes his choice because he can't be fined but still sends a 'message.'"

The sides have discussed the contract this year, as reported by Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald.

Also, Reiss points out that such a statement could be tied to how strongly Gronkowski feels working with trainer Alex Guerrero at the TB12 Sports Therapy Center -- something head coach Bill Belichick doesn't necessarily approve of.

In fact, the Herald recently reported that Belichick chastised Gronkowski in front of teammates for being a TB12 client, an effort from Belichick to keep other players from following the instructions of Guerrero instead of the team’s training staff.

If you’ll recall, earlier reports of angst between Brady and Belichick centered on the QB and his trainer, so the notion it might be a problem with Gronkowski as well makes sense.

Of course, this will all fall under the "no big deal" category if Gronkowski's absence is short. Of course, this might still be no big deal even if he skips the entirety of the voluntary program. If Gronkowski elects to do that, the next key date to watch would be early June for the team's mandatory minicamp.

That would be the time to truly have concern about Gronkowski if he doesn't show up.

And how can will tell if it's truly a cause for concern?

As Reiss framed it, "The Patriots are turning the page to 2018, and they won't have two of their offensive captains (Gronkowski and Brady) in attendance on the day sometimes described by players as having a 'first day of school' type of feel. Furthermore, the offseason program is a time to build chemistry with new teammates, and newcomers often are told to take a cue from the leaders of the team. It's hard to do that, however, when those leaders aren't present."

In addition, this decision seems to be out of character for Gronkowski, who is believed to have cashed in on all his workout bonuses to this point in his career.

So there we have it -- for now.

It's safe to say we'll be hearing more about Brady and Gronkowski in coming days and weeks.

For now, I'll note that Reiss views this as a "peaceful statement" related to his contract (and perhaps his work with Guerrero). As such, Reiss doesn't consider it a major deal because he believes Gronkowski will be playing for the Patriots in 2018.

Stay tuned.