New England Patriots

The way that Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski have been written about and talked about so often in recent months, you’d think that their respective relationships with Bill Belichick are ice-cold. That they’re not quite on speaking terms right now. And even that the immediate future of the Patriots’ Hall of Fame quarterback and All-Pro tight end are in doubt.

Whatever’s going on with the Patriots’ two best players, Belichick at least appears to have a much deeper understanding of it. We might be left wondering, but the Patriots head coach is not.

Taking some time to meet with local reporters at the NFL’s annual meeting in Orlando, Belichick addressed the persistent Malcolm Butler questions (kind of). And he was also asked about recent comments by both Brady and Gronkowski that have indicated an uncertain road ahead for the pair, arguably (perhaps inarguably) the most important player-to-player connection on the team.

Belichick, as you’d expect, wouldn’t get into details on their comments made in other venues, such as the final scene of Brady’s Tom vs. Time documentary series and Gronkowski’s post-Super Bowl remarks and series of cryptic tweets. It remains a mystery to the public what’s going through their minds, even possibly suggesting that Belichick doesn’t quite know. But he sounds much more certain about where he stands with both Brady and Gronkowski – based on their own actual conversations. And clearly, he wouldn’t say much about those, either.

“I’ve had direct conversations with Tom, many times, obviously, through a long period of time,” said Belichick, via ESPN’s Mike Reiss. “I’ll rely on those conversations that I have with him directly rather than something else. Tom and I have always had a good line of communication. We’ve always been able to talk directly to each other. I don’t see that changing. So I’ll rely on those instead of anything else.”

(L-R) Tom Brady, Bill Belichick (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

(L-R) Tom Brady, Bill Belichick (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

On Gronkowski, Belichick wouldn’t give any shred of detail as to whether the tight end has informed him of his decision for 2018 and beyond.

“I’m not going to speak for anybody else,” Belichick said. “So, conversations I’ve had with the players – and I’ve had a lot of them – I will keep those private between myself and the player. I respect those coach-to-player conversations. I don’t want to speak for anybody else.”

Much like the Butler situation, it seems that Belichick has a much better idea of what’s going on behind-the-scenes in Foxboro than what’s being let on, and just won’t tell anyone else about it. Not that that’s a surprise. It’s just that Belichick may not be totally in the dark. It’s simply a private matter with the typically tight-lipped Patriots. That’s especially important with the Gronkowski situation, and Belichick doesn’t sound particularly concerned about a contingency plan. So, good news? Maybe?

Belichick’s comments definitely did nothing to quell any talk of tension between the three parties, in one direction or another. And said tension may still exist. But whatever exists, Belichick is likely quite aware of it. That’s the most important part.

The hope is that the “good line of communication” is still good, and that Belichick and Brady still “talk directly to each other” on a regular basis. Because if there’s any truth to what Brady is suggesting – that he wants to be happy and feel appreciated – then Belichick has heard that straight from his quarterback’s mouth. And if he hasn’t, then maybe the two should talk more.

It remains to be seen how receptive Belichick would be to the idea of treating Brady with a greater level of appreciation. And it’s still unclear what he and his tight end are planning for the 2018 season. It’s frustrating to many for their situations to be so mysterious, but Belichick’s comments at least suggest that it’s far less of a mystery to him. And as long as both are back and Belichick has a plan, that’s really all that matters.

— By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.