Publicly, Bill Belichick is done talking about Tom Brady. Privately? That's a different story, according to Rodney Harrison.
The former New England Patriots safety has witnessed Belichick's motivational tactics first-hand and believes the longtime head coach absolutely will bring up Brady's exodus to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in preseason meetings with his players.
"(Belichick) might bring up a couple articles … everybody saying it's over, Brady this, Brady that," Harrison recently told the Boston Herald's Karen Guregian. "Of course he'll have something to say about that."
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Belichick will have plenty of material to choose from: Some oddsmakers have the Patriots hovering around .500 this season and potentially missing the playoffs, while one news outlet ranked the team's quarterback duo of Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer as the worst in the NFL.
Harrison believes Belichick won't have to harp on those points, though.
"He knows the team will be motivated to prove they can win without Tom," Harrison said.
" ... It's not just talk, not with the Patriots. It's a chip you carry in the weight room, you carry in the film room, in the dining room, you carry at home watching extra film, it's a chip that motivates you. It's motivating for people to say you can't win without Brady. I know I would be pissed. … So these guys are going to be motivated, pumped up and ready to go."
That chip on the Patriots' shoulder seems to be a familiar theme, as former New England offensive lineman Matt Light also expressed his belief recently that the Patriots will be on a mission without Brady in 2020.
While New England's players won't call out their detractors publicly, the extra pep in their step shouldn't surprise anyone. After all, this is a team that was fueled by doubters even with the greatest QB of all time on their roster.
So, while some pundits predict an 8-8 season for Jarrett Stidham and Co., don't overlook Belichick's sneaky ability to galvanize his players in the post-Brady era.