For Kraft, Brady and Belichick, is this the beginning of the end? For 17 years, the Patriots have withstood everything the NFL and opponents could throw their way, knowing that if they were united, nobody could touch them. Now they're threatening to come undone the only way possible: from within.
THE CRACKS FIRST revealed themselves in early September. The season had just started, and Guerrero was once again becoming an issue in the Patriots' building, just weeks before the release of Brady's first real book, "The TB12 Method." It was more than a fitness and diet guide. For Brady, a self-described "loner" who always seemed most comfortable surrounded by family or on a football field, the book represented a move to extend his brand beyond the game -- and beyond the Patriots. Until a few years ago, he seemed uninterested in ever doing so, content to be a father and husband and son and brother and transcendent quarterback, knowing there wasn't time for much else.
Guerrero persuaded Brady to find time. The two men had worked together for years, with Guerrero having found a spot in Brady's famously small group of advisers, eventually becoming a godfather to one of his sons. Guerrero has a history of controversial methods -- in 2005, he paid a judgment to the Federal Trade Commission to settle allegations that he had claimed dietary supplements could help cure cancer -- and he believed he had discovered a way to revolutionize how athletes train. In his book and in the building, Brady was offering opinions not only on training but also on lifestyle, writing that he envisioned a world populated with TB12 Sports Therapy Center franchises.
Few in the building had a problem with Brady's method -- mostly based on stretching with bands, eating lots of vegetables, drinking lots of water, getting lots of sleep and, most of all, achieving peak "pliability." They did have a problem with what Brady and Guerrero promised the TB12 Method could do. They claimed it could absolve football of responsibility for injury: "When athletes get injured, they shouldn't blame their sport," Brady wrote. The method also was so consuming and unwavering in its rules and convictions that, while it helped some players, it felt "like a cult" to others, one Patriots staffer says. The way TB12 began to creep into Brady's life worried people close to the QB, many of whom were suspicious of Guerrero. "Tom changed," says a friend of Brady's. "That's where a lot of these problems started."