- Mike Reiss, ESPN New England Patriots reporter
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tom Brady has annually been one of the toughest quarterbacks in the NFL to record a sack against. He's an artful dodger. In the face of some of the fiercest pressure, he often finds a way to escape unscathed.
This was evident once again Friday at Patriots training camp, only this time Brady was swarmed by reporters' cameras and microphones, not oversized defenders looking to pummel him to the turf.
He responded in typical form.
Peppered about his contract status, which has been a sizzling topic in New England over the past two months, Brady said all the right things. At the same time, he left the 60-plus media members who were camped out on the practice field -- surrounding an orange cone placed to mark the spot Brady was supposed to stand -- guessing about his true feelings on the issue.
If Brady is frustrated with Patriots management about the lack of a contract extension, he didn't show it. For 14 minutes, he masterfully walked a public relations tightrope.
He showed awareness of how "spoiled athletes" are perceived. He expressed empathy to the working man and woman. He supported his teammates. He paid respect to his boss (Bill Belichick) and the man who signs his check (Robert Kraft). He supported the players' association for which he is now an assistant representative. All the while, he was respectful to those asking some direct and challenging questions.
Yet what many might choose to focus on is what Brady didn't say, and perhaps it was calculated on his part.
Because of speculation that he is unhappy, Brady was asked to describe his mood as it relates to his contract. He is scheduled to earn $6.5 million this season, well below market value for a player of his caliber.
"My personal feelings are my personal feelings, and certainly I don't want to express them with anybody other than very few people," he responded. "It doesn't do any good. It really doesn't. It doesn't help this team. It doesn't help the organization. Really, it gets in the way to me."
That answer could certainly be interpreted as Brady saying he is not pleased, without actually saying it. If he was OK with things, there would seemingly be no harm in saying so.
Then again, maybe he simply feels the topic shouldn't be spoken about in the public forum, as it is something that could always be leveraged against him in negotiations. So he just leaves it out there for others to interpret.
Brady was more direct when asked about his relationship with the organization, which some have speculated is strained.
"I've always been privileged to play for Coach Belichick, who I've always said is the best coach in the history of the league. And Mr. Kraft, I have a great relationship with him," Brady responded. "I'm not into playing games. I just really enjoy playing quarterback for this team. I have since the day I stepped on the field."
Yet when asked about retiring as a Patriot, Brady wasn't as decisive as Kraft was when the owner spoke to the New York Times and said of Brady, "He's going to be here." Instead, Brady said that's any player's hope, to finish with the team they started, but that his focus was solely on this season.
The overall scene was borderline comical -- Brady walking off the practice field, removing his shoulder pads and heading toward the sidelines and into a media scrum that enveloped him, some reporters jostling for position to get closest.
It was the first time Brady spoke at the team's facility since the Patriots' 33-14 playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Jan. 10.
He had passed on reporters' requests in spring organized activities and at June's mandatory minicamp, and held his first-ever charity football game for Best Buddies on June 4 at Harvard University instead of Gillette Stadium, a decision that could have been viewed by some as Brady purposely keeping his distance from Patriots management at a time when the sides have been in on-and-off negotiations.
If that was Brady's intention, no one knows for sure. Just as it is unclear what Brady's true feelings are about his contract status.
He's a tough one to pin down -- on and off the field.
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.
If Tom Brady is upset about his contract with the Patriots, he isn't showing it.