By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- At this point of the roller-coaster Tom Brady news cycle, you can't help but laugh out loud. You really have no other option.
And so now, we get to the latest development, which comes mere hours after ESPN's Jeff Darlington said he'd be "shocked" if Brady returns to the Patriots, thus sending New England into a full-on Bradymonium. A new report from Ian Rapoport states what may seem obvious but nevertheless requires reporting: The Patriots do want Tom Brady to be the quarterback next season.
"Tom Brady still does not yet have an offer from the Patriots, which is not much of a surprise," Ian Rapoport said on NFL Network on Thursday afternoon. "They still don't know the landscape, still don't know what the CBA is going to look like, still don't know what the salary cap is going to be. But this is something important, and I can't even believe I have to say this: Tom Brady is in fact in the Patriots' plans for 2020."
That report came after not just the Darlington report but also a Boston Herald report that said Brady and the Patriots have not yet met regarding contract talks.
The imagery of Brady being left by himself without any indication from the team about a potential deal may look peculiar, Rapoport noted -- just as Adam Schefter did earlier Thursday -- that the uncertainty regarding the players' CBA vote is seemingly delaying any and all free-agent activity for the time being. (The Saints haven't gotten down to business with Drew Brees yet, for the same reason.)
Rapoport also noted that Brady's agent Don Yee has met with a number of teams that are in Indianapolis for the combine, meetings which of course carry the wink-wink nudge-nudge "we're not tampering here, no sirree" tag.
Those teams will ultimately be able to offer up more dough for Brady's services, but the reporting all along has noted that money is not Brady's primary concern. A team built to win championships will likely be the most alluring factor, and Brady has seen Bill Belichick build plenty of those over the years. Belichick's sale pitch to Brady figures to be compelling, and Rapoport's latest report indicates that such a pitch will be coming.
Perhaps it's time for Tom and Bill to get on the phone for a few minutes, though. If anything can be taken from the flip-flop fest of Thursday's news cycle, it's that.
So, to sum up the timeline of Thursday's Brady news:
MORNING: ESPN's Jeff Darlington says Brady has told people that he doesn't expect to return to the Patriots. Those people don't really believe Brady. Darlington would be shocked if Brady returned to the Patriots. The Herald reported that Brady and the Patriots have not yet met to discuss a contract.
MIDDAY: Perhaps as a reaction to that news getting out, sommmmmebody told Adam Schefter, "Hey, maybe let people know about this little CBA thing? Yeah?" So Schefter pushed out a tweet saying, "Discussions surrounding a potential new CBA have held up any potential contract discussions between the Patriots and Tom Brady."
AFTERNOON: Rapoport says, "Tom Brady is in fact in the Patriots' plans for 2020."
One can only wonder what "development" Thursday night and Friday morning will bring!
for more features.