The reported four-game suspension of New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman could impact the team beyond his on-field contributions.
Edelman is facing a ban for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing substances policy and plans to appeal the punishment, multiple media outlets reported Thursday.
However, an emerging subplot of the story is Edelman's ties to trainer Alex Guerrro, who also serves as Tom Brady's body coach and business partner and was alleged to be among the reasons behind a reported rift between the quarterback and head coach Bill Belichick last season.
Belichick banned Guerrero from both New England's team facilities and the sideline last season, and Edelman's PED violation isn't like to endear the trainer to the team's hierarchy despite the cozy relationship with the franchise's star quarterback.
Edelman has voiced his support for Guerrero's methods in the past, telling a Boston radio station last season: "I am a huge advocate of it. I feel like it helps me with a lot of my stuff and I like consulting with Alex."
However, those remarks came while the veteran receiver was rehabbing from a torn ACL that caused him to miss the entire 2017 campaign.
Guerrero, for his part, released a statement Thursday in which he expressed disappointment with the suspension while squelching the notion that his methods could be tied to Edelman's suspension.
"I've known Julian since his rookie year and he is a phenomenal athlete who takes his training seriously -- it's disappointing to hear today's news," said Guerrero in the statement. "Elite athletes sometimes work with multiple coaches and health professionals as part of their training. Here at our facility, we take a natural, holistic, appropriate and, above all, legal approach to training and recovery for all of our clients.
"And anyone who would suggest otherwise is irresponsible, and just plain wrong."
An ESPN report last season detailed a power struggle between Belichick and Brady over myriad issues, including the trade of former backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco and the four-time Super Bowl MVP's relationship with Guerrero.
Belichick reportedly was furious and demoralized when team owner Robert Kraft sided with Brady on the decision to trade Garoppolo, who won all five starts with the 49ers.
Guerrero's presence also was reported to be a thorny issue, with ESPN noting that "new players felt the surest way to earn Brady's trust was to join Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola and others by seeking advice from Guerrero at his TB12 clinic -- and not team doctors, which Belichick preferred."
Brady did not participate in voluntary team workouts this offseason for the first time since 2010, but both he and Belichick insisted during this week's minicamp that their relationship is fine.
The team has won five Super Bowls and made eight Super Bowl appearances since 2001. Brady, a three-time NFL Most Valuable Player, cited "personal reasons" for not attending organized team activities.
Belichick, Brady and Kraft have been together since 2000, when Belichick was in his first season with the team and Brady was a sixth-round draft pick. They won their first Super Bowl in the 2001 season.
Should Edelman's suspension stand, he'll miss the Patriots' season opener against the Houston Texans (Sept. 9), road games versus the Jacksonville Jaguars (Sept. 16) and Detroit Lions (Sept. 23), as well as a home tilt against the Miami Dolphins (Sept. 30).
Edelman has been a favorite target of Brady when healthy over the last several seasons. He caught 98 passes for a career-high 1,106 yards in 2016 before sustaining a torn ACL in a preseason game on Aug. 25.
He has recorded 425 receptions for 4,540 yards and 24 touchdowns in 103 career games since being selected in the seventh round by the Patriots in the 2009 NFL Draft.