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Will order be restored with Tom Brady’s presence at Patriots’ minicamp?

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ALLSTON — Tom Brady’s fourth-down desperation pass fell incomplete to the turf, and the quarterback wasn’t happy with himself or his teammates.

“That was terrible offense,” Brady said to no one in particular. “Terrible.”

But the Patriots’ quarterback said it with a smile on Friday night. He was back in his element, slinging passes up and down the field at Harvard Stadium as part of his annual Best Buddies charity football game.

It marked the first time anyone in New England has seen him throw a football publicly, with their own two eyes, since his record-breaking, 505-yard performance in February’s Super Bowl LII loss to the Eagles.

Brady has been seen over the past four months, of course – from afar. Or rather, from our computers and cell phones, through social media.

He popped up at the Met Gala. He spoke for an hour in a question-and-answer session at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles. He threw a football from a yacht in Monaco, where he attended a Formula 1 Grand Prix auto race. He traveled to a Best Buddies event in Qatar.

Watch Tom Brady connect with Formula One driver Daniel Riccciardo in Monaco

What Brady hasn’t done yet is practice with his teammates in Foxborough. Upset with Bill Belichick for a variety of reasons — the humiliation of body coach and business partner Alex Guerrero last fall, Belichick’s all-work-and-no-fun atmosphere, Brady’s undervalued contract, the baffling decision not to play Malcolm Butler in the Super Bowl — Brady has purposely stayed away from voluntary offseason workouts.

The Patriots have been practicing together for seven weeks, but for the first time since 2010, Brady has chosen to do his own thing. So has his running mate, Rob Gronkowski, who wants a new contract.

Team Brady has made it clear that the star quarterback is not pleased with the way things are going in Foxborough, even after Brady won the power struggle with Belichick last fall, leading to the trade of Jimmy Garoppolo.

“The last two years were very challenging for him in so many ways,” his wife, Gisele Bündchen, said in the final installment of Brady’s Facebook documentary, released in March. “He tells me, ‘I love it so much and I just want to go to work and feel appreciated and have fun.’”

Brady didn’t speak with the media on Friday night, and he still has not announced when he will return to the Patriots. Robert Kraft expects him back this week for the team’s minicamp, held Tuesday to Thursday.

“I can only say this: I know he’s very excited about being at minicamp and having a very special season this year,” Kraft said two weeks ago at the NFL owners’ spring league meeting in Atlanta.

© Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff Tom Brady, looking fit, trim and pliable as ever, slings a pass during the Best Buddies football charity game at Harvard Stadium Friday. Unlike the other practices this spring, these next three are mandatory, and can result in $84,435 in fines for any player who skips.

So the message from Brady is clear: He’s doing the exact minimum required of him this spring, and nothing more.

He’s using this spring to spend time with his family, and pursue business opportunities, and workout with Guerrero. Even when Brady has been in town, he has purposely stayed away. Brady has reportedly worked out at the TB12 center at Patriot Place, just a few hundred yards away from his teammates. He even, according to one report, has thrown passes inside the Patriots’ practice bubble with Julian Edelman.

Brady’s teammates have been walking on eggshells when asked if they’re excited to have Brady back with the team next week.

“For me, I just focus on what I’m doing,” running back James White said Friday night at the Best Buddies event.

The Patriots have gone about their work without Brady over the last seven weeks, acting like Brady’s absence is no big deal.

“I haven’t really thought about it, to tell you the truth,” defensive captain Devin McCourty said. “I don’t think anybody is really thinking about that. We’ve just been trying to get better.”

“Whenever he gets back, we’ll be glad to have them both,” fellow defensive captain Donta Hightower said of Brady and Gronk. “But it’s not going to stop us from working.”

Belichick refuses to acknowledge Brady’s absence.

“Yeah, I’m not going to talk about the people that aren’t here,” he said before a practice two weeks ago.

And Kraft has done his best to downplay Brady’s absence.

“These are voluntary workouts,” the owner said. “I heard he’s in great shape.”

Brady did appear to be in great shape at Friday’s Best Buddies event. He looked trim and pliable as always, moved around well during the flag football game, and fired off several dozen downfield passes during the three-hour event.

“Looks alright,” White quipped from the sideline.

But Brady’s absence from Patriots’ OTAs has been noticeable. In past years, he could be heard from the sidelines – instructing his receivers, or working out the kinks with Josh McDaniels, or chirping at defenders during team drills.

But Brady’s absence has been the gain of the other two quarterbacks on the roster. Brian Hoyer and Danny Etling are basically getting private, one-on-one tutoring throughout practice – Hoyer with McDaniels, Etling with assistant quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski. Hoyer is getting almost all of the reps with the veterans, while Etling, a seventh-round pick (219th overall) out of Louisiana State, is getting a ton of work with the rookies and other youngsters.

Hoyer is the one leading the team during calisthenics. Hoyer is the one putting in extra time with his receivers, and mentoring some of the new players.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to be out here practicing with these guys, getting a ton of reps, getting to know these guys,” Hoyer said. “This is the first time I’ve been in the same offense for two years, so it’s a great opportunity to grow.”

It is unclear how Belichick will treat Brady when he does return this week. Will Brady still get his usual amount of work? Or will he be relegated to backup duty behind Hoyer, as punishment for his absences?

“For me it’s kind of just focus on what I can control, and for me what I can control is coming out here and having a great opportunity to practice every day,” Hoyer said. “Whereas if [Brady] were here, then maybe I wouldn’t get those opportunities.”

Don’t tell Hoyer that these offseason practices don’t mean much.

“No matter what point in your career, I think this is always important,” he said. “If you get nothing else out of it, if you can work on your fundamentals and techniques here, that will translate over to when you’re in a pressure situation. You’ll fall back on the techniques that you built up right here.”

But Brady will be behind schedule when he returns to practice on Tuesday. He’ll be meeting new teammates for the first time – guys like first-round running back Sony Michel, and new targets Jordan Matthews, Cordarrelle Patterson and Troy Niklas.

Brady’s teammates don’t seem too worried about Brady playing catch-up, nor about any distraction his absence has created.

“I think he knows what to do,” Hoyer said. “I don’t think we’re worried about distractions here. I think everybody here knows how to handle himself and worry about what we got to do individually, and then collectively as a team. So I don’t think so.”

Brady will put in his three days of work this week at minicamp. And then he’ll disappear again into his own world of family vacations and business events. The Patriots, and the public, won’t see him again until training camp starts in late July.

“It takes time with everything, getting the practice reps, just build that chemistry as a team,” White said. “Eventually, everything will come into place.”

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