In 2011, Silver Squadron, Naval Special Warfare Development Group, conducted a large-scale hostage-rescue training scenario at Gillette Stadium, home to the New England Patriots, in Foxborough, Massachusetts. After the exercise was over, an incident occurred between a Navy SEAL K9 and future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady. Nero, the black Dutch shepherd, is pictured left, and Duco, the brown Belgian Malinois, is pictured right. Photo courtesy of Chris Fettes/Be Free Craft Ice Cream.
In the summer of 2011, the New England Patriots hosted a military training exercise for US Navy SEALs at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. The SEALs belonged to the Silver Squadron of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU. Their mission was to conduct a large-scale hostage-rescue scenario with role-players simulating the enemy.
The commandos were inserted by helicopter, accompanied by a pair of K9s — Nero, a Dutch shepherd, and Duco, a Belgian Malinois. One assault troop entered underneath the stadium near the locker rooms, while two more entered from ground level. The SEALs had to clear all sorts of unknown spaces, including offices, hallways, vehicle parking lots, storage, and the stands where the crowd sits. More than 100 role-players acted as enemy combatants, and apparently, there were about 20 “hostages” holed up in one of the bathrooms.
Chris Fettes, a 13-year veteran of the SEALs, took part in the training exercise as a member of Silver Squadron. In a recent interview with Coffee or Die Magazine, he described the drill as a “once in a lifetime” experience — and not just because of the intriguing venue. According to Fettes, “the Kraft family, Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork, and a few other people” were present at the stadium that day, up in the box seats or on the sidelines, watching the SEALs carry out their mission “as if it was a game.”
When the SEALs finished their exercise, Robert Kraft, the owner of the Patriots football team, head coach Bill Belichick, position coach Matt Patricia, and a few players, including Brady, headed to midfield for a meet and greet with the squadron. The Patriots had put the SEALs’ squadron symbol on the jumbotron along with the logo of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, better known as the Night Stalkers. With their backdrop in place, the SEALs huddled around the football players to take a squadron picture while MH-6 Little Bird helicopters hovered just above them.
Former New England Patriots players Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork, owner Bob Kraft, and Navy SEALs huddle together following a successsful training exercise at Gillette Stadium. Photo courtesy of Chris Fettes/Be Free Craft Ice Cream.
Then, things got a little interesting. After the pictures, Brady was among the first players to come up to the group of SEALs. “He had just seen the Little Birds hovering, he just saw us do this hostage rescue, and he’s all amped up,” Fettes told Coffee or Die. “He comes over and he’s like, ‘Fuck yeah!’” Years later, Brady described what happened next in an interview with the New England Sports Network (NESN). “I was close to the guys and didn’t realize there was dogs,” he said. “I raised my arms up over my head, and right when I raised my arms up, the dog jumped up and I guess was going for my neck.”
The K9 handler grabbed Nero’s leash and yanked him back to the ground. On his way down, Nero sank his teeth into Brady’s thigh. The SEALs watched as Brady stood there. Fettes recalled that the famous quarterback and future Hall of Famer was clearly stunned but maintained his composure. Brady, speaking to NESN, recounted it this way: “I was standing there with a bunch of tough guys, and they all saw it,” he said. “Obviously, I couldn’t say anything like ‘oh man, that hurt,’ because I’m with, like, the toughest guys in the world.”
Everyone who witnessed the bite, including legendary coach Belichick, had wide-eyed reactions. Brady was wearing black trainer pants, and Fettes noticed Brady was bleeding from the dog bite. “He was super tough and hung out with the guys after that like it was no big deal,” Fettes said. “Then he went and took care of his leg later; it was pretty badass.”
The dog didn’t seriously injure Brady, but it left a scar on his leg. And yet he didn’t speak of the incident publicly for years, which only further improved his credibility with the SEALs who were there that day. “It was super cool that he kept it under wraps and didn’t need to tell it right away,” Fettes said. “Guys didn’t really start talking about it until he told his version, but it was accurate.”
Matt Fratus is a history staff writer for Coffee or Die. He prides himself on uncovering the most fascinating tales of history by sharing them through any means of engaging storytelling. He writes for his micro-blog @LateNightHistory on Instagram, where he shares the story behind the image. He is also the host of the Late Night History podcast. When not writing about history, Matt enjoys volunteering for One More Wave and rooting for Boston sports teams.
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