Unless you are just getting back from a space visit, you have heard about Tom Brady’s season-ending knee injury suffered Sunday in the New England Patriots’ first game against the Kansas City Chiefs. It almost seemed as though Brady’s season was over before it started. Although test results had yet to be revealed, one Patriots player went so far as to tell ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer after the game, "Cassel's our quarterback for the rest of the year."
Last year, the New England Patriots were the hottest team in football while going undefeated throughout the regular season before being upset by the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII. It was a season Tom Brady could seemingly do no wrong, setting the league record with an incredible 50 touchdown passes on his way to winning league MVP.
It was too good to be true. The hype the Patriots generated was accompanied with a spattering of news termed “Spygate” which detailed the team’s illegal taping of opponent’s defensive signals. Additionally, speculation arose that games (such as the week 14 Monday Night Football fiasco) were improperly officiated in the Patriots’ favor so the perfect season could remain the primary tactic in the NFL Network’s war with cable companies. But I’ll save that story for another day.
In April, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Head Coach Bill Belichick apologized for cheating at the NFL owners meeting. The team and the league put matters behind them and moved on. But when this new season started, a foot injury Brady had been dealing with throughout the playoffs still lingered and kept him out of every preseason game.
Then, less than a quarter of the way through the first regular season game, his season was over. After the game, the Patriots issued a one-paragraph statement revealing Brady’s left knee required season-ending surgery. The Patriots, notoriously non-descript about player injuries would disclose no further information. As could be expected, Belichick would not say what the injury was.
Mass conjecture ensued. It’s his ACL! It’s his MCL! No, it’s both!
Yesterday, the Boston Globe cited NFL Sources in reporting Brady has both a torn ACL and a torn MCL in his left knee. If this is true, why haven’t we heard this from the Patriots? Who are these sources and why are they being so discreet? For all we really know, these sources are completely unfounded and the reports are nothing more than rumors.
Granted, from the replay, the injury doesn’t look good. Chiefs Safety Bernard Pollard is blocked into Brady’s knee causing the leg to contort in an awkward collapse (I’ll take this opportunity to note his lack of knee pads). Brady then goes down screaming in pain and is attended to by the trainers. Eventually he walks off the field, down a set of stairs and out of the season. This is the part that confounds me. I’m no Tom Brady, but torn anything - and I’m not standing, I’m not walking, and I’m certainly not taking the stairs.
When Cincinnati Bengal quarterback Carson Palmer tore his ACL in the 2005 Playoffs, he needed to be carted off. It only seems appropriate an injury of that magnitude would require a cart. Yesterday, Brady appeared at the Patriots facilities to meet with teammates. He was without crutches, but walked with a limp.
The NFL’s Competition Committee regulates a system where the best teams get worse and the worst teams get better. Now that the Patriots have apologized for their years of cheating, are they preparing to accept defeat? After all, that would only seem fair. And if that was the case, it would only make sense not to jeopardize the legacy and long-term health of your greatest player.
So is Brady’s knee blown out of its ligaments or blown out of proportion? Were the Patriots planning to give Brady the season off on the injured reserve? This season was the first time in Brady’s career he did not take a preseason snap, and I’m not buying the excuse of a 7 month old foot injury. Perhaps even more curious is that Sunday marked the first time in 56 games the Patriots did NOT list Brady on the injury report. Talk about jinxing a guy.
My point in all of this is not to question the moxie of Tom Brady or the legitimacy of his injury. It’s to point out that regarding professional sports injuries, there is usually more to the story than what meets the eye (or knee).