Aaron Rodgers

Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via USA Today Sports

Tomase: We know Tom Brady is durable, but the numbers show it's more amazing than we thought

John Tomase
October 16, 2017 - 2:49 pm
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Tom Brady shook his head at the podium. He had just been asked for a reaction to the presumably season-ending broken collarbone suffered by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

"That sucks," said Brady, who had been unaware of the news. "It sucks." He later expanded upon those thoughts in his weekly interview with Kirk & Callahan.

For fans in virtually every NFL city, it's an occupational hazard that hangs over every snap. But not New England. While each week seems to bring another major injury to a starting quarterback, Brady keeps on trucking.

He hasn't missed a start (non-suspension) since suffering a season-ending torn ACL in the 2008 opener against the Chiefs. The only other contest he has departed involuntarily is the 2001 AFC title game in Pittsburgh, which he left with an ankle sprain before returning to win Super Bowl 36.

It turns out that Brady's durability is in another league even when compared to the sturdiest quarterbacks of this generation.

With help from football-reference.com and the injury database at prosportstransactions.com, it's easy to break down the top 20 quarterbacks by games played since Brady became a starter in 2001. The idea is to measure Brady's longevity not against injured young quarterbacks like Andrew Luck, Ryan Tannehill, or Marcus Mariota, but the ironmen of his generation.

Not surprisingly, he holds up.

(A note on the sources: prosportstransactions.com notes that its databases may not be complete. I've tried to cross-reference each quarterback with other sources, but it's possible I've missed an injury here or there. End disclaimer.)

Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Matthew Stafford have never missed a start. Drew Brees has only missed one. Brett Favre wasn't sidelined by injury until Week 14 of his final season, at age 41, in 2010.

They're the exceptions. Otherwise, even the toughest quarterbacks fail to answer the bell at some point. If Rodgers' cracked collarbone proves season-ending, it will be his second such injury since 2013. In addition, he missed four games with a broken foot in 2006.

And this is what separates Brady. Take away his one serious knee injury, and he has played through everything, including this year's sore left shoulder. The other QBs on this list have missed portions of multiple seasons with multiple injuries.

Take Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers QB is renowned for dealing as much punishment as he absorbs. He's an oak tree in the pocket. But he has regularly played hurt since missing three games in 2012 with a bum shoulder. He sat out four games and limped through about 10 others with knee and foot sprains in 2015, and knee surgery last October cost him two games and some mobility, as well.

Carson Palmer? He missed the last 10 games of 2014 with a torn ACL, and has also been sidelined by a bad elbow (4 games, 2008), sore ribs (1 game, 2012), and a concussion (1 game, 2016). He was also knocked out of a playoff game with a serious knee injury a decade ago.

Tony Romo suffered three season-ending injuries with the Cowboys (collarbone, disc, shoulder in 2010, 2013, and 2015, respectively), and also missed games with a broken pinkie and broken vertebrae. He lost his job to Dak Prescott while letting last year's back injury heal.

Then there's Jay Cutler. A thumb injury ended his 2011. A labrum tear ended his 2016. He has also been sidelined by a concussion, ankle sprain, and balky hamstring.

Matt Hasselbeck missed nine games in 2008 with knee and back injuries. His personal injury log includes knee, shoulder, and concussion issues.

Donovan McNabb sat out the final seven games of 2005 with a sports hernia and the final five of 2006 with a torn ACL. A broken ankle shut him down for the final six weeks of 2002, though he returned in the playoffs.

Joe Flacco blew out his ACL. Ryan Fitzpatrick broke his leg. Alex Smith separated his shoulder, broke his shoulder, lacerated his spleen, and suffered a concussion. Matt Schaub missed 22 games with knee, shoulder, foot, ankle and head injuries. Michael Vick broke his leg and ribs, suffered a concussion, and missed games in 2013 and 2015 with hamstring strains.

Making Brady's longevity more impressive? Most of the men on this list have played 120-150 games. Brady is at 242 and counting.

So while Packers fans bemoan the loss of their franchise QB, and other franchises accept that even the most durable QBs will inevitably sit here or there, Patriots fans continue to be blessed with a quarterback who absorbs pounding after pounding without missing a game.

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