FOXBORO -- Chill, people.
Tom Brady will be fine going into the playoffs.
He’s been hurt before. Remember the broken foot he played with in 2010 when he had one of the single greatest seasons by any quarterback in NFL history? Remember the three cracked ribs the last three games of 2009? Do you recall that he played two Super Bowls with a badly sprained ankle?
Remember the “tennis elbow” from THIS SEASON?!
So what if he has a sprained left shoulder, as NFL Network's Albert Breer reported Friday afternoon. Breer, quoting a source with knowledge of the situation, said it's simply a matter of "pain control" going forward and shouldn't limit his playing time.
Pain control? Brady is a master of that.
His performance -- aside from the pounding he took from the Giants in Super Bowl XLII -- didn’t suffer. He won Super Bowl XXXVI with a game-winning drive. He led the Pats on what was a go-ahead drive in Super Bowl XLII before disaster struck.
He threw for nearly 4,400 yards in 2009 with 28 touchdowns and a completion rate north of 65 percent.
He had one of the greatest seasons ever in 2010, throwing for 3,900 yards and 36 touchdowns with just four interceptions, two of which were forced to Randy Moss. Again, he completed passes at a 65 percent rate.
This year, he is on the verge of passing 5,000 yards for the first time in his Hall of Fame career, along with leading his team to its third straight AFC East title and ninth in 11 seasons, carrying most of the burden of a defense that’s 32nd in the NFL in yards allowed.
Seriously, I get the panic from the Adam Schefter report of Thursday around noon on ESPN that indicated Brady would not practice to rest his dinged-up left (yes, non-throwing) shoulder. This came one day after Tom Curran of CSNNE.com reported that Brady had X-rays on the shoulder and was “all set” after getting hit in the first half of Saturday’s win over the Dolphins.
We were sent scrambling in the same media workroom from where I’m typing these very words. I had the duty, along with my Patriots beat reporting colleagues, to go out to Patriots practice and observe the 5-10 minutes of stretching we’re permitted to observe.
Whaddya know? Look who showed up, none other than No. 12 himself to show people his left shoulder hadn’t fallen off. He was there, stretching, running and throwing.
We all immediately tweeted the news as we walked off the practice field. Tom Brady WAS indeed at practice.
What was the message here? It was the same as I wrote above. Relax, everyone. I’ll be fine. I’m out here practicing. I’m going to start and play against the Bills. You all can go back to your eggnog, paying holiday bills and planning New Year’s Eve parties.
Then Albert Breer of NFL Network showed his face on Friday morning, and we all laughed in the workroom because we knew what was coming.
Breer: "Do you anticipate Tom being able to practice today?"
Belichick: "We’ll list his status at the end of practice."
Breer: "What was he able to do yesterday?"
Belichick: "Play quarterback."
Breer: "So he did practice?"
Belichick: "He did, just the way we listed him [on the participation report as limited]. It’s what we do after every practice."
Breer: "So he wasn’t injured during the week? He was listed as not practicing Wednesday because of non-injury related reasons."
Belichick: "I think we’ve covered that. I think we’ve already talked about that."
Breer: "So it was a planned day off?"
Belichick: "We’ve covered it. It’s all been covered."
Mike Reiss, Schefter’s compatriot at ESPN, followed up 15 minutes later.
What was Belichick’s confidence in Brady’s ability to compete at his normal high level in light of the injury?
“Anybody we put out on the field, I have confidence in or we wouldn’t put him out there,” Belichick began, before elaborating: “So if they’re out there, we have confidence in him. If they’re not out there, there is either another player ahead of him or we’re not confident they can go out there and do it [health-wise]. It’s as simple as that. We’re not going to put anybody out there on the field that we don’t have confidence in.”
Reiss: "What is your confidence level in Tom this week?"
“If he’s not out there, it won’t be because we don’t have confidence [about his health],” Belichick said. “Whatever it is, we’ll list it as accurately as we can based on the information we have, which is what we always do. Sometimes that information changes, obviously, and we’ll do the best we can with the information we have, like we always do. It’s no different than anything else.”
If you are a master of reading between the lines, the “sometimes that information changes” is a veiled reference to the practice report, which also explains how you go from “not injury related” to “limited” with a left shoulder injury.
As for Brady showing up at practice on Thursday, this isn’t the first time he has had some fun at the expense of those who get all worked up over his general well being.
Remember the day after the Patriots beat the Chargers in the AFC championship game in January 2008? He was spotted walking around the streets of Manhattan with a walking boot on his right foot. He was taking flowers to his then-girlfriend Gisele Bundchen. He knew full well he’d be spotted by -- at the very least -- paparazzi and those pictures would go worldwide quicker than you could say “Super Bowl panic.”
That’s not to say that Schefter and Curran didn’t have jobs to do. They are two of the best in their field. They were doing their due diligence with their sources and following up on a story that began when a makeshift offensive line couldn’t keep Brady from getting roughed up by an aggressive Dolphins pass rush.
But the panicked whirlwind that followed Thursday on Twitter was predictable. Would Brady be healthy enough to play Sunday? Would it be wise to sit him and let Brian Hoyer take the reigns against the Bills? Is this is a long-term issue that requires close monitoring in the playoffs? And what about that practice report on Wednesday that indicated Brady’s absence that day was “not injury related,” a report that had him limited at practice on Thursday with a left shoulder issue?
After coming back from practice, we all had our own speculation in the media workroom.
After about an hour, we all came to the same conclusion: Tom Brady’s been through much worse and he’ll be fine. He’ll play Sunday against the Bills and everyone needs to just chill, including us.
CONCERNS FOR CELTICS
Speaking of chill, that’s the strong draft that could be felt as the Celtics deplaned back in Boston early Thursday morning after losing to the revamped and underwhelming Hornets -- without Chris Paul. The C's stand 0-3 for the first time since the 2006-07 season, when Kendrick Perkins was just refining his scowl, Al Jefferson was the future, Ricky Davis was firing up jumpers and Paul Pierce was wondering what life would be like elsewhere on a winner.
This Celtics team has far more promise but suddenly just as many worries, beginning with Pierce’s stubborn right heel.
Pierce watched in a suit on the sidelines as the Celtics lost to the Knicks, Heat and Hornets. He tweeted Thursday that he was "close, very, very close, very." Was he talking about returning to the court or the bowling alley he tweeted about minutes later? The Celtics better hope it was the former and not the latter because if he doesn't get back soon, and back at Paul Pierce level, this Celtics season is headed for the gutter.
Without Pierce, it’s become quite apparent that Rajon Rondo is the best player in green. It’s also apparent that no matter how otherworldly he might play, like on Christmas Day when he nearly outdueled Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks, he can’t do it by himself.
Teams will run at Rondo, force him to play without the ball in his hands and force Ray Allen to hit open 3-pointers and make Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett prove the young man’s game hasn’t caught up to them.
Watching the Celtics bench, it’s clear they’re going to be an improved bunch. But if Pierce and KG aren’t Pierce and KG, this team will be lucky to be middle of the playoff pack in the East.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK
With the 2012 upon us at midnight Saturday, I had a simple question for my tweeps: What’s your biggest question in Boston sports heading into the new year?
@CraigMacCormack When will nightmare of Bobby V end? #RedSox
Wow, why the hate, Craig? Seriously, there are a ton of fans like you who are very, very skeptical about whether Valentine’s accomplished but checkered past in dealing with personalities will work in Boston. He is going to visit with Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett, trying to smooth over the damage caused when he ripped both for their on-field performance, Crawford in the batter’s box and Beckett for being the human rain delay on the mound. What’s fascinating about this is how closely the rest of the players will be watching this. They know how he handles this and the response of Beckett and Crawford will go a long way in proving Bobby V can work at Fenway.
@stacky88 @Trags what will the Pats do if they go one and out again #Tragsbag
That’s a very, very interesting question. Hard to imagine the status quo. The easy answer is a shakeup with the coordinators and personnel director Nick Caserio. If the Patriots defense is indeed exposed in the playoffs, Matt Patricia could be a fall guy. But the longer answer is internal, as Belichick might finally have to answer to the Kraft family with regard to his drafting of defensive talent. The misses of Brandon Spikes, Jermaine Cunningham, Jonathan Wilhite, Brandon Meriweather, Darius Butler, et al., might finally result in a personnel shakeup, including and possibly affecting current director Caserio.
Offensively, OâÃÂ¬.C.âÃÂª Bill O'Brien only leaves if the right NFL or college (Penn State?) gig comes down the pike. Belichick clearly isn’t going anywhere until he decides âÃÂ¬soâÃÂª, and with Brady on board for another several years, at least, that’s not happening.âÃÂ¬
@Sam_Dykstra @Trags How quickly is the Bobby V effect felt in the #RedSox clubhouse? How will he act differently than Tito at first sign of adversity?
Sam, please see the above. I’ll add that Bobby V will probably laugh and smile a lot more during difficult times, trying to show everyone that everything is OK and he still has a sense of humor.
@supoffset @Trags the pats defense and how it can improve... impact player? draft?
There will be changes, whether or not they go out early. They could cut ties with Spikes and Cunningham. Shaun Ellis likely does not return. They will do what they have done the last several years, draft along the line and look for 4-3 pass rushers off the edge. Hopefully, this time they hit more than they miss. They also will draft a high-round corner.
@mndTiiu Will Brady re-grow his hair?
Forget the hair, I say he takes a cue from the Bruins and grows a playoff beard. Karma is everything and the Bruins are still glowing, obviously.
@bojanrajkovic @Trags Can the Patriots make it past the first game of the playoffs this year.
Yes, they can and will. They win Sunday, have the No. 1 seed in the AFC and will play in Indy. Wrote that last week and I’m sticking by it.
From Jeff Lowenstein on Facebook: Will the major sports rewrite the rules to protect their athletes from future concussions?
The NHL is considering putting the red line (center line) back in play. Why? To slow the transition game down in the neutral zone, where big, fast players are gathering momentum and turning it into devastating and damaging impacts. In the NFL, it’s all about awareness, and the league has addressed it by making every player aware they will be fined for anything looking unseemly toward the helmet.
From Gary Schatz: How soon will Bobby Valentine blow a gasket over the same second-guessing that he subjected managers to as a commentator?
Gary, my man from Cincinnati! I could say faster than Kenny Frease gets out of the way of a Yancey Gates right hand, but that would be a cheap shot, right? Seriously, because he knows all eyes will be on him, I think he’ll last until at least Memorial Day before he loses it, like Pete Rose against Dave Pallone loses it.