Tom Brady will play when the Patriots host the Buccaneers in their second preseason game tonight at Gillette Stadium.
No, itís not official, but multiple reports to this point have indicated as much. To me, itís inevitable. It's also a good thing.
The future Hall of Famer was back at practice on Thursday, wearing a brace on his sprained left knee, after Wednesdayís THE-SKY-IS-FALLING injury. No structural damage and no harm done to the areas reconstructed following a torn ACL in that same knee in 2008. It was a light day, essentially a walkthrough, and Brady was a full participant in team drills. He even took some time to play with his two sons on the field before hitting the showers.
All is well in New England. Really, if not for the technological age we live in, there never would have been a stir in the first place.
Thanks to the residual panic, many are clamoring for the quarterback to take the night off, but they're missing the bigger picture.
Sit out the quarter or so. Two days removed from limping off the field, itís not worth the risk. Go get Ďem in the next one. The third preseason game is the one that matters anyway.
No. No. No.
I understand the conservative approach, I do.
I know that no player across the New England sports scene is more instrumental to his teamís success than Tom Brady.
Iím also aware that hindsight is 20-20, and I canít promise I wonít second-guess this column if Brady aggravates the knee injury or suffers some other ailment when heís under center this evening.
However, we all need to realize that what was mass hysteria for us Ė a few jarring seconds leading millions to wonder if the Pats could still win the AFC East with either Ryan Mallett or Tim Tebow at the helm Ė was quickly deemed a precautionary exercise by those with, well, far more access. Brady was probably chuckling in the locker room while watching the news from the trainer's table.
If Brady was able to go through a practice without limitations less than 24 hours after suffering what he might even call a boo-boo at this point, heís perfectly fine to play a few series of a preseason game tonight.
Heíll want to. Heíll expect to. He will.
Maybe it would be different if this happened in 2012. Brady knew how to work with Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Deion Branch, Danny Woodhead, Donte Stallworth, Jabar Gaffney, and Julian Edelman. There was already a precedent. Whatís a game off? In fact, he didnít play in the second preseason game last year.
This is 2013, however, the year of the first-year pass-catcher Ė either his first in the NFL or just the first hauling in balls from Brady. The QB needs to take advantage of every single opportunity he can manage when trying to get on the same page as Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins, Josh Boyce, and Zack Sudfeld, even Jake Ballard. The reps are imperative. The timing is essential. And donít believe for one second that any of those men will get the same experience working with either Mallett or Tebow.
For that reason, playing Brady in an otherwise meaningless game is worth the gamble. The fact that he and some of his talented new targets have looked great in training camp or in limited action during the preseason opener is simply an encouraging building block, not the rule. Theyíre all still inexperienced in the Patsí system, many in the league. Expectations are uncertain.
Donít get me wrong, practice time is invaluable. But practices, even 11-on-11 drills, arenít games. For every element that can be simulated (the playbook, the adjustments, the in-game situations), thereís an aspect that canít (the uncontrolled environment, the raw emotion, the merciless contact). Those just scratch the surface. Thereís no red non-contact jersey in a game, only the red in an opponentís eyes.
I get it. Youíre screaming, ďThatís why you sit him tonight, you idiot! He could get hurt and itís the preseason!Ē
Injuries can happen at any time. Just ask Kevin Kolb. The other stuff is more important. The reward outweighs the risk.
In a best-case scenario, Brady and his new receiving corps will build upon their chemistry and game experience with a few pain-free series, and the quarterback and his team will be left with the unmistakable confidence that heís just fine.
If weíre discussing the worst-case scenario on Saturday morning, you can go ahead and blame me.
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About this blog
Adam Kaufman is a writer and broadcaster who can also be heard regularly on 98.5 The Sports Hub, WBZ NewsRadio 1030, the national CBS Sports Radio Network, and broadcasting Boston College hockey games. The Massachusetts native is a Syracuse grad and a pop culture fanatic who offers a unique and entertaining look at your favorite Boston sports teams. Please don't hold his love for Jean-Claude Van Damme movies against him.
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