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Afternoon of Brady debate and worry proves what knee-jerks we really are

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  August 15, 2013 10:28 AM

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Unless the New England Patriots pulled off a switcheroo coup like Kevin Kline assuming the presidency in “Dave,” Tom Brady is fine.

The collective psyche of Patriot fans? Not so much.

What a breathlessly ridiculous afternoon in Foxborough on Wednesday. After Brady went down in practice, clutching his left knee - yes, that knee – panic ensued despite the fact that Brady made his way back onto the field before departing for the day. Felger and Mazz presented every scenario except reading him his last rites. Twitter speculation ran rampant, theorizing anything from another torn ACL to leprosy. A black helicopter arrived on the scene, and threw everybody into a tizzy that it just might be there to airlift Brady to Mass. General. And all the while, fans lashed out at Bucs defensive end Adrian Clayborn for ruining their team’s season.

It’s official. We are all losers.

Think of the ramifications Wednesday’s incident had on our afternoon conversations. The thinking behind joint practice sessions, like this week’s with Tampa Bay was questioned and criticized by talking heads on ESPN. We immediately wondered whether Tim Tebow or Ryan Mallett could do the job, and frankly, with this much turnover, the answer is no. Bill Belichick was criticized for not having a better contingency plan. In a world of social media, it’s not longer just knee-jerk reactions that fuel the news cycle, but a rush to create the most antagonistic sports debates. “Tebow or Mallett” is a much easier graphic for “First Take” (EMBRACE DEBATE!) than “Brady’s knee is fine, nothing to see here.”

OK, the Zapruder film that showed Nate Solder roll into Brady was somewhat frightening, but even that was tempered by the fact that Brady took a few more snaps before hitting the trainer’s room as what we can now assume was a precaution. Reports on Thursday are that the quarterback intends to practice and hopes to play in Friday night’s preseason game against the Bucs. Of course, when it comes to Brady and the preseason, “play” means he’ll be out on the field about as long as it takes you to grab a draft at the concession stand.

The helicopter might as well have been Jack Bauer arriving on the scene to diffuse the situation the way things were being reported and postured. Oh, it was only the billionaire owner’s ride, ready to take him to Cirque Du Soleil, or whatever for the evening? Is there any way that we can make that sexier for the audience? The gambling website Bovada suspended all bets on NFL futures involving the Patriots. Presumably, extra units were sent to police the Tobin Bridge as well.

So, the knee is reportedly bruised, which was like tenth of the game-changing possibilities on everybody’s list yesterday. By most accounts, Brady is OK, but that won’t stop some from demanding he not take the field until the regular season when the Patriots open up against the Buffalo Bills. Well, why have him play in that game then? Heck, you really don’t need him until Sept. 29 against the Falcons, right?

Assumptions are long-standing mistakes made at the beginning of any professional sports season, but no more so than in the NFL, where we are proven wrong year after year. With the Patriots, it’s more a matter of blind loyalty that simply sniffs at the thought that the Pats might have rough waters ahead without Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and even Brandon Lloyd, who had the second-best season of his career during his one year New England. “As long as Brady is healthy,” goes the mantra in the church of Patriot Place.

One hit. Just one hit, and the whole equation changes.

Not for nothing, but last time the Pats lost Brady, Matt Cassell had guys named Welker and Randy Moss to throw to. The tandem of Tebow/Mallett doesn’t have anything close to that, unless you’ve been sold the potential of Danny Amendola. The thought may be foreign in these parts, but can anybody tell me where the evidence is that the Patriots will be fine?

The good news is that they’re winning practices though, and Tom Brady’s knee will live to see another day. As you were. This sports debate is over even before it could get started.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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