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BOSTON (CBS) — Tom Brady is going to be OK. Probably.
The quarterback left Wednesday’s joint practice session with the Buccaneers after 6-foot-8, 320-pound tackle Nate Solder fell on Brady in 11-on-11 drills. Immediately, Twitter became panic central, with many fans and media members fearing the worst for No. 12. Brady had limped off the field and clutched his left knee, the same left knee that was torn apart in 2008. Anxiety was making its way around New England, obviously, and when a helicopter landed on a practice field, concern that the franchise quarterback had suffered some sort of catastrophic injury grew even more rapidly.
While we don’t know exactly what type of injury Brady did suffer, Patriots president Jonathan Kraft went on Felger & Mazz and said he does not think it’s anything serious.
“It hopefully did not appear to be that bad, but that is not a definitive statement,” Kraft said. “Let’s not go crazy with it and let’s find out what happened.”
WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche heard from a source that Brady “will be fine,” thus calming the land for the time being. ESPN’s Ed Werder later reported ”Brady suffered more of a bruise” and “He basically got kicked.”
Whatever it is that happened — whether Brady would be back on the practice field on Thursday or whether he’d be getting fitted for a peg leg — doesn’t change the fact that every single hope and prediction for the New England Patriots in 2013 can be drastically altered in a matter of two seconds.
Of course, when considering a Brady injury, the first point of reference is 2008. Brady played all of seven minutes that year, his season ended by a low, diving Bernard Pollard. The Patriots would go on to win 11 games that year, which on the surface may provide some positivity regarding any uncertain future without Brady … until you remember that team was coming off a perfect 16-0 regular season in ’07. A five-win drop-off from one season to the next is not insignificant. A similar drop this year would leave the Patriots at 7-9, out of the playoffs for the first time since that 11-5 season in 2008.
The differences aren’t just in numbers, either. That 2008 team had Randy Moss and Wes Welker to help along Matt Cassel, who hadn’t started a football game since before his senior prom. Kevin Faulk was also there on offense, as were veterans Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi, Richard Seymour and Rodney Harrison (for a while) on defense. With Brady, that team may have gone 14-2, so 11-5 really wasn’t all that impressive.
If this year’s Patriots were to be forced to play without Brady, the situation would clearly be different. Yes, Tim Tebow has much more NFL experience than Cassel had in ’08, but that doesn’t mean the young man can throw a football. And being surrounded by rookies Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins to go with Danny Amendola and an injured Rob Gronkowski isn’t exactly the same as having Moss and Welker as options.
Without Brady, the 2013 Patriots would be almost irrelevant. Just about every single thought about the team is generated with the understanding that No. 12 will be taking snaps from Week 1 through January and possibly into February. Take him out of the equation, and the idea of Ryan Mallett or Tebow leading the team to any sort of success is far-fetched at best.
Fortunately for New England, that doesn’t appear to be the reality at the moment. It is, at least, a reminder of how quickly this all can change. Every time Brady drops back to pass could be the final time of the season — apparently even if it’s in a practice.
The Patriots host the Buccaneers in preseason action on Friday night. If you’re forced to watch every offensive play with your hands over your eyes, barely able to look, you likely won’t be alone. But for now, it’s OK to just take a deep breath and be thankful that The Great Tom Brady Knee Scare Of 2013 is in the past, and Brady taking snaps looks like it will be a part of the very near future.