By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Whether or not she intended to, Gisele Bundchen just opened up a can of worms that pretty much nobody wanted.
The wife of Tom Brady said in a new interview with Charlie Rose on CBS This Morning that the Patriots quarterback suffered a concussion last year and that he’s “had concussions” during his career. Brady has never been listed on the Patriots injury report with a concussion over his 18 years in the National Football League.
There are plenty of fresh questions arising from Gisele’s comments. Does she know about an official diagnosis, or is she referring to other injuries that may not necessarily be concussions? If Brady did suffer a concussion, when did it happen? And if it happened, how and why didn’t the NFL notice? Did the NFL notice, and just look the other way?
None of these questions are out of line to ask.
Of course, this story will lead to some takes that admonish the Patriots for potentially “cheating” once again. Hidden injuries became a prominent topic during the 2015-16 NFL seasons, when the Colts and Seahawks both received warnings from the NFL for failing to disclose injuries to Andrew Luck and Richard Sherman, respectively. The Steelers also avoided punishment for concealing an injury to Le’Veon Bell.
If the Patriots were found to be withholding a Brady injury, any punishment would be unprecedented – but the NFL is certainly no stranger to doling those out around these parts.
Speaking of the NFL … if a potential Brady concussion is somehow proved or admitted, it undoubtedly looks worse for the league and its sham of a concussion protocol than any other person or entity.
Concussions have obviously become the NFL’s preeminent issue regarding player health and safety in recent years. It’s led to the implementation of a new concussion protocol, designed to prevent further damage to players who suffer head injuries during games and ensure safe, speedy recoveries.
But when you start talking about players like Brady, it becomes a much more complicated issue.
The NFL is in complete control of its own concussion protocol. It has the power to remove potentially concussed players from games if they deem it necessary. The Patriots have no control over who gets to leave or stay in games when it comes to spotting concussions – and even if they did, they’re never going to take Tom Brady off the field as long as he’s able to stand up and throw a football.
The league, meanwhile, doesn’t necessarily want to take its biggest stars off the field, either. The NFL didn’t seem particularly concerned about taking the Panthers’ Cam Newton off the field during the 2016 season opener, in which he took several hard hits to the head and at times looked like an easy candidate for the concussion protocol.
To be fair, nobody wanted Newton off the field at that point in the game, except maybe the Broncos – but it just goes to show that there’s a limit as to how much everyone truly cares about player safety, especially as it pertains to head injuries.
For a league that purports to care about player safety, the NFL sure is OK with putting safety at risk for the sake of the business. That’s not shocking to anyone who’s paying attention, but it’s also an unfortunate reality that NFL fans just have to accept. For the NFL, short-term ratings and revenue will always trump the long-term health and safety of the players they are allowing to get pummeled on a weekly basis for your entertainment.
But do not, under any circumstances, try to circle this potential controversy back to the Patriots. They would be far from the first team to ignore or hide head injuries. Tom Brady would be far from the first player to play through head injuries or fail to report them to the team. The idea that Brady suffered at least one concussion would actually be the least shocking detail in this whole thing.
That the Seahawks and Colts were not punished for violating their own injury reports (which they were actually caught doing) shows how little seriousness the league shows toward such violations – because they know how little they want players like Luck, Sherman, and Brady to be taken off the field in the first place.
There’s still plenty to be figured out about Brady’s potential concussion, including how severe it was and when it happened. But either way, the Patriots shouldn’t be under anyone’s microscopes for this one. If anything, it’s a reflection on the NFL’s deeply flawed concussion protocol and their inevitable conflicts of interest between protecting the health of their players and the health of their bottom line.
Matt Dolloff is a writer/producer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.