By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Tom Brady is 40 years old (as you might have heard once or twice on the news), and he’s also taken a beating so far through three games.
The Chiefs registered six hits on Brady in the season opener, sacking him three times. The Saints hit him five times, with two sacks. And the Texans on Sunday hit him nine times, sacking him five times.
The last time Brady took five sacks was Super Bowl LI, which, despite the barrage of pressure, turned out to be a decent little performance for the scrappy QB out of Michigan. Prior to that game, he hadn’t been sacked five times in the same game since Week 4 of 2015. Prior to that, it was the 2013 game against the Saints. Before that, it was the 2010 playoff loss to the Jets. And prior to that, it was Super Bowl XLII in February 2008.
In his entire career, Brady’s taken five or more sacks in a game in just 10 of his 272 starts (regular season and postseason combined).
Clearly, Brady doesn’t get hit quite as often as he’s been hit this year. But if you ask him about it, Brady will say he feels fine.
He did just that on Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m feeling pretty good today,” Brady confidently declared. “Honestly, I mean, I know you guys think I’m crazy when I say it, but probably when I was younger it was a lot harder for me. Now, I actually feel better faster, just based on the things that I do. Today I feel good. I feel good.”
That Brady was able to escape Sunday’s victory without injury was a feat in and of itself. The 6-foot-5, 270-pound Jadeveon Clowney hit him three times. The 6-foot-5, 290-pound bulldozer J.J. Watt hit him twice. Brady also took one hit apiece from Whitney Mercilus (6-foot-4, 260 pounds), Benardrick McKinney (6-foot-4, 250 pounds) and Christian Covington (6-foot-2, 290 pounds).
But as Brady tells it, staying healthy is not so much about getting hit as much as it’s about figuring out the right way to get hit.
“I think decision-making is important for all players,” he said. “I tell the receivers all of the time, ‘You catch the ball in traffic. You’re a 190-pound receiver. You’ve got 240-pound linebackers. To run and take that amount of force for one extra yard and then you miss three games – I don’t think that helps us much.’ It’s the same as a quarterback. You stand in the pocket. You do have to learn how to find the way down in a way that you’ll be able to get up and try to play the next play, especially with your right shoulder. I think for me more than anything I try to land more on my left shoulder than my right shoulder because you’ve only got one right shoulder. And I need this for a lot of throws, and the more hits you take on it, the harder it is to take.”
Brady’s proven to be pretty good at staying on the field throughout his entire career. His torn knee in Week 1 of 2008 — plus a bogus suspension to start the 2016 season — is the only thing that’s ever kept him off the field.
There’s obviously no more important member of the Patriots than Brady, and the quarterback understands that reality. Still, it would likely be advisable for the Patriots as a team to start limiting the number of hits on the 40-year-old quarterback. The season is long; even the most pliable, health conscious quarterback in the world has a limit to how much of a physical beating he can withstand.
But for now? Brady, as is his custom, doesn’t seem worried at all.
“I just do the best I can do,” he said. “There’s some luck involved, but … let’s go again, baby. Let’s line ’em up and play.”