By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Tom Brady hurt his hand at practice on Wednesday. With the biggest game of the season against the best possible opposing defense, there’s some consternation bubbling up around the six New England states.
But relax. The quarterback is going to be fine. This is Tom Brady we’re talking about after all.
On Sunday, he’ll be opposed by Blake Bortles, who was eight years old when Brady threw his first career NFL pass. Since Bortles was 8 years old (he’s now 25), he and the rest of the world have seen Brady miss time due to injury just once.
When you play in a league as violent as the NFL, and when you suit up each and every Sunday, and when you spend most of your Januarys and Februarys playing when most of the league is at home, then you’re bound to amass some nicks, cuts, bruises and bumps over the course of your career. Tom Brady has been no exception, but he’s always been on the field, every single Sunday except for one year, since the early days of George W. Bush’s first term in office.
The injury that kept Brady from playing, of course, was a catastrophic knee injury. There is no playing through such a thing.
But that doesn’t mean Brady hasn’t played through various degrees of being hurt and/or injured over the last 17 years.
Most relevant to the current day: In 2009, Brady played through a broken finger at the end of the year and a pair of broken ribs all season long. In terms of passer rating, it was the ninth-best season of his career. Not great, not terrible, but right in the middle. He threw 28 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, which was on par with or better than eight of his other seasons. He wasn’t spectacular, but by and large, he figured it out.
In the leadup to Super Bowl XLII, Brady was spotted walking around New York with a walking boot on his right foot. He played in the Super Bowl, and though he and the Patriots lost, he did withstand five sacks and several hard hits while also engineering what would have been the game-winning drive if not for a miracle helmet catch. He was fine.
Brady reportedly played the 2010 season with a stress fracture in his right foot. He threw 36 touchdowns and just four interceptions that year (a record at the time) while leading the Patriots to a 14-2 record and becoming the first-ever unanimous NFL MVP. He led the NFL with a 111.0 passer rating and set a record for most consecutive passes without throwing an interception.
In 2014, Brady missed practice before the season opener with a calf injury. He lost in Week 1, getting beaten up in Miami, but he started all 16 games, throwing 33 touchdowns and nine interceptions. In the middle of the season, Brady suffered an ankle injury that was described as “significant.” But, well, he ended up soldiering through it, and he then led the Patriots to a Super Bowl victory for the first time in a decade.
Just this year, Brady popped up on the injury report around Thanksgiving with an Achilles injury. Later, a left shoulder injury was added, too. But every week, the injury magically vanished by Friday. And though he ended the season on a bit of a down note, he was thoroughly dominant in the Patriots’ postseason win last weekend.
All of this is relatively recent history, but going back to Brady’s earliest days as an NFL quarterback, it’s clear that playing hurt — and playing well — is a part of his DNA.
In the 2001 AFC Championship Game, Brady suffered an ankle injury after a dirty hit from Steelers safety Lee Flowers. Brady had to leave the game, which spoke to the severity of the ailment, but you can bet he did not miss the Super Bowl, which was only a week later because of the events of Sept. 11 pushing the NFL schedule back a week. With just seven days to recuperate, Brady took the field in New Orleans and made history.
In 2002, he suffered a separated shoulder late in the season. He finished the season, which included a dynamite comeback over the Dolphins in Week 17, during which his shoulder injury worsened. He opted to not have surgery in the offseason, and the injury dogged him throughout the entire 2003 season. That’s the same 2003 season when Brady led the team to a 14-2 record before winning a second Super Bowl in three years. Brady won his second Super Bowl MVP, and then he had surgery in the offseason. (Michael Smith did an excellent job detailing the injury for the Globe back in 2004.)
Originally, Brady got his job as a starting NFL quarterback when someone else left due to injury. He’s stated many, many, many times that he remains hyper-aware of how temporary every job can be in the NFL — even for the greatest of all time. And while current backup quarterback Brian Hoyer represents no threat to overthrowing the throne, that doesn’t change Brady’s unique and focused mind-set.
So, if you enjoy worrying and stressing and fretting and fearing the end of the world, you have a good opportunity to do just that. Head on over to Web MD, or read this detailed diagnosis made from thousands of miles away, and get to chewing your fingernails down to the nub.
But if you look at the entire body of work from 2001 through the present, and you have reason to believe that no matter what Brady might be dealing with at the moment, as long as he’s physically able to stand up on his two legs … he’ll manage. He always has. With so much on the line, he won’t stop now.