By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Tom Brady has been in the NFL for 22 years. He’s played in 10 of the last 20 Super Bowls. Let me say that again: He’s played in 10 of the last 20 Super Bowls. And he’s won seven of them.
The man has more NFL experience than anyone could ever imagine. And along the way, he’s observed some things.
It was tremendously interesting, then, to hear an uncut, honest Brady discuss what he identifies as a major problem in the sport of football. The area that bugs him the most may be surprising to some.
In a sitdown “player chat” alongside Mike Evans, Rob Gronkwoski and Lavonte David, Brady lamented how rules that penalize defensive players for big hits have hurt the game significantly.
The origin of the video is hard to track down, but Twitter user “Mcgeezy813” shared the clip on social media.
— Back2Back Bay (@Mcgeezy813) September 2, 2021
Here’s what Brady said:
I think the one thing about football that’s changed over the years which I think is really hard for someone like me who’s played a long time to watch, is like … it’s not being taught the right way. Like, a quarterback should only throw the ball to certain places, because your receiver is in danger of getting hit.
For example, when I used to play against Ray Lewis, I wouldn’t throw the ball to the middle of the field, because he would … he’d go after you, and he would hit like — and we didn’t always have the biggest receivers — but he would hit ’em and knock ’em out of the game.
And now every hard hit is a penalty on the defense. So I feel like they penalized defensive players for offensive mistakes.
So like, if a quarterback — I was watching a Chicago Bears game — the quarterback messes up, doesn’t see the blitzer, or the line screws up, I don’t know what happened, [whether it was] the quarterback or the line on the offense. The defensive player comes in and hits him hard, and they throw a flag on the defense.
So they’ve almost moved the protection of your opponent to you. As opposed to where it should be, which is on yourself.
Like if you’re a quarterback, you’ve gotta protect yourself and your players. It shouldn’t be the responsibility of your opponent to protect you.
It creates really bad habits for players, because you feel like I can basically do anything. I could run and not slide. I could throw my receiver into any coverage and not have any repercussion for it. The only thing they’re gonna do is they’re actually gonna blame the defensive player for making a good, solid hit. And now the defensive player is going to feel like, ‘Oh, I can’t do that.’ Even though I feel like it was an offensive mistake.
So in the end I think it’s a really disservice to the sport, because the sport isn’t being played at a high level, like I believe that it once was. It actually deteriorates because you’re not teaching the players the reasons and the fundamentals of what the sport should be.
Tom Brady, championing the rights of defensive players who want to hit offensive players very hard. Few around the country saw that one coming.
Here’s the play Brady referenced, in which rookie Justin Fields didn’t see an edge rusher off the right side of the line:
— SportsGrid (@SportsGrid) August 21, 2021
Brady raised a lot of valid points, and it’s interesting to see how a player like Ray Lewis impacted his ability to run the Patriots’ offense way back when.
That being said, when given the opportunity to advocate for a rule change, Brady made the case for pass catchers to have their legs and knees protected while they are defenseless. Once again, Brady made a lot of sense.
Tampa Tom was all gas no brakes. Love the candor pic.twitter.com/CqcPQQSXQ4
— Back2Back Bay (@Mcgeezy813) September 3, 2021
When asked if he could change one NFL rule, here’s what Brady said:
This is very simple. I would like the pass catchers to have their legs protected on defenseless catches. When they’re defenseless receivers in the process of catching the ball, I don’t believe that anyone should hit ’em in the knees.
There should be a rule. Nelson [off camera], you need to send this to the NFL. This really makes me angry.
They’re the only position on the field whose knees are not protected anymore, and it’s a really stupid rule. I agree that, you know, yeah … that one’s really … because every other position.
Quarterbacks are protected, for example. We’re in the pocket passing, nobody can come and hit us in our knees.
If you’re a defensive lineman and you’re engaged in a block, no other lineman can come and cut you on your knees.
Even now when you’re playing corner, the receiver can’t come up on a run play and cut you, even though you’re somewhat defending yourself.
But a receiver, when you’re looking back for a ball, you can have someone come and aim right at your knees and hit you. So I think that it’s not really fair for the protection of the pass catchers.
It really irritates me, so I’m sorry to jump at it. I’ve seen a lot of … I’ve thought of that for a long time. I tried to address it with the NFLPA, because I feel like, you know, it’s something that there needs to be conscious thought put into — these guys are running 4.3 down the field, you have a safety that’s running 4.3, every player would choose to get hit from the knees up. But they’re the only players where they’re not protected from the knees down.
Considering the man sitting to Brady’s right learned all too well that such a sentiment is precisely right …
… it’s not surprising to see Brady make that case.
And, once again, he’s right.
Brady said on “The Shop” this past offseason that most of what he says isn’t the truth. A man as wholly aware of PR and generating negative attention knows that it’s often best to speak in generalities and platitudes when speaking publicly.
But a moment like this, where he’s sitting among his teammates, letting it rip about opinions and feelings he’s developed in his remarkable and unique NFL career? That’s the good stuff. Any chance that there could be more of that would be welcomed by just about everyone who follows football, as Brady clearly has some strong — and accurate — points he’d like to make.
(Perhaps when/if he ever retires, he can assume the role of NFL commissioner, which would then allow him to expunge his bogus DeflateGate suspension from the record books, and also harass Roger Goodell with a lifetime of fines and sanctions for various misdeeds, and also deliver an ex post facto ruling that disqualifies the Giants from Super Bowl XLII while he’s at it. That would be good.)