Posted by Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) – With all the praise showered on him as a GOAT, Tom Brady is rarely, if ever, called a tough guy.
Maybe that will change now.
With news that Brady had played the entire 2020 season on a ripped MCL for the past 24 hours, February’s promise that the injury details will “make his legend bigger” came true.
He might not be quite Logan Mankins, but make no mistake: Tom Brady is a tough guy.
While playing 20 games on a ripped MCL – 40 regular season touchdowns (second highest single season total of his GOAT-worthy career), started all 20 games, took all but 49 of the 1,347 offensive snaps the Bucs took, and his seventh won Super Bowl and the fifth Super Bowl MVP, 43 years old, is probably his most impressive feat of tenacity, it’s not exactly new territory for Brady. The man missed matches due to injury exactly once in his career. And if you’ve been playing in the NFL for over 20 years, that means you’ve played injured. Much.
Trying to quickly describe this story, Albert Breer of the MMQB found that Brady played with a severed left shoulder in the 2011 postseason, taking the Patriots to the Super Bowl. He also played the last two and more months of the 2013 season and the playoffs with ligament damage to his throwing hand, a year that ended in a loss in the AFC Championship Game in Denver. And he famously defeated the Jaguars defenses in the AFC Championship Game and then set a Super Bowl record for passing yards with a ridiculously disgusting injury to his throwing hand – an injury that Breer technically referred to as “a sprained ligament” on his right Thumb.”
I was told Tom Brady played with the MCL Tears for the ENTIRE ’20 season. No shocker, b / c he too …
• Came to SB XLVI with a severed left shoulder.
• Came to the ’13 AFCCG with a ligament damage in his right hand.
• Came to SB LII with a collateral ligament sprain on the right thumb. https://t.co/pUeOrvYMN4
– Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) July 16, 2021
The latter was notable as Brady covered his throwing hand with a glove in the two weeks leading up to Super Bowl LII. That portrayal, as well as Bill Belichick’s firing for not playing Brady through open heart surgery, led some people to believe that he conjured the injury for attention or distraction. In fact, Brady’s thumb tore through his skin and it didn’t look like he had a chance at all to play in that AFC title game. Instead, Brady had his seams cut minutes before kick-off and played the whole game.
A couple of throws from the opening game of this game: pic.twitter.com/L5pmkkHq3o
– Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) August 30, 2020
“I still don’t understand how he played. It doesn’t make sense to me, ”said Dr. Matthew Leibman, the Patriots hand and wrist surgeon, later. “He was playing with a surgical cut on his throwing thumb.”
That was certainly a notable case of Brady playing injured, but Breer’s short list only scratches the surface.
The foundation of the legend of Brady was laid in Super Bowl XXXVI, played just seven days after Brady sustained a knee injury in a dirty hit from Pittsburgh’s Lee Flowers.
As I scour the history of the Patriots on the Street at AFCCG I have to repeat: Lee Flowers’ hit on Tom Brady was as dirty as it gets. The knee selected as the target and bombed away in a dive. pic.twitter.com/nS4exbHR2u
– Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) January 14, 2019
Brady actually had to leave this game, a complete anomaly in his career. But of course he played the following week, beating the Rams to win the first Super Bowl in Patriots history. (You will recall that this year there wasn’t the normal two-week gap between the championship round and the Super Bowl, as the NFL canceled all games after September 11th.)
Brady played with three broken ribs and a broken right ring finger in 2009, sustaining an injury in week 13. He never missed a game. That 2009 season – his first back after missing all but minutes of the 2008 season with a torn knee – also began with a devastating pre-season goal from Albert Haynesworth.
In 2002 he suffered a shoulder injury in week 15, played it through, suffered a worse injury in the season finale, then played the entire 2003 season – at the end of the season he won the Super Bowl – with severe shoulder pain. After the 2003 season, he underwent shoulder surgery.
Brady suffered a high ankle sprain in the 2007 AFC Championship Game that forced him to wear hiking boots and miss some exercises, but of course he played (at a loss) in Super Bowl XLII. In that game, Jay Alford drove him into the ground just moments before delivering what is possibly the most formidable physical throw of his entire career.
While this isn’t an injury in and of itself, it’s still pretty insane that Brady took that massive hit from Elvis Dumervil and simply reappeared, led the huddle, completed a pass on the next snap, and led the team to the touchdown on the following one has speed.
Brady’s wife, Gisele Bündchen, said in 2017 that Brady suffered a concussion in 2016 and suffered numerous concussions throughout his career, which is certainly to be expected given the inherent risk of the position. A closer look at his Super Bowl LI performance revealed Brady’s head was crushed by Nate Solder’s knee before Brady led the 91-yard game against the Falcons. (Brady made a 16-yard pass to Chris Hogan on the next snap, Julian Edelman made his famous catch not long after, and the rest is history.)
While Brady’s health and lifestyle brand likes to spread a narrative that the miracle of hydration and pliability man can and does avoid injury, the reality is that no one in the NFL plays without pain. Getting hit by giant men on a regular basis tends to have this effect.
For Brady, despite being featured in roughly 6 million injury reports this century, those injuries haven’t really kept him off the field. He started 111 straight season games and 17 postseason games from 2001 to 2008 before suffering the infamous knee tear. And since missing the 2008 season aged 32 to 43, Brady has not missed any games due to injury. Zero. He missed four games in 2016 due to a fictional football deflation plan, but he didn’t miss any games due to injury.
In fact, he has resumed his career at an age when few men have tried to gamble and he barely missed a snapshot. Pro Football Reference’s Snap Count data dates back to 2012, and aside from being suspended in 2016, a bench press in the fourth quarter of Kansas City in 2014, and a second half to relax in week 17 of 2014, Brady did conquered the field no matter what.
BRADY REGULAR SEASON SNAP COUNTS PER YEAR
2012: 98.06% (1,215 snapshots)
2013: 100% (1,197 snapshots)
2014: 93.9% (1,063 snapshots)
2015: 98.84% (1,103 snapshots)
2016: 73.17% (818) (suspension)
2017: 97.98% (1,116 snapshots)
2018: 97.59% (1,092 snapshots)
2019: 98.78% (1,135 snapshots)
2020: 95.43% (1,024 snapshots)
He has also taken 100 percent of his team’s offensive snapshots in 21 of his last 23 playoff games. In the games where he missed 100 percent of the offensive snapshots, he got 97 percent and 96 percent of them. Both cases took place in blowout victories for the Patriots.
Brady hasn’t missed a postseason snap since the 2017 divisional round.
MISSED GAMES DUE TO INJURY, 2001-07: 0
MISSED GAMES, 2008: fifteen
MISSED GAMES DUE TO INJURY, 2009-20: 0
He’s doing all of this again at an age when few men have even tried playing NFL football. Prior to 2020, the total number of combined starts at the 43-year-old quarterback in NFL history was zero. Goose egg. Nada.
Brady started 20 games.
Brady has worked himself to some extent on cutting this narrative down. Unlike Ben Roethlisberger, for example, Brady never sought to show the world that he was hurt. In fact, the establishment of the TB12 method of eating / drinking / living / thinking has had the exact opposite effect, as Brady would apparently prefer people to think he was never hurt. Sure, Brady’s methods have many merits that enable him to keep playing while Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, and a slew of other quarterbacks succumbed to Father Time and pulled back that Brady is immune to injury just a myth.
Those who have followed his career more closely than others have known for some time that Brady’s toughness and durability are among his most overlooked qualities. The recent news of playing on the ripped MCL is only getting more people into the news that Brady is not only the best winner in football history, but also one of the best passers-by in NFL history, but also in terms of playing like that hard as possible while injured. You don’t start 344 games in the ultra-violent NFL if you aren’t.
In other words … he’s a soccer player. And now many people are very much aware of this reality.
You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.