FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England quarterback Tom Brady is injured and the nature of the problem is veiled in vague answers as is his projected return date.
On Monday, Brady talked to WEEI-AM in his only media availability. He said he wasn’t sure if he would play tonight against Philadelphia because of the foot problem. Brady said the injury is to the same foot that was bothering him during the Super Bowl against the New York Giants in February, but the current injury isn’t related to the old injury.
On Wednesday, coach Bill Belichick was asked if there was any update on Brady’s status. Belichick, who has made it procedure to limit injury information to a minimum, said only that Brady is “day to day.” That afternoon, Brady was seen throwing passes at practice during the 15 minutes the media was allowed to watch.
On Thursday, the Patriots held a walk-through practice that was closed. Coupled with the fact that teams aren’t required to give injury reports during training camp, don’t expect any significant answers, just as Indianapolis has kept quiet on quarterback Peyton Manning’s status since he had knee surgery more than five weeks ago.
Does it matter? Through his series of shoulder, knee and ankle injuries, Brady has managed to win three Super Bowls and come within a miracle play by the Giants of winning a fourth.
Brady has built a career not on physical gifts, but on a depth of knowledge of the game.
People around the NFL believe Brady and his receivers – such as Wes Welker – are so in tune that the Patriots don’t even call real passing routes. Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress came to that conclusion after watching the Patriots last season.
Former Patriots receiver Deion Branch said that’s all part of the plan. Even the meticulous Belichick said Brady’s preparation is extraordinary.
“He’s a hard guy to coach because he’s so thorough that it forces you as a coach to be just as thorough as he is,” Belichick said. “He knows as much as you do or has seen as much as you have seen.”
Given Belichick’s extreme preparation, that’s a strong statement. The coach put Brady in a class with a small group of players he has encountered.
“Not too many (are like Brady),” Belichick said. “(Former Giants linebacker) Carl Banks was like that, but it was a little different position. He was maybe watching one guy, the tight end or the tackle on his side. But Tom … as the quarterback, is responsible for a lot more than that.”
Brady isn’t bound by play calls. Only by how much his teammates can recognize the things he does.
Burress observed that it appeared Brady and Welker, who tied for the NFL lead with 112 receptions last season, were running option routes most of the time.
“It got to the point in the season where they weren’t even running routes,” Burress wrote in his book Giant. “They were just running where the people weren’t. It was very obvious … If you look at their tapes, nobody gets open that much. You just don’t, not if you just call a play.”
According to Branch, Burress is right. What Brady and select other quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning and Drew Brees have been able to do is get so in synch with their receivers that they can simply react to how the defense plays.
“We did that a whole lot, practically the whole season and even in the Super Bowl,” said Branch, who was traded to Seattle before the 2006 season. “Not everything. But a lot is off what your quarterback tells you to do. You see this, Tom sees this. I know what he’s thinking, this is where the ball is going.”
Welker played the situation off as normal. But he is considered one of the brightest receivers in the game, a guy able to take advantage of his extreme quickness because his mind is nearly as fast as his body.
Welker has been doing these kinds of audibles since he was a high school player in Texas.
” (Brady) just sees the same thing I see, so it’s just a matter of us executing it the same way,” Welker said. “It’s both people understanding the game and understanding coverages and how to attack coverages.”
Welker and Brady have developed to the point that they might be able to overcome whatever time Brady misses because of injury.
“It won’t take long for us to be on the same page again,” Welker said.