Early in the 2001 season, Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe took a huge hit that nearly dislodged his lung. Later that season, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady took a huge hit that nearly dislodged his head.
Jimmy Traina of SI.com posted the video earlier today from the December 16, 2001 game between the Patriots and the Bills.
With New England leading 6-3 in the third quarterback facing third and 17, Brady drops back. He moves to his right and then decides to run. Which for him has always been, basically, race-walking.
Just before he reaches the line of scrimmage, Bills defensive back Nate Clements lights Brady up. The hit was clean, shoulder first and possibly no helmet contact. But the collision caused Brady’s helmet to go flying backward.
Brady gets up and acts like he’s fine, the standard approach for players who took mind-numbing hits in the years before the league made brain-rattling hits instant penalties. And even though a frame-by-frame review of the collision possibly leads to a conclusion that Clements never actually contacted the head or neck area of Brady, a hit like that in today’s NFL would result in a penalty and an ejection.
Earlier this year, Brady said it was the hardest hit he ever took. It’s amazing he remembers it.
By the way, the Patriots still won the game. They capped that season by winning their first of six Super Bowls.