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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The AFC championship game’s pregame warm-ups perpetuated the aura of mystery surrounding Tom Brady’s injured right hand.
Brady ran out onto the field around 2:14 p.m. without a glove on his right hand. Brady did appear to have a black piece of tape around his hand to address the injury, as the hand appeared to be lightly taped from the back of the palm to the middle and around his right thumb.
Brady is expected to start for the Patriots against the Jaguars on Sunday, and his effectiveness will be monitored closely. Brady appeared to throw during warm-ups with no significant hindrance. The lack of a glove should be a good sign, as this will allow Brady to grip the ball as he normally prefers. The tape appears to be a way to address the injury without forcing Brady to use a glove.
The injury didn’t appear to impact any of Brady’s typical pre-game ritual, as he entered the field to “Public Service Announcement” by JAY-Z. He enters to the lyric, “Allow me to re-introduce myself.” This was followed, per tradition, by Brady screaming, “Let’s Go! Let’s Go!” to the fans in attendance.
More details emerged on Sunday morning from varying reports about how the injury occurred. The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Brady injured the hand on Wednesday in an exchange with tailback Rex Burkhead, and that the injury was “gushing blood.” ESPN’s Mike Reiss added later that Brady required 10 stitches. After taking the day off from practicing on Thursday, Brady appeared to be sharp again in practice on Friday.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft sounded optimistic on the NFL Network before the game, calling it a “freak accident.” He added in the pre-game interview: “Thank goodness it wasn’t as severe as we thought it could be,” Kraft said. “But you don’t know and today will be a great test.”
Since the Patriots put Brady on the injury report on Wednesday, the status of his hand, his wearing of gloves and his practice participation has been the most closely monitored story in all of sports.
And when Brady entered Gillette Stadium at about 9:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, he did so with his right hand buried in his jacket pocket. He looked like a Hollywood celebrity attempting to avoid paparazzi detection, wearing sunglasses and a winter beanie hat, but it did little good. Things got so detailed that the NFL Network noted that he typically carries his bag with his right hand, but today it was slung over his left shoulder.
The temperature hovered in the high 40s on Sunday, giving the day more of a feel of late fall than early winter. There’d be no chance Brady would normally wear a glove on a day like this, as he prefers throwing with his bare hand.
The game will mark Brady’s 12th AFC championship game in 16 seasons, and the Patriots are attempting to reach their third Super Bowl in the past four years.