If there is one single kind of injury that would strike the most fear into hearts of Patriots fans, it’s something happening to Tom Brady’s throwing hand. Unfortunately for New England supporters, that’s apparently exactly what happened Wednesday, but the good news is that the star quarterback reportedly “should be okay.”
That’s according to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, who said on Twitter of Brady’s injury that it could “affect him slightly but [the] belief is that he should be good overall.” Upon further consideration, that might be a little too much usage of the qualifier “should” for Patriots fans’ liking.
NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported much the same thing on Thursday morning:
Of course, the reason for heightened concern in New England is that Brady and Co. are not just heading into any old contest, but the AFC championship game, with a Super Bowl berth at stake. The Patriots have been installed as eight- to nine-point favorites as they prepare to host the Jaguars, but any hindrance to Brady’s ability to throw the ball, especially given Jacksonville’s top-rated pass defense, could spell trouble.
The 40-year-old quarterback, attempting to go to a mind-boggling eighth Super Bowl in 16 full seasons as the Patriots’ primary starter, was reportedly injured when a teammate ran into him as he was making a handoff at practice. Brady was listed as a limited participant in the practice, and all eyes will be on Thursday’s session, to see if he’s active in it at all.
X-rays taken on Brady’s right hand reportedly revealed no structural damage, according to the Boston Herald, which noted that “soreness and some swelling” could be expected. New England is set to take on Jacksonville Sunday just after 3 p.m.
Brady has never missed a playoff start in his 18-year career, and apart from missing almost the entire 2008 season after tearing a knee ligament in Week 1 and being suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season, he has been an iron man for the Patriots. The four-time Super Bowl MVP was hampered at times this season by shoulder and Achilles’ injuries, but he still managed to lead the NFL with 4,577 passing yards, finishing third in passing touchdowns with 32.
Those numbers stand in stark contrast to what was accomplished by Blake Bortles, the Jaguars’ much-maligned starting quarterback, who threw for 3,687 yards and 21 touchdowns this season. In two playoff wins so far, Bortles has been effective but well short of spectacular, and Brady’s hand injury would have to be alarmingly severe for the Patriots to be considered to have lost their sizable advantage at that position.
Not surprisingly for a Bill Belichick-coached team, the Patriots offered nothing but praise for Bortles, who had been belittled this season by some opponents. “To me, you see a winner, a quarterback that is smart, that makes all the right plays,” safety Devin McCourty said of Bortles on Wednesday (via ESPN). “When he’s out there, he’s trying to put his team in the right position, and it shows up.”
Patriots fans can only hope that Brady shows up Sunday in more or less satisfactory condition to complete passes, particularly as the team traded away his highly regarded backup, Jimmy Garoppolo, at midseason. As long as Brady really is “okay,” New England will be expected to maintain the upper hand Sunday.
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