If Patriots hid Tom Brady’s concussions, it’s worse than Deflategate
The Patriots might have hidden a Tom Brady concussion last season. That’s certainly one way to look at his wife’s disclosure Wednesday that he dealt with some sort of head issue in 2016.
We don’t know if a doctor diagnosed the quarterback with a concussion or even what his wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, meant by the term “concussion.’’
We just know that the Patriots – and I’m generalizing here – have the moral compass of feeding lions. The possibility that they would do something dishonest is considered breaking news the way humans breathing oxygen is considered breaking news.
We also know that Brady didn’t appear on the Patriots’ injury report last season for a concussion and that he played in all 12 regular-season games after his four-game suspension for Deflategate, as well as in three playoff games, including New England’s Super Bowl victory. He apparently has never appeared on the Patriots’ injury report for a concussion in his 17 NFL seasons, despite his wife’s assertion on “CBS This Morning’’ that “he has concussions pretty much every — I mean, we don’t talk about it. He does have concussions.”
If you think NFL coaches care about anything other than keeping their best players on the field, you are living in a world of make-believe. And whatever I just said about NFL coaches, multiply that by about 100 for New England coach Bill Belichick.
If the Patriots did hide a Brady concussion last season, it would be more reprehensible than anything they might have done with some deflated footballs. If it is true, commissioner Roger Goodell has to come down hard on Belichick. Not that Goodell needs any encouragement when it comes to the coach, who is the ingrown toenail inside the league’s wingtip.
You can’t insist you care about the safety of players, as the NFL has in the face of evidence it doesn’t, and then turn around and let this go. If I were Goodell, I’d say to Belichick, “How many fingers am I holding up? If you said one finger, a very particular one, you are correct.’’
Deflategate was much ado about nothing, at least in my mind, though I can understand why others feel differently. But there should be consensus on this bit of concussion deception, if it’s true, because it would strike at the heart of the league’s commitment to player safety. If the NFL admits through its inaction that it doesn’t take concussions seriously, then why should any coach at any level?
It’s possible that Brady hid concussions from the team. Players want to play. There’s a macho code in many sports about playing hurt, and the NFL is near the top in terms of players’ lack of concern for personal safety. But if teams aren’t going to protect players from themselves, we’ll continue to see men in their 50s and older with glazed eyes and scrambled brains.
If you’re the NFL, you don’t want arguably your most famous player, a future Hall of Famer, to be the poster boy for hiding injuries. And you certainly don’t want him being spoon-fed his meals in 20 years.
The 39-year-old Brady recently said he wants to play until he’s 45, which is definitive proof he has suffered brain trauma. Given the horrible physical and mental condition of so many former players, why would anyone want to subject himself to so much abuse for so many years?
That could be behind Bundchen’s disclosure of his concussions. It would not be unreasonable to think a loved one would drop that bombshell out of concern for a player’s long-term health.
The man who discovered chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive brain disease caused by repeated hits to the head, called Bundchen an “angel of truth and an angel of love’’ Wednesday for disclosing her husband’s concussion history.
“The truth will always prevail,’’ said Dr. Bennet Omalu, who inspired the movie “Concussion.’’ “We should not be afraid of the truth because of the inconvenience of the truth. But when we embrace the truth, just like Gisele has done, the truth is empowering, is enlightening and is vindicating.
“… So, [Gisele] is my hero.”
I fully expect Brady or the Patriots or both to say that Bundchen was mistaken, that what she thought were concussions were actually migraines or dizziness or post-traumatic stress from dealing with the media. I’ll have a difficult time believing any of it.
Are we to believe that, in a league obsessed with the tiniest detail, the Patriots weren’t aware Brady might have had a concussion? Doubtful, as a league injury report might say.