FOXBOROUGH — OK, it’s time to take Tom Brady, Danny Amendola, Jerod Mayo, and every other key Patriots player off the practice field, put them in bubble wrap, and store them away in protective custody until Week 1.
The way this offseason has gone, that feels like the only way to keep the Patriots stars healthy and ready to play when they face Buffalo Sept. 8.
Pretty much anything bad that could happen to a team in an offseason has befallen the Patriots, who have generated enough negative headlines this summer to last them a decade.
Brady’s left knee injury in Wednesday’s practice is only the latest bit of news to send Patriots Nation into full-blown panic mode. The good news is that while Brady did suffer a sprain, according to two league sources, it doesn’t appear to be serious.
He walked off the field under his own power and even returned to the huddle for a few snaps before deciding to call it a day and head inside with the trainer.
“I’m under the impression that it’s probably not that serious, but that’s not a definitive answer,” team president Jonathan Kraft said in the ramps of Gillette Stadium.
But typing the words “Brady” and “knee sprain” in the same sentence is never a good thing, even if he doesn’t miss much practice time. This was the same knee in which Brady tore his ACL in 2008, and the team won’t know for certain how long he’ll have to sit out until evaluating him again Thursday.
But Brady had better sit out the final three preseason games, just to make sure he’s healthy and ready for the regular season. The Patriots badly need him, and can’t afford to enter the season with Ryan Mallett and Tim Tebow as their top two quarterbacks.
The Patriots seemed to be locked and loaded for another championship run when the offseason began, but the only news they have generated is bad news — of the random, bizarre, and even tragic kind.
The events of this offseason remind me of an old joke from “The Simpsons,” when Mr. Burns hired nine baseball all-stars (including Roger Clemens, Darryl Strawberry, Ken Griffey Jr., and others) at his nuclear plant so he could win the company softball league.
Burns quipped that there would be no way his team could lose, “Unless, of course, my nine all-stars fall victim to nine separate misfortunes and are unable to play tomorrow.”
Sure enough, Clemens was hypnotized into thinking he was a chicken, Ozzie Smith fell down a bottomless pit, Steve Sax was arrested for every unsolved murder in New York City. In all, eight of the nine stars were struck down in the 24 hours before the big game.
No one on the Patriots has fallen into a bottomless pit yet — as far as we know — but nothing would be surprising after the events of this offseason.
First there was beloved star Wes Welker having a contentious contract negotiation with the front office, and eventually bolting for Denver over a relatively small amount of money. Then Rob Gronkowski not only needed three surgeries to repair his broken forearm and clean out an infection, but he also surprisingly needed another back surgery to repair a herniated disk, which could keep him out until October or perhaps longer.
Then, of course, came the real shocker, the murder charge for Aaron Hernandez, which went well beyond the scope of what anyone could have realistically predicted, even knowing that he had “red flags.”
Now, after all that, Brady sprains his knee?
Is this franchise coming down with, dare we say, a bit of a curse?
Bucs defensive end Adrian Clayborn was swarmed by reporters after practice, and asked repeatedly to break down every millisecond of the play in question.
Clayborn said he “bull-rushed” left tackle Nate Solder, who inadvertently ran into Brady and rolled up on his knee. Clayborn then was asked to define a “bull-rush,” which seems fairly self-explanatory.
“Is this an interview or an interrogation?” Clayborn quipped.
Well, it is an interrogation in this town, with the Patriots’ Super Bowl hopes obviously riding on Brady’s health. Any news of an injury to him, no matter how small, is going to be big news here in the Sports Hub.
The Patriots’ players, to their credit, took the news in stride and didn’t seem upset with Clayborn.
“It’s football, you know? Accidents happen,” running back LeGarrette Blount said. “It’s just guys practicing hard.”
If there is any positive to take away from this, it’s that Mallett and Tebow can continue to get more work in practice and preseason games. They certainly need it, and as Wednesday’s practice reminded us all too well, Brady is only one hit away from being lost for the season, as he was in 2008. That team did go 11-5 with Matt Cassel, though don’t forget that it didn’t make the playoffs.
But with Brady now 36, the Patriots can’t afford to waste too many seasons with backup quarterbacks trying to eke the team into the playoffs.
It’s all Super Bowls all the time now in New England, and the only way to get there is with a healthy Brady.
So break out the bubble wrap, and lock him away for three weeks. The Patriots don’t need any more random misfortunes befalling this team.Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin