Players usually take note of which referees are working their games, looking for tendencies or some idea of how they’ll be officiated. That changes in the playoffs when crews get split up, but Patriots players had taken note of one official assigned to their game Sunday for a different reason.
Sarah Thomas will become the first woman to work an NFL playoff game Sunday, when she serves as a down judge in Patriots-Chargers. Thomas is in her fourth season as an NFL official, and will join referee Ron Torbert’s crew at Gillette Stadium.
Several players said they were interested and pleased that their game would make a little bit of history.
“Cool. For real, you see women doing more things [in football],” said defensive end Deatrich Wise. “It’s always cool to see the evolution of time and how we’re evolving as people and not stuck in the same mind-set that we were 100 years ago. It’s cool now that we’re inviting women into the football world because it’s a very masculine world and to have a woman referee is cool, hopefully people will be respectful of her.”
Wise paused, then chuckled, considering that if Thomas wanted to be treated like any other referee that respectful might not always be the right word for that.
“It’s still awesome though,” he said.
Wide receiver Chris Hogan said hearing Thomas’s story made him think about his wife Ashley, who is a doctor, succeeding in a typically male-dominated field.
“I know my wife works just as hard as me if not harder to have a career,” Hogan said. “To see another woman in a different career path work these types of games would be like the biggest stage for Ashley to be on, so I think that’s awesome and I’m really happy for her.”
Strategic roster move
The Chargers made an interesting roster move Friday designed to limit Cordarrelle Patterson’s return opportunities Sunday.
Los Angeles signed kicker Nick Rose to handle kickoff duties, while rookie Michael Badgley will continue to handle field goals and extra points.
Badgley made 15 of 16 field goals, including a 59-yarder against the Bengals in Week 14, and 27 of 28 extra points in 10 games during the regular season. He struggled to get touchbacks on kickoffs, though, getting one on only 9 of 54 kickoffs in those 10 games, the lowest rate in the NFL among players with at least 10 kickoffs.
That’s where Rose comes in.
Rose spent time with the Chargers at the end of the 2017 season and had touchbacks on eight of his nine kickoffs then. Coach Anthony Lynn apparently believes Rose is better suited to kick to Patterson, who averaged 28.8 yards per return during the regular season and returned one kickoff for a 95-yard touchdown.
The Chargers are smart to try to limit the Patriots’ returns, but carrying two kickers on the 46-man game-day active roster obviously means one fewer player at another position.
Brady enlists friends
Tom Brady enlisted some famous local friends for his latest hype video.
The video, which Brady posted on his social media pages Saturday has a pointed message about his age. It features Brady, Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts, Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, and Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy staring into a camera that pans up over their faces reciting lines from “A New Refutation of Time,” an essay from the mid-1940s by Argentinian Jorge Luis Borges.
“Our destiny is not frightful by being unreal. It is frightful because it is irreversible and iron-clad. Time is the substance we are made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along. But I am the river. It is a tiger which destroys me. But I am the tiger. It is a fire which consumes me. But I am the fire,” the four athletes recite, with Brady reading the final line of each stanza.
Time is obviously a big theme with Brady, who named the documentary series he did last season, “Tom vs. Time.” Clearly he’s got some younger friends.
Teammate Julian Edelman also posted on social media ahead of the game, but opted for a lighter touch: Edelman posted a graphic depicting himself, Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Bill Belichick as the four members of Queen on the “Queen II” album cover. He added the caption, “Bostonian Patsody.” Good stuff.