EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Fortunately the debate about whether risking injury to a 39-year-old legend in the final preseason game of 2016 will now be reduced to hypotheticals.
Tom Brady played 30 minutes, didn’t get any owies and Saturday afternoon when his torch is metaphorically extinguished by Roger Goodell’s four-game suspension, the only hurt he’ll have is being away from football.
That won’t douse the conversation about whether Jimmy Garoppolo could have used the snaps against the Giants, though. Expect to hear that agenda pushed the first time Jimmy G. throws it to the wrong team or runs around like a squirrel in the middle of 128 and gets strip-sacked.
For that, we can wait.
For now, as Brady enters what he agrees is “uncharted waters” with his suspension, we can talk about the what and the why of his final snaps for the next four weeks.
“I’m happy I was able to play as much as I did,” Brady said after going 16-for-26 for 166 yards with a touchdown and a pick. “Coach [Bill Belichick] and I talked about it and it was a good opportunity to get out there and play. I hadn’t played much in the preseason so just to get out there and feel like some game action. We did a decent job of moving the ball and then turned the ball over too many times. One half of football, you’re never going to score that many points so. A bit frustrating, but hopefully all our guys can learn from it and do a lot better job next week against Arizona. It will be a good challenge for our team.”
What benefit did it serve?
“I think it all helps,” Brady said patiently. “The practices are important, but ultimately the game decisions and getting hit — it’s all about decision making as a quarterback and you try to replicate it in practice, but at the end of the day it’s got to be game situations and real football. That’s what these games allow you to do.
“I know there are a lot of guys that are trying to get ready for the season and I was happy to have the opportunity to get out there and play more than usual tonight. Wish we would have done a better job in the first half, but it was a lot of good learning.”
Belichick was asked about the risk to Brady.
“You can’t take insurance out on players,” he answered. “You play football, you play football. I don’t know how you get better playing football without playing football. You can stand around and talk about it all day, but I don’t think that really makes you a better player. At some point you have to get out there and play.”
That could also apply to Garoppolo. But to view it from Belichick’s perspective, which quarterback would it have been wiser to put in harm’s way Thursday night. The one who’ll start a real game in 10 days – Garoppolo – or the one who won’t start a game until October? With rookie Jacoby Brissett as the team’s next-in-line, letting Garoppolo sit had its merits even if a case could easily be made for him benefiting from more game action.
As for Brady’s demeanor, he seemed as if he wasn’t going to allow any glimpses of frustration or irritation at his plight show. He indicated that he’ll have no specific, team-wide message to deliver to his teammates before he heads out Saturday afternoon.
"I think our coaches do such a great job of that and like I said the other day, we’ve had so many great leaders on our team that have always stepped in and filled the void,” Brady said. “Coach Belichick does a great job of getting the team prepared, motivated and they are going to understand what they need to do in order to win.
“I’ll be cheering like hell. I know our fans do that too and I don’t know how much it helps us win, but that’s what you do when you’re watching.”
He has done precious little watching over the past 16 seasons. It will be a harsh adjustment.