Brady now heading into 'uncharted waters' with suspension looming

Brady now heading into 'uncharted waters' with suspension looming

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.

'Leprechaun' Gronk dropping more hints about future plans - sort of

'Leprechaun' Gronk dropping more hints about future plans - sort of

Rob Gronkowski, decked out in his finest St. Patrick's Day duds over the weekend in Nashville, reportedly tried to shed some light on his NFL future.

Of course, while Gronk was doing Gronk things, he told a Patriots fan one thing and a reporter another.

Breech is an NFL writer for His father is former Cincinnati Bengals kicker Jim Breech. And the "69ers" aren't a real team.


AFC East is starting to prepare for post-Brady life

AFC East is starting to prepare for post-Brady life

The Patriots' "direction" never really changes. They're always "going for it" because they're always one of the best teams in the league. 

The rest of the AFC East is usually in flux. The other teams range from hoping for 8-8 to trying to bottom out in hopes of a high draft pick. Yet right now, it seems the stars are aligning and that the Jets, Bills and Dolphins all have the mindset: Change things now and be ready to pounce once Brady is gone. 

The Jets traded up to No. 3 on Saturday, assuring themselves a chance at one of this draft's top quarterbacks. The Bills, with picks Nos. 12 and 22, are expected by pundits to make a similar move up. The Dolphins, fresh off cutting bait with Ndamukong Suh in an attempt at a culture change, have the 11th pick and could use it on a quarterback to either push or replace Ryan Tannehill. 

None of the three teams are close to pushing the Patriots as long as Brady's around, even with the Bills coming off a season in which they reached the playoffs. Yet there's a two-or-three-year plan on which all three teams could have designs: Get the quarterback now, build around him and be in a good situation by the time Brady is done. 

We've seen these teams try to rebuild before during the Brady Era, with only limited success. Mark Sanchez worked out better in New York than anyone could have initially expected, but that success lasted way shorter than any believers could have hoped. Now, it seems they try again. 

Over in Buffalo, the end of the Tyrod Taylor era hardly means the beginning of the Nathan Peterman era. Those two first-rounders should easily be able to get the Bills into the top five, and they've also got two second-rounders and two third-rounders. Hell, they have the pieces to get to No. 1 if Cleveland is bold enough to pass on their choice of Darnold/Rosen/Allen/Mayfield. 

The Dolphins are in the more interesting spot. Tannehill missed all of last season and he's 29. If you're six years into your career and your team still isn't totally sure if you can be one of the better QBs in the league, you probably aren't one of the better QBs in the league. At the very least, Lamar Jackson should be there at No. 11. They could also trade up. 

At the start of last season, the Patriots had far and away the two best QBs in the AFC East. Now, it stands to reason that at least two of their divisional opponents (the Jets and Bills) will come away with what they hope are franchise quarterbacks. And if any of these guys hit, the Pats will have gone from the best QB situation in the NFL to seeing some actual competition waiting for them by the time their own quarterback is done. 

Of course, all three of these teams usually suck at everything, so it shouldn't be a big deal.