If past is prelude, then Patriots fans can expect quarterback Tom Brady to play at least two quarters in New England's third preseason game against the Panthers on Friday night.
Of course, this has been a preseason unlike any other for Brady, who is still waiting on a resolution to his case against the NFL concerning his four-game suspension for his alleged role in Deflategate. If no settlement is reached in the base between the league and the NFLPA, then it will be up to judge Richard Berman to make a ruling to uphold or vacate Brady's quarter-season ban.
As that uncertainty lingers, it remains to be seen how the Patriots will handle the splitting-up of repetitions behind center between Brady and second-year signal-caller Jimmy Garoppolo for the final two preseason games. But according to what Patriots coach Bill Belichick told WEEI earlier this week, the team will wait to change its course of action until it receives more information on what he called Brady's "situation."
"Once we start our preparation for the Pittsburgh game, then based on whatever information we have, injuries and whatever else, then we'll prepare to play the game the best that we can, the most competitive way that we can," Belichick said. "We'll just have to see what information we have.
"That can be from a variety of sources, whether that's Tom's situation or players that are managing some kind of physical condition. Then we'll just have to see where we are when we get into that preparation. Maybe you play it out there in the week. It's no different than players maybe being available to play in the game or maybe [not] due to injury. We just have to, as we get closer to the game, see how that unfolds."
Since Brady has taken the majority of the practice reps with the team's projected starters through training camp, and since he has started in the team's first two preseason games, it would be reasonable to assume -- given the lack of any new information regarding the status of his suspension -- that preseason game No. 3 will be business as usual for Brady and the Patriots.
If that's the case, Brady should see at least one half of action against the Panthers. Here's a look at what Brady has done in his team's third preseason game in each of the last five years, courtesy of Comcast SportsNet's Sports Tonight staff.
Carolina (2014): 17-for-21, 204 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions | Exited game in third quarter
at Detroit (2013): 16-for-24, 185 yards, no touchdowns, one interception | Exited at halftime
at Tampa Bay (2012): 13-for-20, 127 yards, one touchdown, one interception | Exited after third quarter
at Detroit (2011): 12-for-22, 145 yards, one touchdown, one interception | Exited in third quarter
St. Louis (2010): 18-for-22, 273 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions | Exited in fourth quarter
Could Belichick and the Patriots coaching staff opt to give Garoppolo a greater number of reps against the Panthers if they feel as though he needs more work in order to be prepared to play in Week 1? Of course.
But if history is any indication, and if the Patriots are waiting on more information in Brady's case before altering their course, then No. 12 will be running the team's offense for at least two quarters in Carolina.