Patriots

Great Patriots Debate: Who was the toughest quarterback: Brady, Bledsoe or Grogan?

Great Patriots Debate: Who was the toughest quarterback: Brady, Bledsoe or Grogan?

It's not a position that usually lends itself to the goriest of war stories. The quarterback spot — especially nowadays when it's protected by the rulebook better than ever before — isn't the first that springs to mind when the topic is toughness.

But the Patriots have had their share of resilient passers over the years, commanding the respect of teammates and fans alike for their ability to play on. Three in particular have to be mentioned in today's Great Patriots Debate.

Who, in your opinion, was the toughest quarterback in franchise history: Tom Brady, Drew Bledsoe or Steve Grogan? 

Brady has played through all manner of bumps and bruises and things more severe during his two decades behind center. His shoulders have been battered. Back in 2002, he separated his shoulder, played through and exacerbated the issue in the season finale. He hurt his left shoulder in 2011 but played on, ultimately losing the Super Bowl. He hurt that shoulder again in 2017 — something that's helped keep him on the field because he does well to fall on his non-throwing arm when he can — but didn't miss a beat. 

Brady played through an ankle issue late in the 2015 season and suffered a significant ankle injury during his run to a Super Bowl in 2014. Brady's hand swelled up like a balloon in 2013, and perhaps his most publicized injury — a gruesome cut on his hand he suffered in practice late in 2017 — didn't keep him out. 

Brady's predecessor, meanwhile, certainly has a case as the tough man of the group. He played with pins in his throwing hand in 1998 and came back for a series after a hit from Mo Lewis rattled him so badly that his abdomen was filling with blood. 

“Drew could have died,” Dr. Thomas Gill told Sports Illustrated in 2016. “He ended up having about three liters of blood in his chest. He had torn one of the blood vessels behind his rib that was then pumping blood into his chest. They got a CAT scan of his belly, and you can see the bottom of the lung fields and they could see that was filled with fluid. 

"So then they extended the study up the chest and saw what the problem was. They were able to drain the blood out and immediately once that happened, he started feeling better, his breathing was under control, his blood pressure stabilized. But it was really dicey. I don't even think Drew knows how serious it was. But he really could have died.”

Then there's Grogan, who was so tough that he inspired something the Globe's Nick Cafardo called "GTM -- the Grogan Toughness Meter." 

"You won't find too many QBs past or present any tougher than old No. 14 Steve Grogan," Cafardo wrote in 2003, "who played 16 years for the Patriots with neck injuries, broken bones, and myriad pulls and strains. He was the ultimate spit-on-it-and-go-back-out-there football player. John Hannah calls him the toughest guy he ever played with."

Cafardo was writing at the time about Brady's toughness. The young quarterback's elbow "was swollen the size of a grapefruit" after a game against the Eagles, but there was no doubt Brady would continue to play.

"To explain GTM a little better," Cafardo continued, "here's a partial list of Grogan's ailments: five knee surgeries; screws in his leg after the tip of his fibula snapped; a cracked fibula that snapped when he tried to practice; two ruptured disks in his neck, which he played with for 1 1/2 seasons; a broken left hand (he simply handed off with his right hand); two separated shoulders on each side; the reattachment of a tendon to his throwing elbow; and three concussions ("I lost parts of my life," he said.)"

"I tried to play like I was a football player and not just a quarterback," Grogan said. "If I had to deliver a blow, I'd deliver a blow. If I had to run and take the hit, I'd take the hit."

Quarterbacks, sure. But one thing that Grogan, Brady and Bledsoe all had in common is that their peers would likely unanimously consider them more than that. They were (and are) football players. And in a game where toughness is a commodity valued as highly as any other, there aren't many compliments higher than that.

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Cam Newton opens up about replacing Tom Brady, excitement about Patriots offense

Cam Newton opens up about replacing Tom Brady, excitement about Patriots offense

I don’t know when we’ll get to hear from Patriots quarterback Cam Newton. My suspicion is it will be later rather than sooner.

But everything we’ve wondered since the Patriots signed him? Everything we’ve theorized might change with the Patriots offense? Everything we wondered about Newton following Tom Brady?

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Newton hit it during a YouTube show with Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz and Todd Gurley that posted on Monday.

The hour-long program jumps from topic to topic and it’s not until about the 34-minute mark where Newton begins discussing joining the Patriots.

After a little talk about motivation (we knew he was motivated) and perceived disrespect (also knew that), Newton hit on actual football and succeeding Tom Brady in what I thought was the meatiest part of the piece.

“We have to talk about the elephant in the room,” said Newton. “And it’s like, ‘You know who you coming after?’ And it’s like, ‘Yeah. Great.’

“What he was, what he is? Is great. Needs no … even … talking about it.

“But one thing about it though, ‘Coach (Josh) McDaniels, you able to call some stuff you ain’t ever been able to call now. You getting a dog. You getting one of these ticked off dogs too, that like bruh.”

Newton began pretending to read off a sheet of paper.

“And I’m looking at the schedule like, “Who we playing? THAT team passed on me. THAT team passed on me, they coulda came and got me. THEY hollered at me. I even asked my agent, like, ‘Yo what’s up with …” Bro. I’m gonna take this time with the COVID and I’m gonna commit to myself.”

Newton also related how he got the news the Patriots were coming after him.

“My agent hit me, I was — no cap — I was working out and he was like, ‘Hey man, we just got interest from a team.’

“And I’m like, ‘OK, who?’

“And he was like New ENGLAND …”

The camera cuts to Beckham, who sits up straight in his chair.

Newton continued, “I said, ‘Hold on. How, how is me and Belichick gonna mesh? You know what I’m saying?’ ”

“That was the first thing I thought!” Cruz interjected.

“Because it’s like perception…” said Newton.

OBJ then cut in with a minute-long verbal journey to nowhere before concluding with, “So for me, watching you and now to feel that vindication and to be going to Belichick, there is no, like, ‘How is it gonna work?’ For me, all he wanna do is put you in a position to succeed and I’m happy to see it.”

Odell Beckham Jr. had more praise for Bill Belichick in Cam Newton sit-down

Odell Beckham Jr. had more praise for Bill Belichick in Cam Newton sit-down

Odell Beckham Jr. recently insisted he's staying with the Cleveland Browns this season, and we'll take him at his word.

But the star wide receiver still really, really likes New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

Beckham posted a sit-down conversation Monday on YouTube featuring himself, former wide receiver Victor Cruz, running back Todd Gurley and new Patriots quarterback Cam Newton.

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When the discussion turned to Newton and how he'd "mesh" with Belichick in New England, Beckham piped up to insist perception isn't reality with the Patriots coach, and that Belichick will help Newton thrive in New England.

 

"Watching you and now to feel that vindication and to be going to Belichick, there is no, 'How is it going to work?' " Beckham told Newton. "For me, all he wants to do is put you in a place to succeed. And I'm happy to see it."

While some players (looking at you, Lane Johnson) view Belichick as a curmudgeonly autocrat who hates fun, Beckham is a fan of Belichick who knows what the head coach can get out of his players.

Beckham's opinion is nothing new: Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot recently told our Tom E. Curran that Beckham has long been enamored with Belichick and Tom Brady's success in New England and "always wistfully wished he could be a part of that" from afar.

After Brady left New England this offseason, it was hard to envision Beckham scrambling to catch passes from Jarrett Stidham. But Newton and Beckham are close and have worked out together several times this offseason, so perhaps Beckham's "wistful" thoughts of joining the Patriots will return.