Patriots

NFL rumors: Tom Brady battled MCL sprain injury for "few weeks" in regular season

NFL rumors: Tom Brady battled MCL sprain injury for "few weeks" in regular season

The New England Patriots are close to fully healthy entering Sunday's AFC Divisional Round playoff game against the Los Angeles Chargers at Gillette Stadium, and that a rested quarterback in Tom Brady.

NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Sunday morning that Brady played through an MCL sprain during the regular season, and that it impacted his performance.

Sources say Brady is as healthy as he's been today since he began the season, having made good use of the bye. Previously, Brady battled an MCL sprain, sources say, one that took him a few weeks to overcome. In his worst statistical season since 2014, it clearly affected Brady.

Rapoport also reported on the structural health of Brady's knee.

Thanks in part to the bye, Brady is healed and there is no structural damage in his knee, sources say. Besides an exit physical, nothing is planned after the season for his knee.

Brady didn't look like the elite player we're used to seeing during the regular season. His stats were solid, but he didn't have a prolonged stretch of dominance, and the Patriots finished with their worst regular-season record (11-5) since 2009.

Brady certainly didn't look hobbled in the Week 17 regular-season finale against the rival New York Jets, though. He completed 24 of 33 passes for 250 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Patriots won 38-3 to clinch a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs.

The 41-year-old quarterback will face a much tougher test Sunday against a fearsome Chargers defense led by elite pass rushers Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. Brady is 7-0 in his career against Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, including two playoff victories, but this might be the best Los Angeles team he's faced in his career.

When Brady took the field Sunday, he ran all the way to the far end zone, an encouraging sign for Patriots fans.

Protecting Brady and establishing the run early are critical to keeping the Patriots quarterback upright and fending off the Chargers pass rush. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

NFL draft rumors: Patriots have shown a 'ton of interest' in QB Will Grier

NFL draft rumors: Patriots have shown a 'ton of interest' in QB Will Grier

The New England Patriots currently are slated to close out the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft with pick No. 32, and after passing on Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson in a similar spot in last year's draft, could they use this season's first-rounder to select Tom Brady's eventual successor?

Grier is one of the top quarterbacks in the 2019 NFL Draft and could be selected anywhere from the mid-to-late first round to the early portion of the second round. What level of interest do the Patriots have in Grier with Thursday night's first round fast approaching? Tony Pauline of Draft Analyst reported an update Monday:

The New England Patriots have shown a ton of interest in Grier and could draft him as the first round closes out. The New York Giants also like Grier, and he could be their fallback plan if they don’t take a signal caller in Round 1. The Carolina Panthers also have an infatuation with Grier and will consider him in the second round.

Would the Patriots really take Grier in Round 1, or is this a smokescreen designed to trip up opposing front offices?

The Patriots do need a quarterback of the future. Contrary to what we've seen from Tom Brady in recent seasons, the 41-year-old quarterback will, at some point, start to break down and eventually retire. There aren't any great candidates already on the roster to play the role of Brady's successor, so drafting a QB this weekend makes a lot of sense for New England.

Grier played really well for the Mountaineers last season. He completed 67 percent of his passes for 3,864 yards with 34 touchdown passes and eight interceptions. He reportedly visited with the Patriots earlier this month, as did Duke quarterback Daniel Jones. Missouri quarterback Drew Lock could be available on Day 2 of the draft as well.

Click here for our final 2019 Patriots mock draft roundup>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

2019 Patriots mock draft roundup: Final first-round pick predictions for No. 32

2019 Patriots mock draft roundup: Final first-round pick predictions for No. 32

The New England Patriots will be a team to keep a close eye on during the entire 2019 NFL Draft.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has a robust treasure chest of picks, 12 to be exact, including six over the first three rounds. He has the draft capital to trade up for an impact player in Round 1, or trade down and continue stockpiling selections.

The Patriots had two first-round picks in 2018 and struck gold at No. 31 with Georgia running back Sony Michel. Michel played well in the regular season before improving his performance in the playoffs with six rushing touchdowns in three games, including New England's only touchdown in Super Bowl LIII.

Which players do the experts expect the Patriots to target in the first round Thursday night in Nashville?

Click here for our final 2019 Patriots mock draft roundup>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.